By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Kilkenny will resume their rivalry with Cork and Galway will take on Limerick in the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 Semi-Finals as a result of the last round of group action, while Offaly must do battle with Wexford to determine who makes the drop to the second tier.
Kilkenny are pursuing a fourth consecutive title but needed a 63rd minute point from Michelle Quilty to claim a 1-12 to 0-14 victory over Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds that ensured they finished the round-robin phase on top of Group 1.
Denise Gaule excelled in the first half for Kilkenny at full-forward, with three points from play. Caoimhe Costelloe had two from Limerick and the teams were level on four occasions as they went in at the break deadlocked on 0-6 apiece.
When Anna Farrell goaled four minutes after the restart however with a sumptuous finish, after good work initially by Anne Dalton and then by Quilty and Gaule, it opened up a four-point gap.
Caoimhe Lyons, Costelloe and Mulcahy kept the hosts in touch though and pointed frees on 58 and 60 minutes from Mulcahy that brought her tally to seven from placed balls appeared to have secured a share of the spoils.
But there was still time for Quilty to find the target for her sixth point and first from play to edge it for Kilkenny.
Galway earned a 2-7 to 0-13 draw to finish top of Group 2 on score difference. They rocked the All-Ireland champions with a goal from Carrie Dolan after just 15 seconds and they had a second four minutes later, through Noreen Coen.
Cork got back in the game with four points, including two from youngsters Ciara McCarthy and Clíona Healy, with the vastly more experienced Ashling Thompson and Orla Cotter also on target. The game settled down after that whirlwind opening and points from Coen and Noreen Hanniffy gave Cathal Murray’s charges a 2-5 to 0-6 interval advantage.
Cork stepped up a couple of gears in the second half, points from Cotter, Thompson and Chloe Sigerson drawing them level but it wasn’t enough to leapfrog over the Maroons on the table.
Dublin made sure of their top-flight status with a 1-7 to 0-7 victory over Clare at Cusack Park. Frank Browne’s troops led by a point at the interval (0-5 to 0-4) with Sinéad Wylde, Orla Beagan and Aoibhe Dillon on target for the visitors, and Chloe Morey hitting three of the home team’s points.
Aisling Maher’s goal four minutes after the restart opened up the vital gap and with Clare only able to add three points in the second half via Morey’s hurley, the win was Dublin’s.
Meanwhile, Tipperary bagged third position in Group 2 courtesy of a 1-11 to 0-10 triumph over Waterford at De La Salle’s Gracedieu complex. A very cagey first ended with the teams sharing 12 points and their star forwards, Beth Carton and Cáit Devane among the scorers but Tipp produced the one key piece of quality in the second half to end the campaign with a third-place finish.