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Kilkenny dethrone champions Galway to set up final clash with Cork

Kilkenny 1-13 Galway 0-12

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Sophie Dwyer celebrates with Katie Nolan after Kilkenny's win. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sophie Dwyer celebrates with Katie Nolan after Kilkenny's win. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sophie Dwyer celebrates with Katie Nolan after Kilkenny's win. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

FITTINGLY, on the day Brian Cody ended his 24-year reign as Kilkenny manager, the county’s camogie team displayed the qualities he so admired and dethroned All-Ireland champions Galway in a pulsating semi-final in Croke Park.

Before an attendance of 3,382 they reeled off the last four scores to secure a place in the final on August 7 against Cork, whose team management watched the game from an otherwise deserted Cusack Stand.

Kilkenny boss Brian Dowling – who won All-Ireland medals playing under Brian Cody – expressed his delight with the outcome.

“We knew we had to put in a massive performance. At half time I said a few words to the girls. The character there in the second half was unbelievable. Galway are a super team; they were unbelievable champions. We knew we had to be brilliant in the second half and the girls were.

“We had so many setbacks this year on and off the pitch, to come and show the desire the girls did today I am absolutely delighted.”

The final be a repeat of last year’s semi-final, which Cork won with a point in the fourth minute of injury time but then lost to Galway. The defending champions will be disappointed that their reign ended having gone through the group stages unbeaten.

A 37th minute goal from Laura Murphy, who beat Sarah Healy from just outside the 20-metre line, allied to the failure of Healy to convert a penalty three minutes before the break were the key moments.

There were other factors as well; Kilkenny defender Michelle Teehan, who won the RTE Player of the Match, held Siobhan McGrath scoreless from play, though she did pick up a yellow card when she rugby-tackled the corner-forward for the penalty.

Then in a key spell in the second half when the contest was still in the balance, a couple of key refereeing decisions went against Galway.

Ultimately their failure to score in the last 16 minutes – there were six minutes of injury time played – proved their undoing. When Carrie Dolan slotted over a magnificent free in the 50th minute for their third point on the spin to level the game for the fifth time, they looked poised to push on.

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But when it mattered most Kilkenny’s application and commitment saw them over the line. Even though Denise Gaule was off target with three second-half frees, points from Murphy, a Katie Nolan free won by Miriam Walsh - whose battle with Galway captain Sarah Dervan on the edge of the square was enthralling all through - the excellent Julianne Malone and substitute Sophie Dwyer enabled Kilkenny to repeat their 2020 All-Ireland final win over the same opposition.

Whereas Kilkenny had six different scorers with Julianne Malone’s four points from play proving an invaluable contribution, Galway were overly dependent on Dolan’s excellent marksmanship from frees.

Only three other Galway players scored and Aoife Donohue – who heroically tried to rescue the game in the final quarter – was the only Galway player who managed more than one point from play.

The Cats led 0-3 to 0-1 after nine minutes and the ability of their full-back line to smother Galway’s goal-scoring chances was particularly noticeable in the early exchanges as the champions had two half opportunities to find the net.

But before the end of the first quarter it was all square. Mary O’Connell ought to have found the net for Kilkenny in the 14th minute but got far too much height into her shot from close range. Galway gradually took control and led 0-7 to 0-6 when Kilkenny goalkeeper Aoife Norris saved Sarah Healy’s penalty.

Still, it was 0-8 to 0-6 at the break for the champions but Kilkenny looked sharper in the early second-half exchanges. They were fortunate, however, that Galway’s Niamh Hannify could not find room to get enough power in her shot after a run had taken her within sight of the Kilkenny goal.

Even though Dolan converted the subsequent 45, Kilkenny struck for the game’s only goal almost immediately afterwards. All the Galway defenders were drawn to their left flank which allowed Murphy move unmarked into the danger zone, take the pass and drive the sliotar low into the corner of the net.

Even at the time it looked as if it would be the game’s decisive score and so it proved.

Scorers: Kilkenny: L Murphy 1-1; J Malone 0-4, D Gaule 0-3, (2f, 145) M O’Connell, K Nolan 0-2 (1f) each, S Dwyer 0-1.

Scorers: Galway: C Dolan 0-8 (7 f), A Donohoe 0-2, A O’Reilly, C Finnerty 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: A Norris; M Teehan, G Walsh, F Fitzgerald; N Deely, C Phelan, S Fitzgerald, D Gaule, L Murphy, K Power, J Malone; M Kenneally; M O’Connell, M Walsh, K Nolan. Subs: S Dwyer for Kenneally (49m), M Bambrick for Murphy (59), A Prendergast for Power (60) C Phelan for Fitzgerald 60 +6).

Galway: Sarah Healy, R Hanniffy, S Dervan, H Cooney; R Black, Shauna Healy, C Finnerty; A Donohue, N Kilkenny; C Dolan, N Hanniffy, E Helebert; S McGrath, A O’Reilly, S Rabbitte. Subs: D Higgins for Rabbitte (37), A Keane for O’Reilly (53), S Gardiner for Helebert (58), S Spellman for McGrath (60)

Referee: Andy Larkin (Cork)


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