Galway survived their hardest test yet this season to qualify for the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie semi-final.
The Waterford women had led 2-7 to 1-6 at half-time, and it took a cool head from free-taker Carrie Dolan and the experience of Ailish O’Reilly to ensure Galway prevailed by 2-16 to 2-6. They now face Cork in the semi-final, while Kilkenny meet Tipperary, after overcoming Limerick by 1-10 to 1-5.
"One tough game” Player of the Match Ailish O’Reilly described Galway's win. “Credit to Waterford, they had our hearts in our [mouths] at half-time and it was no fluke. They outworked us, they were on to every breaking ball, but thankfully a bit of experience got us over the line in the second half. It’s a bit of relief to be honest.
“Credit to Carrie as well, she kept us in the game with all those frees, and myself and Noreen got those scores [at the end] when we needed them.”
Manager Cathal Murray was also a relieved man.
“We reset at half-time and the second-half performance was excellent. “It’s not going to be good enough to bother a Cork or a Kilkenny, but the prize was always to be in the semi-final after the game. The performance mightn’t have been what we wanted, but the second half was super and we’re delighted to win it.
“At different times this year things haven’t been going for us but we stuck with it. Stay working hard, stay doing the right things. When we play really, really well, which we did in the second half, we can do damage and the second half was excellent.
“We’re used to winning quarter-finals I suppose, but we’ve to carry that forward now to two weeks’ time.”
Waterford enjoyed a terrific start, and had forced Sarah Healy into two tremendous saves within four minutes of the restart.
Healy was equal to Niamh Rockett’s shot and then made a stupendous save from Annie Fitzgerald’s hand pass, though Beth Carton, who was terrific in a midfield role, pointed from the resultant 45.
Waterford would rue those missed opportunities though, and remarkably, they failed to score again.
The Waterford defence, that had been so good for 40 minutes or so, began to creak under increasing pressure and Carrie Dolan capitalised on the many opportunities presented to her, finishing off with 10 points from frees.
Niamh Kilkenny had been anonymous in the opening period, but showed all her class and leadership when Galway needed it, bringing the teams level and then with 10 minutes left, giving them the lead for the first time since Carton replied to Aoife Donohue’s opening goal after 16 seconds with a green flag from a penalty two minutes later, after the De La Salle All-Star had been fouled by Heather Cooney.
Waterford were tiring now as Galway got their running game into overdrive, and when Ailish O’Reilly netted with six minutes of regulation time remaining, latching onto a Kilkenny delivery and finishing coolly after driving through the heart of the Déise defence, it was over.
Last year, the occasion of a first senior quarter-final seemed to affect Waterford, but was no hint of nerves as they shook off the concession of such an early goal with a brilliant half of camogie.
Carton’s well-struck penalty infused them with belief, and she pointed subsequently, fetching Fiona Morrissey’s cross-field delivery after Annie Fitzgerald had initially won back possession.
Dolan equalised from a free but by the end of the opening quarter, Waterford led by two points, Áine Lyng grabbing a brace, including an inspirational effort from just inside the Galway 65, after being found by Caoimhe McGrath.
Waterford were defending resolutely, and Galway’s much vaunted scorers were struggling, almost completely dependent on Dolan’s accuracy from frees.
In contrast, Waterford were flying and Morrissey hit a fabulous score, Carton winning a dirty ball to set it up.
Dolan had brought the teams level, but disaster struck for Galway when Shona Curran’s drive from a free right on midfield flew all the way to the net.
The defenders will be disappointed that they did not bat it away, and Sarah Healy had no hope once the sliotar bounced in front of her and flew to the net.
Carton had the final say of the half, claiming another hard-won possession before being fouled and doing the needful from 64m to make it a four-point affair at the break.
In the end, it was not to be their day, as Galway had too much in the tank.
SCORERS FOR GALWAY: C Dolan 0-10(fs ); A Donohue, A O’Reilly 1-0 each; N Kilkenny, N Coen 0-2 each; C Murphy, R Hennelly 0-1 each.
SCORERS FOR WATERFORD: B Carton 1-4(0-2fs, 0-1 45, 1-0 pen ); S Curran 1-0(f ); A Lyng 0-2; F Morrissey, N Rockett 0-1 each.
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, Shauna Healy, S Dervan, H Cooney, T Kenney, E Helebert, L Ryan, A Donohue, A M Starr, C Dolan, S Spellman, N Kilkenny, N Coen, M Cooney, A O’Reilly.
Subs for Galway: C Cormican for M Cooney (ht ), C Murphy for Starr (40 ), C Finnerty for Spellman (59 ), R Hennelly for Donohue (60 ).
WATERFORD: B O’Regan, S Harney, I Heffernan, K Lynch, C McGrath, S Curran, L Bray, O Hickey, B Carton, F Morrissey, N Rockett, T Jackman, Á Lyng, A Fitzgerald, S Lacey.
Subs for Waterford: K Corbett Barry for Morrissey (41 ), C Whyte for Hickey (49 ), M Power for Harney (59 ), E Roche for McGrath (60+4 ).