By Daragh Ó Conchúir
KILKENNY and Cork will resume rivalries once more, this time in the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 final on April 23, after they overcame the challenges of Galway and Limerick respectively.
This is a repeat of last September's All-Ireland final, which saw the Black and Amber prevail comfortably to end a 24-year drought and in the process, seal a wonderful double, having garnered League honours earlier in the season.
Cork came out on top by a point when the teams met in the group stages in Kilkenny on April 1 and emerged from that phase of the competition with a 100% record, so the latest rematch will be highly anticipated.
A goal after eight minutes from Danielle Morrissey gave Kilkenny an early lead at Semple Stadium and Meighan Farrell pointed to open a four-point gap.
Galway were undeterred however and shot the next four points, three from leading scorer Ailish O'Reilly and another from Niamh McGrath. It was nip and tuck for the next 10 minutes or so, with Miriam Walsh and Denise Gaule finding the target for Kilkenny, O'Reilly and McGrath doing so for Galway.
Mark Dunne's crew finished strongly though with a pair of points from the excellent O'Reilly and that left them leading deservedly at half time by 0-9 to 1-4.
Ann Downey has inculcated a real never-say-die element in this squad though and allied with the belief that comes from accumulating silverware. Denise Gaule (two), Katie Power and Walsh registered points to turn things around and though Niamh Kilkenny stopped the rot to reduce the margin to the minimum, it was a momentary relief for Galway as Gaule drove over a trio of points (she finished with six), and Walsh and Julie Ann Malone added scores to secure a 1-14 to 0-11 victory.
Limerick opened the scoring in the other semi-final at Páirc Uí Rinn thanks to a Rebecca Delee point but Julia White levelled quickly for Cork and Orla Cronin edged them ahead before Niamh McCarthy continued the impression she has created since coming into the Rebels' line-up this year by hand-passing to the net after 10 minutes.
Mairéad Fitzgerald, Orla Curtin and Delee lofted white flags for the Shannonsiders, the latter bringing her tally to three with an outstanding solo score after a powerful surge, but Katrina Mackey slotted three of her own on the way to registering a tally of 1-8, while Amy O'Connor and Gemma O'Connor also did the business to make it 1-8 to 0-6 at the break.
Niamh Mulcahy reduce the margin to four from a free straight after the restart but once Mackey's attempt for a point from 35m dropped into the net two minutes later, it was always going to be difficult for Limerick.
To give John Tuohy's girls credit, they showed plenty of character, with Mulcahy keeping the scoreboard ticking over and Curtin also hitting a point but Mackey and the regal Gemma O'Connor had impressive replies before McCarthy removed all doubt with her second goal eight minutes from time, leaving it 3-15 to 0-12 at the final whistle.