The Tipperary Intermediate camogie team set up a date with Kilkenny in their first Division 2 final after they beat last year’s runners up Westmeath with 14 players in a real thriller of a game, on a sunny but chilly Sunday last held in St Rynagh’s GAA pitch in Banagher.
The outcome was in doubt to the final whistle so tight was the margin with Tipp pulling away in the 52nd minute with a Sinead Meagher goal. For the Lakesiders, they will be bitterly disappointed for dropping out in such a manner given that they went to the final last year and were hopeful of progressing all the way this time around. The girls from the Premier County didn’t qualify last season but they did have two points to spare over Westmeath when they met a few months later in the championship.
After a nervous start with three consecutive wide balls, Tipp full forward Andrea Loughnane took a pass from Sarah Delaney and buried the ball in the Westmeath net in the ninth minute. Mairead McCormack got her side on the scoreboard one minute later to open the Westmeath account.
Loughnane and Michelle Murtagh traded scores but points from Pamela Greville and Michelle Murtagh left the sides level for the first time after twenty minutes 1-1 to 0-4.
The Lakesiders kept their opponents out of play over a period of fourteen minutes where they raked in another 1-1, both coming from Greville with the goal coming in the 23rd minute when Sheila McGrath dropping the ball in the Tipp goalmouth where Greville was quickest to react when she beat Tipp custodian Sarah Quigley to whip to the net.
As time wore on the sides couldn’t be separated with two further frees coming from Jenny Grace and a 29th minute goal from Niamh Treacy as Westmeath’s Sheila McGrath finished the first half and the sides were all square, Westmeath 1-6 Tipp 2-3.
The nip and tuck affair continued on the resumption with the sides level for the third time after a Grace free and a McCormack ‘45’. They were level for the 5th time after 43 minutes while Megan Dowdall was unlucky to see her fine effort at goal skim the upright as the ball rolled narrowly across the goalmouth.
Both set of backs were standing firm and holding off the attacking forces who were trying to poach a goal and make the all important break away and with time ebbing away the urgency was greater.
Michelle Murtagh and a free from Pamela Greville put the Lakesiders into a two point lead. Westmeath were handed a massive advantage in what should have been disaster for Tipperary when Niamh Treacy received her second yellow card in the 48th minute, but it had the opposite effect and only served to mount the Premier charge. Management readjusted the side, introduced the young Sinead Meagher and she grabbed an excellent delivery from her captain Sabrina Larkin and lashed past Westmeath custodian Fiona Keating in the 52nd minute to give her side a narrow one point lead.
Westmeath came back on the attack and when Joanne Ryan, the captain of the 2004 senior Tipp team that won the All Ireland, was fouled, Jenny Grace split the uprights and Meagher was back with a point to give Tipp a three point lead with four minutes of normal time remaining. However, there was still plenty of time for the Lakesiders with Greville dropping over a free to narrow the gap. Both dug deep in the closing minutes and the evergreen Joanne Ryan hit the last point of the game to see Tipp through to the first final at this grade for the Premier girls.
”There’s nothing like an injustice to rouse a team,” said Tipp manager Bill Mullaney when he spoke about Niamh Treacy’s sending off. “In the context of the game overall, “he continued, “I thought it was harsh. She was blind to the player and had her eye on the ball, a pure accident but she was already on a yellow but there was worse tackles in the whole game and no frees,” he said. Delighted with the way the players reacted to losing a team mate, Mullaney spoke of how the girls “ground out and kickstarted themselves with great discipline and getting a great ball to Meagher who did what was asked, one on one and back of the net stuff”.
Mullaney, who also manages the senior squad, commenting overall on the game said that going on last year’s pairing in the championship, Tipp were expecting a tough game. “Westmeath are a serious team. We met them in the championship last year and they really put it up to us so we knew we were in for a tough game today. We fought, we were tough, we were dogged and even with 14 players we deserved this win. I’m really delighted for this group of players we have, in particular this group, it’s amazing what they have achieved,” he said.
Player of the match: Sabrina Larkin (Tipperary).
Scorers: Tipperary: Andrea Loughnane, Sinead Meagher (1-1 each), Niamh Treacy (1-0), Jenny Grace (0-5 frees), Ciara McKeogh, Joanne Ryan (0-1 each).
Westmeath: Pamela Greville (1-6, 0-6 frees), Michelle Murtagh (0-3), Mairead McCormack (0-2, 0-1 ‘45’), Sheila McGrath (0-1).
TIPPERARY: Sarah Quigley (Éire Og Nenagh), Beth Ryan (Knockavilla Kickhams), Sabrina Larkin (Captain) (Shannon Rovers), Ciara Ryan (Silvermines), Claire Stakelum (Holycross Ballycahill), Christina Brennan (Drom/Inch), Emma Carey (Thurles Sarsfields), Nicola Loughnane (Thurles Sarsfields), Niamh Treacy (Drom/Inch), Ciara McKeogh (Burgess Duharra), Jenny Grace (Burgess/Duharra), Aine O’Dwyer (Cashel), Sarah Delaney (Boherlahan Dualla), Andrea Loughnane (Thurles Sarsfields), Shauna Quirke (Toomevara). Subs: Sinead Meagher (Kiladangan) (for N. Loughnane, 48 mins), Aoife McLoughney (Shannon Rovers) (for A. O’Dwyer, 51 mins), Joanne Ryan (Drom/Inch) (for C. McKeogh, 55 mins), Aisling Mulryan (Newport Ballinahinch) (for S. Quirke, inj., 56 mins).
WESTMEATH: Fiona Keating, Sarah King, Aoife Higgins, Jade McKeogh, Amy Cully, Fiona Leavy, Sandra McGrath, Muireann Scally, Mairead McCormack (Captain), Michelle Murtagh, Sheila McGrath, Sinead McKenna, Laura Doherty, Pamela Greville, Niamh Horan. Subs: Ava Balfe (for A. Higgins, half time), Meabh Scally (for M. Scally, half time), Megan Dowdall (for S. McKenna, 39 mins).
REFEREE: Eamon Cassidy (Derry).