Galway talisman Veronica Curtin struck for a winning point right on the hour to break Kilkenny’s hearts and snatch a place in the Irish Daily Star Camogie League final on Sunday week for the Westerners in a dramatic conclusion to the first semi-final at Nowlan Park on Sunday.
Champions Wexford, who beat Galway in last year’s All-Ireland final to secure the league and championship double, complete the final pairing after their goal-scoring power proved too much for a young, but gritty Tipperary.
It was Curtin and Galway that were the story of the day though, given that the Castlegar woman was the only player on the pitch with an All-Ireland senior medal, won 15 years ago, and that her third point put her side in front for the first, but most crucial time of the game.
Kilkenny led from the second minute when Aoife Neary pointed a free. The same player saw another shot from a placed ball go all the way to the net 11 minutes later and Galway were largely reliant on Aislinn Connolly to remain in touch, the Castlegar forward shooting four of their first half points as they trailed 1-6 to 0-5 at the interval.
By that stage, Edwina Keane, Katie Power and Marie O’Connor had all added points to Neary’s 1-3 from frees but it was a different story after the resumption, with Galway introducing team captain Brenda Hanney and her fellow club All-Ireland winner from Killimor, Ann Marie-Hayes dominating at centre-back.
An increased flow of ball towards Curtin and full-forward Noreen Coen yielded massive dividends, as they shared six points evenly between them.
Galway had pegged the Cats back within 12 minutes of the throw-in, but were stunned when Kilkenny sub Shelly Farrell goaled and Neary quickly tagged on a point from a free after a stunning save by Susan Earner from Marie Dargan.
That stop kept Galway in the game and they scored five points without reply to take the win. Curtin showed her pace and guile to win possession and make space to fire over the winner and Galway will now be dreaming of revenge.
Wexford continue to look strong though and goals from Una Leacy, Kate Kelly and Katrina Parrock helped them establish a 3-4 to 0-7 half-time lead over Tipperary. The Premier outfit had plenty of possession, but were unable to translate it into as many scores as they should have, firing six wides inside the opening quarter, by which stage they still only trailed by a point.
Jill Horan was excellent at midfield while last year’s U16 star Sarah Fryday looked dangerous when given the opportunity, but Wexford were able to find space behind the Tipp defence too easily and they made them pay in the style of champions.
To give Tipp credit, they didn’t look as open in the second half, although Leacy did pounce for her second goal. Kelly continued to be accurate from placed balls – finishing with 1-6 – and Ursula Jacob came on to score three points to ensure that Wexford would also remain in control despite the good work of Fryday, Horan and Amy Kennedy who finished with seven points between them.