Wins for Slaughtneil and Sarsfields after two thrilling semi-finals
Slaughtneil (Derry) 3-8
Burgess-Duharra (Tipperary) 3-6
Derry champions Slaughtneil continued their remarkable season so far with an impressive victory over Munster champions Burgess-Duharra after a thrilling semi-final played in front of a large enthusiastic crowd in Inniskeen Grattans GAA Grounds in Monaghan on Sunday. The five-in-a-row Tipperary county champions will rue their lethargic start as it was all of 21 minutes before they registered their opening score a goal from Eimear McDonnell after she latched onto the end of a Jenny Grace free.
In contrast Slaughtneil raced into an early lead with a pointed free from Louise Dougan. It was a lead they would never give up despite the best efforts of Burgess-Duharra. Slaughtneil extended their lead when an overhead strike by Mary Kelly flew past Ciara Holohan in the Burgess-Duharra goal. Minutes later Shannon Graham pointed to put them 5 points clear and Burgess-Duharra were beginning to look in real trouble. To their credit they never panicked and led by Trish O’Halloran at centre back and the hard working Jenny Grace they were awarded a free which created the goal in the 21st minute. Within 5 minutes McDonnell showed her talent once again to evade the tackle and raise a white flag to reduce the deficit to just 1 point (1-2 to 1-1). This time it was the Ulster champions turn to respond and they did in style with 2 points in quick succession from Therese Mellon and the influential Shannon Graham to take a 3 point lead in at the break.
The second half continued where the first had left off with exciting end to end camogie. Jenny Grace displayed her accurate free taking skills with the opening score in the second half. This was quickly cancelled out by a Denise McGuigan goal, followed by a Sinead Mellon point as the Slaughtneil attack continued to cause the Burgess-Duharra defence all sorts of trouble.
The Tipp champions were not willing to give up their hopes of a final date in Croke Park and fought back with a goal and two points from Jenny Grace. Once again only the minimum separated the sides. However every time Burgess-Duharra looked to try and get their noses in front, Slaughtneil showed unbelievable determination and teamwork to stride ahead once again. This time it was the turn of Therese Mellon with a goal and a point to make it 3-6 to 2-4 in favour of the Derry outfit. Both sides continued to exchange points and with less than 10 minutes remaining Burgess-Duharra’s most experienced and potent forward Eimear McDonnell stepped up once again with a crucial goal from close range to bring it back to a one point game.
Having to reduce Slaughtneil’s lead back to a single point once again seemed to have taken all of Burgess-Duharra’s might and effort and they couldn’t conjure up another score which they so badly needed. Instead Siobhan McKaigue got on the end of a great team move to slot over her side’s 8th point and secure a well-deserved two point win. And so after a cracking game of camogie Slaughneil’s amazing treble dream is still alive. Despite Burgess-Duharra fighting all the way to the wire they could never get their noses in front. Slaughtneil had a spread of 7 different scorers compared to Burgess-Duharra’s 2.
Their tally was compiled by just Eimear McDonnell (2-2) and Jenny Grace (1-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 45’). The Derry side’s superb fitness levels and battling spirit was a key component of their success as they now prepare for an All-Ireland final in March. After Sunday’s display they will be many people’s favourites to go all the way.
Camogie Reporter Ger Kinane