ISN’T it funny how league games can play out? Too much is read into results. When Cork won league titles in 2012 and 2013, they fell short of All-Ireland success.
Kilkenny won three league titles between 2016 and 2018, winning the All-Ireland championship in 2016, but losing the ’17 and ’18 finals.
This year, Dublin gave Kilkenny a right game of it in the first round, 1-8 to 0-6. Then, Offaly beat Dublin and last weekend Kilkenny trounced Offaly 4-21 to 0-8. So, a mixed bag.
Denise Gaule shot 1-7 and Mary O’Connell hit five points, as Kilkenny had outstanding operators, not least Davina Tobin in an unyielding defence.
By the time Kate Kenny landed a fantastic, wind-assisted point from distance, towards the end of the 10th minute, to get Offaly off the mark, the visitors had a goal and four points on the board.
O’Connell flew out of the traps, with the first three points from play, and, after Gaule converted a placed ball, Miriam Walsh poached an eighth-minute goal to put the All-Ireland champions in the box seat.
The full-forward was in quickly as Michaela Kenneally’s shot dropped short, flicking the sliotar away from goalkeeper, Mairéad Jennings, before lifting sharply and creating sufficient space under pressure to rifle to the net from close range.
Susan Earner’s outfit settled and were more competitive for a period. Dual star Gráinne Egan slotted two frees, but Gaule added four points to make it 1-9 to 0-4 at half-time.
A goal three minutes after the restart, from Aoife Doyle, ended any thoughts Offaly may have had of a fight back.
Katie Nolan registered the third goal, midway through the second half, after Jennings had saved Gaule’s drive, and Gaule provided the final blow in injury time.
Galway dispensed with Limerick, 3-13 to 0-7, in Kilmallock to claim top spot in Group 1.
In the evening throw-in, they came out on top of an open and fast-paced affair.
Pat Ryan will have taken plenty of positives from the first half, with Caoimhe Costelloe and dual player Áine Cunningham threatening, but Galway were stunning at times and two superb goals had them 2-4 to 0-6 in front at half-time.
The teams were level, on 0-2 apiece, when Carrie Dolan launched a long free in the eighth minute towards Orlaith McGrath, who gathered, left two defenders in her wake, and drew one more, before handpassing to Ailish O’Reilly. Enjoying the return to her natural habitat at full-forward, O’Reilly made no mistake, having blasted a shot off the crossbar a little earlier.
Siobhán McGrath was at the end of a brilliant move for the second goal, in the 21st minute, which started with a block by Niamh Kilkenny and also involved Orlaith McGrath and O’Reilly.
Kilkenny weighed in with what will be in the running for goal of the year, towards the end of the third quarter, the former ‘player of the year’ taking a pass from Annmarie Starr in her own half and going on a trademark run that took her deep into opposition territory.
She exchanged passes with O’Reilly, flicked the sliotar over the head of a Limerick defender, and finished off the sod for a sensational goal and there was no way back for the home side.
Cork received a pass direct to the semi-final, where they will face Galway, while Kilkenny and Limerick and Tipperary and Offaly will pair off in the quarter-finals.
Cork’s test against Galway will be one to watch, following their facile wins in the league.
The association were delighted to announce that the Littlewoods Ireland league final, in Croke Park on June 20, will be a test event for the safe return of spectators to sport.
“This is a huge honour for the Camogie Association and an endorsement of the immense effort from our fantastic volunteers and staff team across the country, to ensure that camogie players safely returned to training and play, amid Covid-19 restrictions this year.
“We are very grateful to the ministers, Martin and Chambers, Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Sport Ireland, and all of our colleagues in the working group, for the safe return of spectators to sports stadia, particularly to the GAA and Croke Park, who have worked tirelessly over the past year to enable these test events to happen, planning safely for the return of sports fans to live games.
“We look forward to welcoming fans back to Croke Park to witness the talent and skills of our camogie players.”
And so say all of us.