All Ireland champions Galway secured an all-important 1-11 to 0-8 win over Tipperary to advance to their second successive All Ireland Senior Camogie final.
Now facing Kilkenny in a repeat of last year's decider, Galway manager Cathal Murray was delighted to have overcome Tipperary, having lost to the same opponents in the league.
“It’s great to be back in an All-Ireland final,” says Murray. “It’s what the day was about I suppose. I was happy with the performance at times.
"There are things we need to improve on, but we knew it was going to be a battle. Tipperary beat us already in the league and they had a great win over Waterford in the quarter-final, so we knew they would give us a huge test and that’s what they did."
Carrie Dolan’s 15th minute goal in the first half proved crucial, he said, with Tipperary "probably on top at the time".
"We were always that bit ahead [because of the goal] and I thought the backs were outstanding in the last 15 or 20 minutes the way they held out. But that workrate starts from your half-forward line, your midfield as well. It’s a team effort, the defence.
Tipperry were always going to have a purple patch," he says. "I thought they were on top in the first 10 minutes, but we managed it very well. There’s going to be times in every game when you’re not playing at your best, but I think once the workrate is high and you know you’re managing the game well, that’s all you’re worried about."
Murray says Galway left chances behind, but conditions were hard to play in.
"It was very slippy and you have to give credit to Tipperary as well. They are three years in a semi-final, and it took a huge battle to beat them.
“We had a lot of wides when we needed to be taking the chances. We probably need to pass the ball more into the forwards, but it’s a huge challenge against Kilkenny in two weeks’ time."
Murray believes the game will be good preparation for Galway as they return to centre stage to face Kilkenny's revenge after last year's decider.
“The game is going to bring us on. There’s a few sore bodies, so this week is going to be about recovery. Kilkenny are a quality side. They didn’t get half enough credit they deserved last year in the All-Ireland final. They scored 17 points against us. That would have won most of the last five, six or seven All-Irelands," Murray says.
“We know how good Kilkenny are. Everyone praises Galway for that All-Ireland, but there was two points in it at a really crucial stage with five or six minutes to go. We know how good they are and it’s going to take a massive performance to beat them in the final.”
Captain and six-times All-Star Sarah Dervan needed to be at her best in leading a tremendous defensive effort as Tipp threw everything at the champions.
Bill Mullaney’s outfit matched the renowned workrate of Galway, despite missing the injured Nicole Walsh, Aisling Moloney and Ereena Fredya, and Orla O’Dwyer who is in Australia preparing for the AFLW season.But after Dolan goaled, Galway were always in control.
While their physicality and pace in attack made them the greater scoring threat throughout, Dervan was colossal at full-back for Galway.
Niamh Hanniffy had a point in the second minute for the champions, but Tipp were probably the better team in the opening quarter with points from Róisín Howard and the first of six from Cáit Devane giving them the lead.
However, the goal arrived just before the first water break after Ailish O’Reilly and Orlaith McGrath set up half-forward Dolan who finished from close range.
Tipp created a chance to reply in the 20th minute, but Howard failed to get the necessary connection on her shot from inside the 13 and Sarah Healy made the stop.
Niamh Kilkenny and Rebecca Hennelly pointed after that for Galway, with Devane slotting a pair of frees, the second of which should have been a penalty when Fryday was pulled down off the ball inside the large parallelogram.
Áine Slattery made a brave point-blank save from Ailish O’Reilly just before the break and it was 1-6 to 0-5 with all to play for.
Points from the always dangerous McGrath, Dolan (45 ) and McGrath again established a seven-point lead and that always felt like it would be sufficient.
Fryday flashed a shot over after a tremendous surge from Niamh Treacy and Devane slotted a free, but Galway defending stoutly.
Galway were able to bring on some real talent from the bench, and after Slattery saved Healy’s penalty after sub Siobhán McGrath was fouled, the Sarsfield sharpshooter also slotted the resultant 45. When McGrath opted to take a point from another penalty, it was indicative of the control Galway had on proceedings and they ran out deserving winners.
SCORERS FOR GALWAY : C Dolan 1-3 (0-1 f, 0-1 45 ); O McGrath, S McGrath (1 45, 1 pen ) 0-2 each; A O’Reilly, R Hennelly, N Hanniffy, N Kilkenny 0-1 each
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, Shauna Healy, S Dervan, H Cooney, E Helebert, S Gardiner, T Kenny, N Kilkenny, A Donohue, C Dolan, C Cormican, R Hennelly, A O’Reilly, N Hanniffy, O McGrath. Subs: S McGrath for Hennelly (45 ), S Spellman for Dolan (51 ), N Coen for Donohue (60 )
TIPPERARY : Á Slattery, J A Burke, M Ryan, E Loughman, M Eviston, A McGrath, C Quirke, N Treacy, K Kennedy, J Kelly, R Howard, S Fryday, G O’Brien, C Devan, M Campion. Subs: S Quirke for Devane (5-5 ), S Quirke for Kelly (49 ), C McIntyre for Campion (49 ), C Maher for Treacy (55 ), K Blair for Fryday (60 )
REFEREE : Ray Kelly (Kildare )