THE venue, the referee and the weather were talking points before this National Senior Camogie League clash last Sunday as Galway secured their second win to move one step closer to the semi-finals.
Aoife Donohue finished to the net on 17 minutes to keep the Tribeswomen ahead of their opponents who had two first half penalties before Offaly’s challenge faded in the second half.
Supporters and players travelled on Sunday morning fearing another postponement following the fate that befell Sarsfields’ All-Ireland Club camogie semi-final scheduled for the same venue four weeks earlier. But despite the monsoon conditions that enveloped Birr ahead of throw-in, the pitch passed an inspection.
While Sarsfields had no players involved, the appointment of Kildare’s Ray Kelly was keenly followed as he will be the man in the middle for their All-Ireland Club final at Croke Park this weekend. Technical fouls were punished with three Galway players – Heather Cooney, Ann Marie Starr and Catherine Finnerty – receiving yellow cards. And Offaly’s Patrice Delaney got booked twice resulting in her departure on the three-quarter mark.
Mark Dunne made five changes from the side that dismantled Clare eight days earlier with Therese Manton and Catherine Finnerty returning to the starting line-up for the first time since the 2015 All-Ireland final. Emma Helebert and Ciara Murphy also came into the team while Mullagh’s Catriona Daly made her debut in goal.
Against the wind, the visitors struck for two early points. Donohue did the work to create Finnerty’s opener on two minutes, while the Athenry duo of Noreen Coen and Jessica Gill allowed Niamh Kilkenny make it 0-2 to 0-0 almost immediately.
Offaly were looking threatening with Arlene Watkins causing problems and she won a free which Siobhan Flannery converted in the fifth minute. But with the elements, the Faithful County needed goals and were given two great chances in the opening quarter.
On seven minutes, Watkins won possession and got away from Manton before charging towards the square. Cooney supplied the block that resulted in her card and a penalty, but Flannery’s subsequent effort was stopped by Sarah Dervan.
It was a chance Offaly needed and Galway continued working hard in the difficult conditions as they stretched the margin to 0-5 to 0-1. Ailish O’Reilly converted her first free, Murphy got a point before another O’Reilly placed ball on 13 minutes.
Two minutes later, the Tribeswomen were under pressure again and Kelly blew for another penalty after a goalmouth scramble. This time, former All-Star Michaela Morkan came up from defence and sent a fierce strike into the roof of the net, reducing arrears to one.
Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune.