For the second year running, Tipperary senior camogie girls have booked their place in the All Ireland semi final with five points to spare over neighbours Limerick in a wet Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday evening last.
A thriller was expected in Thurles, but this game was far from exciting. Tipp struggled in the opening half to stay in contact with the Shannonsiders and were fortunate to be a point ahead at the break 1-4 to 1-3.
Limerick came up through the ranks as Intermediate champions in 2014 and reaching the National League Division 1 semi-finals in five consecutive seasons thereafter, threw everything at their neighbours and it took a big struggle in the last half before Limerick faded in the end.
While Tipp manager Niamh Lillis got the desired result from her side, she will however need to do a lot more work with her charges before they meet Kilkenny on August 17 in the semi final.
Underfoot conditions was greasy from the heavy showers of rain that fell and while getting possession was one issue for both, holding on to it was another problem.
Cáit Devane had Tipp on the scoreboard from a free in the opening minute while Niamh Mulcahy had the sides level one minute later.
Limerick then took over the game for the following nine minutes where they should have had clocked up a further 1-2 but an outstanding block by Tipp keeper Caoimhe Bourke who denied a Niamh Mulcahy penalty in the fourth minute, ignited the Tipp challenge.
The powerful Niamh Mulcahy, who is Limerick’s star performer, was unfortunate with her efforts to pick off points but Caoimhe Costello put her side into a slender one point lead in the 8th minute. Limerick were doing a lot of work but just couldn’t get the work rate on the scoreboard where it mattered most.
Both sets of backs were working very strongly to keep off attacks while Tipp came fighting back however and coming more into the game and gaining a lot more possession, they struck three consecutive astray at a time when they needed them so badly. However, as the first quarter faded, Tipp got the break, when firstly Orla O’Dwyer was fouled and Devane brought the sides level for the second time and in the 18th minute, Niamh Treacy gave Tipp a very fortunate three point lead when she dropped a long ball in for a point but the ball dipped and Limerick keeper Laura O’Neill reached to grab but let the ball slip from her fingers and into the net behind her.
This seemed to settle the home side as the hard grafting Ereena Fryday gave her side another point one minute later and it looked as if Tipp would plough on and were on their way.
However, Niamh Mulcahy had other ideas as she tore into a long stride and weaving her way through the Tipp defence, she struck the ball with huge force past Tipp keeper Caoimhe Bourke in a great individual show of pure skill, and just a point stood between them again 1-3 to 1-2.
A Cáit Devane free and a smashing point from Laura Stack saw out the first half with the home side leading by a slender point, 1-4 to 1-3.
Niamh Mulcahy had the sides level in the 32nd minute with a smashing point in front of goal and it took all of ten minutes for Tipp to respond from a Cáit Devane free to give her side back a slender lead again. It was in the 45th minute that Tipp commenced to pull away, but very slowly and with sheer struggle too when Orla O’Dwyer, back from a hamstring injury, split the uprights. Cáit Devane converted her fifth free in the 47th minute and Tipp were now up by three.
It was Tipp who were now heaping on the pressure with Devane dropping over a ‘45’ in the 49th minute and another free in the 51st to leave five between the sides 1-9 to 1-4. Then what looked like disaster for the home side, gave Limerick a small window of opportunity to catch up, was when Ereena Fryday received her marching orders and was shown her second yellow card with seven minutes of normal time remaining.
However, the sending off only served for Tipp to up their performance and Limerick showed signs of tiredness and frustration as they struggled to get to grips with a defiant Tipp side who were determined to hold out.
Caoimhe Costello found target from a difficult wing position as the game swung into injury time but Orla O’Dwyer set up Miriam Campion who responded in the 63rd minute. There was one final effort from Limerick’s Sarah Carey who went low for goal and Tipperary goalkeeper Caoimhe Bourke made a major save to deny her and hold on to their five point lead.