A look ahead to a weekend of camogie final action

Dublin v Wexford, SETU Carlow, 2pm
Referee: Barry Nea (Westmeath)
Live on Camogie YouTube
These two sides served up an absolute treat as they got the Very League Division 1B programme off to a thrilling start back in February, with Wexford just edging a thriller played out in a welter of excitement at Oulart.

First-half goals from Emma Tomkins and Kate Kirwan gave the home side a ten-point interval cushion. The Dubs made a decent stab at overhauling that and the character they showed as they ate into the deficit had to have pleased Bill McCormack in the 2023 TUD Ashbourne Cup winning coach’s first competitive outing as manager.

Colin Sunderland has managed to negotiate the return of some experienced operators for Wexford, and after a number of years in transition, there is depth to the squad now, with the likes of All-Ireland winner, Shelley Kehoe offering prodigious workrate and scoring power, and Joanne Dillon and Chloe Foxe very impressive options either from the start or off the bench.

Ciara O’Connor remains the chief provider of scores, while her sister Sarah and another survivor from the three-in-a-row squad of 2010-2012, Ciara Storey are indomitable defensive presences.

Former All-Star, Aisling Maher is a leader Dublin but has considerable support this year though, with Aisling O’Neill, Kerrie Finnegan, Gaby Couch, Aoife McKearney and Orla Gray among the Blues’ finest. And it will be a special day for the Gannon family, with Niamh, Claire and Aishling involved.

Armagh v Laois, NGDC Abbotstown, 2pm
Referee: Ciaran Goff (Wicklow)
Live on Camogie YouTube

This was a four-team group and while Laois and Armagh filled the top two spots in both accounting for Roscommon and Kildare, those were very tight contests.

The semi-finals were less so, with Laois making light work of their Lilywhite neighbours, though Armagh had to dig deep to get the upper hand on the Rossies by six points.

When the teams met on March 2, it was Laois’s goal power that told the tale. Eimear Hassett was a constant threat for the O’Moores, with Aimee Collier accurate from placed balls. Hassett finished with 2-2 from play while Andrea Scully came off the bench to put the tie to bed with a goal and a point.

Sean Hughes has introduced a number of young players to the Armagh squad. Aoife Byrne, Áine Doyle and Rose Boden are talented performers, while Eimear O’Kane, Niamh Forker and Ciara Geoghegan have returned to the fold, the latter after having a baby just five months ago. Sinéad Quinn is playing a big role in attack, where Rachael Merry offers a significant threat.

Tyrone v Wicklow, Protection & Prosperity Louth GAA Training Centre (Darver), 2pm
Referee: Ciaran Groome (Offaly)
Live on Camogie YouTube

Tyrone finished top of the table with an unblemished record, but their Round 2 clash with Wicklow at the beginning of March at Omagh’s Healy Park indicated that there was very little between the top two, the home team edging it by 4-11 to 2-11.

They did so thanks to a stellar opening period, at the end of which they led by 2-8 to 0-2, Lauren Fitzgerald and Lara Devlin scoring the goals. There looked no way back for the visitors, particularly when Cara Little grabbed Tyrone’s third goal four minutes after the resumption.

Katie Tyrell was outstanding for Wicklow though and her goal, as well as scores from Poppie Rose Cullen Dunne and Nicole Curran brought them back in touch. Brendan Tobin’s Garden County representatives have good recent experience at this level of competition and last year’s All-Ireland junior A camogie title certainly buoyed the game in the Leinster county.

Tyrone have been making good strides too and Paul O’Grady has carried on that progress.

Galway v Tipperary, Croke Park, 2pm
Referee: Aaron Hogg (Clare)
Live on RTÉ2
Galway have enjoyed considerable success in the League since Cathal Murray took over the reins. This is their fifth consecutive final – the competition went unfinished due to Covid in 2020 – and they are attempting to secure a fourth title in that period and a three-in-a-row.

They have recovered from losing to Tipp at The Ragg, when Eimear McGrath plundered a hat-trick by keeping clean sheets against Kilkenny, Waterford and Cork with Róisín Black an inspirational captain at full-back and erstwhile attacker Áine Keane making a big splash at centre-back.

Carrie Dolan has excelled both from placed balls and in the loose, while Annmarie Starr has re-established herself at midfield after a lengthy absence. Niamh Kilkenny and Niamh Hanniffy are back in the fold while youngsters Ciara Hickey, Ally Hesnan and Niamh Niland have made an impact, and former Down superstar, Niamh Mallon is now a member of the squad.

It was momentous for Tipp to finally make a national final for the first time since the 2009 League decider. They are attempting to win a first title since their double-winning season pf 2004. It would be a third Very League Division 1A crown were they to succeed. Galway are in pursuit of an eighth.

Denis Kelly’s crew lost their opening tie to Waterford but followed up with wins over Galway, Cork, Kilkenny and Clare to make it this far, so it is well deserved. They have done so despite being without long-time talisman Cáit Devane, who got married recently, but Karen Kennedy’s return from injury has been significant.

Clodagh McIntyre and Karin Blair have blossomed in new defensive roles but it is McGrath who has really taken up the baton.

Another interesting element of this tie is the presence of the Ferncombe brothers on the opposite coaching tickets. Dinny, who spent a number of years with Tipp, has joined Galway while Michael is now in the Premier corner.

There is a lot at stake here and one suspects the result will be in doubt right up to the final whistle.

Derry v Westmeath, Croke Park, 12.30pm
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)
Live on RTÉ2
It was Westmeath that finished top of the table on 13 points, to Derry’s 12, but it is hard to know how much we can read into the Lakesiders’ victory in their clash at TEG Cusack Park a fortnight ago, given that the visitors were already qualified and the hosts needed something to be sure of holding off Meath. Still, a 5-9 to 1-9 triumph can hardly be viewed negatively.

Without question, the Derry defence, led by veteran skipper Aoife Ní Chaiside, will be keeping an eye on Megan Dowdall, who took them for 4-4 in that tie. Sheila McGrath and Hannah Core are two other influential operators for Pádraic Connaughton’s side, while defensively, captain, Julie McLoughlin and Muireann Scally will have big roles to play.

And that’s because of the ongoing impact of the totemic Áine Barton (née McAllister) in attack for Derry. Céat McEldowney, Lauren McKenna, Megan Kerr and Dervla O’Kane are others who have done well to this point for PJ O’Mullan’s mob. Both goalies, Niamh Gribbin (Derry) and Fiona Keating (Westmeath) will likely have a major say in proceedings, in dealing with all that’s thrown at them as well as with their distribution.

Derry won the All-Ireland intermediate championship last year but are chasing their first Very League title since 2012, when they accounted for Meath in the Division 2 final – what would now be Division 1B. Westmeath’s most recent success was in Division 3 – now Division 2A – when Dublin were overcome in 2014.


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