Galway senior camogie players must overcome a resurgent Kilkenny in their own back yard if they are to qualify for a second successive All Ireland final.
The two sides meet in a double header at Nowlan Park on Saturday (2pm ) followed by the clash of champions Cork and Wexford.
Galway, having qualified on top of group two, are paired with the group one runners-up, and they will head into Saturday’s All Ireland Senior Camogie Championship semi-final knowing anything other than a 100 per cent performance will not be enough against the Noresiders.
Unbeaten in the group stages, their most significant win was against Wexford. They opened with a comfortable victory over Clare 3 - 17 to 1- 04 before accounting for Wexford on a 3-7 to 2-06 scoreline. Their most recent outing against Limerick was a facile 1-16 to 0 - 8 victory. However they will have to step-up a gear when they meet Ann Downey’s Kilkenny, a side that accounted for Tipperary and Dublin in the group stages.
Galway have enjoyed a change in fortunes since Liam O’Donoghue took charge, advancing to both National League and All Ireland finals last year. However they were denied twice by Kilkenny - in the league decider and in the group stages of the championship when Kilkenny overturned a 1-5 to 0-6 half-time deficit to outscore the visitors by 1-7 to 0-4 in the second half. Galway, however, bounced back to advance to the All Ireland final for the first time in a decade, only to lose out to Cork by 2-10 to 1-8.
With both sides enjoying something of a resurgence in recent times, a highly competitive encounter is expected.
Galway have quality players, and plenty of experience, with some 12 players involved in last year’s championship. Therese Manton, Ann Marie Hayes, captain Sinead Cahalan, and Niamh Kilkenny are proven defenders, while Athenry’s Therese Maher is a leader, marshalling a quality forward line where Orla Kilkenny, Brenda Hanney, Aishlinn Connolly, Veronica Curtin, and Jessica Gill are proven stars. Connolly, who has taken over this season in the free-taking role, has been in accurate form all season, while Veronica Curtin is back to her best after missing league action. Gill, who returned to championship action against Limerick, may be lacking match practise, but to have last year’s top scorer is an added boost to a team that is already in form. Galway also enjoy a strong bench this year, enabling replacements to be made when necessary.
Galway, along with Wexford, and Cork have been tipped as strong contenders for the O’Duffy Cup this year, but Kilkenny are the dark horses. Galway also enjoy a strong bench this year.
This is a big test for both sides. Kilkenny have been Galway’s bogey team in recent times, and home advantage should work in their favour. As a result Galway will have to be at their best to topple the Noresiders and advance to a second successive final.
Galway: S Earner, R Glynn, A Kelly, T Manton, AM Hayes, S Cahalan, N Kilkenny, S Tannion, L Ryan, B Hanney, T Maher, J Gill, V Curtin, O Kilkenny, A Connolly. Subs, R Callanan, C Glynn, A Hillary, B Kerins, E Kilkelly, C Cormican, M Dunne, S Keane, D Burke, A Lynksey, S Donoghue, S Noone, N McGrath, P Kenny, L Kvanagh.