It wasn't pretty at times but the relocation of Aoife Donohue to the inside line was just about the deciding factor as Galway gritted it out in a war of attrition, 1-19 to 1-17, against Cork to set up a mouth-watering Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 final against Kilkenny at Croke Park next Sunday night.
That will be a repeat of last December’s All-Ireland final, in which the westerners finished off second best and they won’t want for motivation. They are the defending champions too, having won the last final in 2019.
If Kilkenny will be looking for an improvement after their slightly fortuitous defeat of Tipperary, so too will Galway, even if no one could argue with their two-point success.
This was a much scrappier affair than the fluid game we had in the first semi-final, with lots of frees, many of which were missed, and just a lack of accuracy in passing, control and shooting. The exchanges were robust to say the least however, and there was no doubting the hunger of both sides to be playing under lights in front of up to 5,000 people at HQ.
Katrina Mackey had a point for Cork after 15 seconds but Carrie Dolan shot the next three points, including two from placed balls. Cork's 26th minute goal got them back into the fray however, and it was something they would have been working towards, getting Amy O'Connor into space and utilising her Olympian speed.
Laura Hayes and Niamh Kilkenny swapped points afterwards, then Cronin and Dalton slotted frees before Thompson stole forward well just before the whistle and split the posts confidently to make it 1-7 to 1-6 at the break.
It was Galway that found a bit more rhythm after the restart, even if Ciara O’Sullivan extended the margin to two early on. Cork offered a reminder to what they were capable of when creating a glorious goal chance but on this occasion, Thompson was unable to source O’Connor with her stick pass. Keating cleared the black spot, however. The Rebels were going nowhere.
Having gone so close to losing it, Galway outscored their opponents by four points to one in the first period of extra time, Donohue providing two of them.O'Connor and Healy (free) left just the minimum between the sides but just as everyone was considering the prospect of another chapter, Rebecca Hennelly slotted her second point after coming on at the start of extra time to ensure that Cathal Murray's squad would progress.
In the earlier game, two goals in a minute from the inspirational Denise Gaule and Katie Nolan, five minutes from the end of normal time snatched a 3-12 to 0-19 victory for Kilkenny over Tipperary. The loss will leave Tipperary brokenhearted however, after a near faultless display of intensity and clever camogie, that had the All-Ireland champions in disarray and playing second fiddle for the majority of proceedings.
Cáit Devane had given an exhibition in the first half, scoring eight points, four from play and most of the placed balls coming for fouls she had enticed. That this came with the one of the game's best markers, Davina Tobin picking her up only added to the stature of this performance.
Devane travelled deeper in the second half but Emer McGrath was proving an effective target and having weathered the expected third-quarter storm, had again wrested control with points from Grace O'Brien, Sarah Fryday and McGrath, and then a Devane brace in response to two Gaule scores, to open up a five-point gap in the 54th minute.
Gaule's goal a minute later was the crucial score. Even then, Tipp showed plenty of character. First Ereena Fryday and then Orla O'Dwyer, introduced at half-time for her first appearance since winning an AFLW title in Australia, put the Premiers in front but Gaule was unerring at the other end, levelling on each occasion from frees.
And it was the Noresiders, who have been in similar situations often in the past, who found the decisive scores, Gaule calmly pointing two more frees to bring her tally to 2-8 and secure a famous victory.