Champions Galway bagged their third win in group one of Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship to advance straight to the semi-final .
Their 0-15 to 0-12 victory over Cork ensures they join group two winners Kilkenny the last four, with Cork now facing Clare, and Tipperary up against Waterford in this weekend's quarter-finals.
Galway manager Cathal Murray was delighted with the victory.
"We needed to get to a semi-final," he says. "It would be a long journey down to Cork next Saturday evening if we had lost, only a six-day turnaround. So it was really important, to get straight through to the semi-final and avoid Kilkenny."
However, he says, do not write Cork off yet.
“Cork aren’t gone. We know they have players to come back in. They’re a serious team and gave a massive performance out there. It could have gone either way to be straight about it and they could be meeting us later in the year, you’d never know.
“It’s nice to top the group, but in ’15, I think, we beat Cork in the group and they went on to beat us in the All-Ireland final. In ’16, we beat Kilkenny and they went on and won the All-Ireland. Last year, we went in the backdoor (quarter-final ) and won the All-Ireland.
“Teams can get momentum through the quarter-final and be an awful lot more dangerous later on in the championship, so we’re taking nothing for granted. We’re in a semi-Ffinal, simple as that. It could be Cork in three weeks’ time, or Tipp, Waterford or Clare. They’re serious teams and that will be a big challenge for us."
The champions recovered from a slow start that saw them fall two points behind and need Sarah Healy to save Chloe Sigerson’s third-minute penalty to establish a five-point interval lead and keep their noses in front in a low-scoring, but intense second half.
Given the margin, the four points accumulated by Rebecca Hennelly from two converted sideline pucks in that second quarter were hugely significant.
“It’s a serious skill, and from both sides of the field as well. They were four points we really needed. She’s able to take them. She scored a goal in the county final as well from a line ball."
Galway led by double scores at the break, by 0-10 to 0-5, but had an early let-off when conceding a penalty after a minute. However, Chloe Sigerson did not get enough on her strike, and the ultra-reliable Sarah Healy made a smart save.
Sigerson was accurate from two frees and Orla Cronin another, after Carrie Dolan had scored for Galway, which gave Cork an early lead. However, after following the water break, Galway ramped up their defence, neutralising the early threat of the Rebels’ inside attacking division, and were level when Hennelly cut her first sideline stroke from 40m out on the left. The Ardrahan star’s ability from the discipline was significant, as she repeated the score from 46m on the right, while Dolan and Orlaith McGrath were also on the mark to stretch the margin at the break.
Cork cut it to two very quickly, Sigerson lofting over a free from inside her own half, Hannah Looney following up immediately after driving forward from half-back and Cronin pointing another placed ball.
Galway showed their experience as Dolan, Aoife Donohue and Ailish O’Reilly, with an excellent solo score, gave Cathal Murray’s crew some vital breathing space.
Cork battled hard to reduce the arrears to three again, but it was not enough.