Two remaining semi-final spots up for grabs: Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Quarter-Finals Preview
This Saturday July 30th sees two mouth-watering ties as Wexford and Tipperary, and Offaly and Kilkenny go head-to-head in a bid to reach this year’s Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Semi-Finals.
Kilkenny Vs Offaly, MacDonagh Park, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary @2.30pm
It has been a good campaign so far for Offaly which saw them finish the group stages on 12 points along with Cork and Wexford. Cork and Wexford both had the better score difference meaning Offaly now have the task of facing league champions Kilkenny. Kilkenny recorded 3 comfortable wins in their opening games against Derry, Dublin and Tipperary. However in their final group game they came up short against Galway losing by 5 points and a direct route to a semi-final. The defeat may have been what Kilkenny needed as after 3 group wins and a national league title earlier in the year complacency could have started to set in. The loss to Galway at home and the fact that they only scored 3 points from play will have left Ann Downey and her management team lots to work on before they face an Offaly team with real momentum behind them.
Offaly showed their intentions early in this year’s championship with a win over Clare in the opening game and a very impressive victory over Wexford a week later. However in their third game they suffered a heavy defeat to All-Ireland champions Cork before re-grouping and finishing their last 2 group games with wins over Limerick and Waterford. They will be in positive mood going into face Kilkenny but will have to be at their best to overcome a team who boasts talents such as Denise Gaule and Ann Dalton in their forward line. Offaly will be looking to attackers Michaela Morkan and Tina Hannon to continue their impressive vein of form this weekend. Michaela has been particularly effective from placed balls and has amassed a total of 37 points in this year’s championship so far. While Tina Hannon has displayed a real goal threat in every game. In defence Offaly’s Jean Brady and Siobhan Flannery will try to curtail the Kilkenny attack.
A good start will be vital to Offaly on Saturday. If they allow Kilkenny to get into their stride they can really open up sides and with a pacey inside forward line which includes captain Michelle Quilty they will be very hard to stop. Both Derry and Tipperary fell victim to this and on both occasions Kilkenny’s attack put up huge scores, 5-24 against Derry and 1-21 against Tipperary. It was a different story 2 weeks ago when a tight and physical Galway defence held them to just 10 points with only 3 from play. Offaly will need to keep it a close tight affair and not give Kilkenny’s forwards the space or time to run at them. If it is the case that the game is a close hard fought encounter and after a tough round of group games so far, the team with the strongest bench to call upon to finish out the task will have the advantage. This is why I believe Kilkenny will edge out Offaly on Saturday. Since 2006 Kilkenny have won 6 Minor All-Ireland titles to Offaly’s none. Most of these players have come through the ranks and Kilkenny will be able to call upon a strong panel on Saturday that will be capable of reaching an All-Ireland semi-final.
Tipperary Vs Wexford, Walsh Park, Waterford @ 2.30pm
It has been a mixed season so far for Tipperary. The league showed real promise as they pushed Kilkenny all the way in extra time in the semi-final. While in their opening game of the championship they were disappointed to not to least get a draw as again they made Galway work very hard for their 3 point victory. An impressive win away to Derry was followed by a disappointing defeat against Kilkenny. In their final group game they saw their 5 point lead erode as Dublin snatched a late draw to put them level with Tipperary on points with one game remaining while Tipperary had a bye. This meant the Munster side had the unusual scenario of not knowing if they would be in or out of the championship until after Dublin played Derry. As it transpired a big winning margin for Dublin was still not enough and Tipperary finished third in the group. While Tipp would obviously be delighted with this outcome and a place in the quarter final spot they have little momentum going into this fixture against a Wexford team off the back of two impressive wins on a trot over Clare and Cork. The real task on hand for Brian Boyle’s charges is to produce a performance for the full 60 minutes on Saturday. On previous meetings with Wexford and other top teams Tipperary have started brightly and showed they have the talent to compete with the best. But they have found it hard to sustain this intensity and it is around the 40th minute mark where opposition tend to pull away.
For Tipperary the injured Cait Devane has been a huge loss to them this year in attack. This year’s Minor All-Ireland winner Orla O’Dwyer has impressed when given the right ball and space. Megan and Mary Ryan have also shown an eye for a score while Nicole Walsh has been excellent from frees. A spectacular Una Leacy goal against Cork in their 4th group game has really ignited Wexford’s championship and they will be confident travelling to Waterford to face Tipperary. Before the goal that claimed victory over Cork, Wexford had beaten Limerick and Waterford but suffered a surprise defeat against Offaly. In a low scoring affair against Cork that looked to be heading for a stalemate a brilliant catch and strike from Una sealed a win for Wexford and they demolished Clare in their final game 7-12 to 1-5. The Wexford management won’t be reading too much into that victory as Clare had nothing to play for and were facing their 5th defeat in a row. Confidence is key for any forward though and what better way to boast your own confidence going into an All-Ireland quarter final then finding the back of the net more than once in a game, which is what Wexford’s dangerous trio of Katrina Parrock, Una Leacy and Kate Kelly all did. Una Leacy will more than likely start on the edge of the square on Saturday meaning Tipperary’s Gemma Grace will have to be strong in the air to stop her adding another goal to her tally this year. Outside her Kate Kelly will be the one to watch as Wexford continue to look to her talent and experience in big games. Tipperary hasn’t reached an All-Ireland semi-final since 2008 while Wexford have made the last 4 every year since 2008. And despite the retirement of one of their greatest ever players in Ursula Jacob earlier this year they still boast many players in their side who won 3-in-a-row in 2012 including Mary Leacy. For me this experience in winning big games should see Wexford over the line but I expect a huge fight from Tipperary and the Leinster side not getting it all their own way.