Maher helps Tipp girls turn tide to reach Division 2 final
The pairings for the Divisions 2 and 3 finals of the Littlewoods Ireland leagues have been confirmed after Tipperary got the better of last year's runners-up Westmeath by 3-9 to 1-12 in a thriller to set up a clash with Kilkenny in the second-tier decider, while in Division 3, Limerick - who edged out Clare by 1-11 to 0-10 - will play Kildare who beat Roscommon by 3-10 to 1-9.
Tipp and Westmeath could not be separated by the first half at the St Rynagh's pitch in Banagher, which ended at Westmeath 1-6 to Tipp's 2-3. Westmeath led early on but the industrious Andrea Loughnane got Tipp off the mark with a goal.
Sheila McGrath, Pamela Greville and Michelle Murtagh were causing trouble in the Tipp defence, however, and Murtagh contributed four points from play in a brilliant first-half contribution. Jenny Grace converted two long-distance frees to steady the ship and then Niamh Treacy scored a brilliant individual goal, soloing from midfield and firing a rocket directly off the hurley to the bottom corner to bring the sides level at the break.
The magnificent fare continued in the second half. Greville and Mairéad McCormack raised white flags for the Lakesiders, with Grace responding for Tipperary but when Treacy was sent off in the 48th minute after receiving a second yellow card, it was advantage Westmeath.
Impressive The Tipperary response was mightily impressive and, if anything, they were spurred on to do the business for Treacy. Manager Bill Mullaney played his part in proceedings, introducing Sinéad Maher and the experienced Joanne Ryan, captain when Tipp last won the All-Ireland senior title in 2004.
Maher's first contribution from full-forward was to field a delivery from excellent skipper Sabrina Larkin and blast to the net. She added a point while Ryan also got on the scoresheet and won a free from which another point accrued as Tipp recorded a fantastic win.
Rebecca Noonan was the heroine for Limerick, providing seven points as they overturned a four-point deficit at the three-quarter mark to win their Division 3 semi-final by the same margin at St Brendan's Park, Birr.
In the second semi-final, also in Birr, Kildare claimed the honours by virtue of big performances from Siobhán Hurley and Lea Sutton. The experienced Hurley registered 1-6, with all bar three points of that from play, while Sutton hit Roscommon for 2-3 from play.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Division 3 champions Kerry retained their place in Division 2 for next season as a result of their 0-8 to 0-3 triumph over Carlow at The Ragg.