Gaule ensures Kilkenny secure Cork date
Kilkenny will resume their rivalry with Cork and Galway will take on Limerick in the Littlewoods Ireland League Division 1 semi-finals after the last round of group action, while Offaly must face Wexford to see who drops to the second tier.
Kilkenny are pursuing a fourth consecutive title, but needed a 63rd-minute point from Michelle Quilty to claim a 1-12 to 0-14 victory over Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds that ensured they finished the round robin phase on top of Group 1.
Denise Gaule excelled with three points from play in the first-half for Kilkenny and when Anna Farrell goaled four minutes after the restart it opened up a four-point gap.
Pointed frees on 58 and 60 minutes from Niamh Mulcahy appeared to have secured a share of the spoils, but there was still time for Quilty to find the target to edge it for Kilkenny.
Galway earned a 2-7 to 0-13 draw with Cork to finish top of Group 2 on score difference. They rocked the All-Ireland champions with a goal from Carrie Dolan after just 15 seconds and they had a second four minutes later through Noreen Coen.
Cork got back in the game with points from youngsters Ciara McCarthy and Clíona Healy, with the more experienced Ashling Thompson and Orla Cotter also on target as they trailed 2-5 to 0-6 at the break.
Points from Cotter, Thompson and Chloe Sigerson drew Cork level, but it wasn't enough to get past the Maroons in the table.
Dublin made sure of their top-flight status with a 1-7 to 0-7 victory over Clare at Cusack Park. Frank Browne's troops led by a point at the interval (0-5 to 0-4) and Aisling Maher's goal four minutes after the restart opened up the vital gap.