By Daragh Ó Conchúir
John Tuohy has admitted that he had to present his players with some home truths when he felt "they didn't do justice to the Limerick jersey" against Cork last week and was delighted with the response as they edged out Tipperary by 1-20 to 3-12 at Semple Stadium to keep their hopes of qualifying from Group 2 of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship alive.
Skipper Niamh Mulcahy shot an incredible 15 points while Sarah Carey excelled at centre-back, goalkeeper Laura O'Neill made a point-blank save from Orla O'Dwyer in the 52nd minute and Orla Curtin scored a crucial goal six minutes later.
The magnificent Cait Devane responded immediately with her third goal of the game but Limerick had done enough to prevail.
"The girls played outstanding stuff from start to finish" said Tuohy on Sporting Limerick. "I suppose we took our eye off the ball a couple of times, Tipp got a couple of goals and made it hard for us.
"In the second half the girls put up a sterling display and played very well.
"Tipp are a very strong team. They expected to beat us but to come back after being beaten by Cork showed the character of this team."
"Our performance against Cork wasn't acceptable. They didn't do justice to the Limerick jersey I felt. That passion and pride had to come back into our game. We have to play a more defensive game in the sense that our blocking and hooking has to be right and we have to track back when we haven't got the ball. The players bought into that in the last couple of weeks. We've worked on that very hard in the field.
"There were a few harsh words between players and myself but it was all in good faith. The players know I believe in them and believe they are a superb set of players. They've been very professional from the start. You will have off days. Cork are a super side. They're flying at the moment and one of the favourites to win the All-Ireland this year."
Further evidence of the veracity of that last statement was provided in Páirc Uí Rinn as Cork became the first team to reach the knockout stages, with third win in as many games, dismissing Wexford with ease by 3-18 to 0-9.
The visitors were unable to land a glove on their hosts and trailed at the interval by 1-9 to 0-2. Orla Cotter, Katrina Mackey and Amy O'Connor were all multiple point-scorers before O'Connor was dragged down in the square just before the break and goalkeeper Aoife Murray made the long journey up the pitch pay by burying the sliotar to the Wexford net.
The Model County girls improved in the second half with Linda Bolger, Úna Leacy and Shelly Kehoe raising white flags but it was very easy for Cork as Cotter, Mackey, Gemma O'Connor and Ashling Thompson all shot points before Niamh McCarthy and Leanne O'Sullivan pounced for late goals.
In Group 1, Kilkenny needed an injury time point from Denise Gaule to deny Clare a famous victory at Nowlan Park where it finished 1-14 to 3-8. The reigning player of the year held her nerve to convert from a free after Chloe Morey had landed a brace to edge the visitors in front.
It was a stunning effort by Trish O'Grady's side, first-half goals from Áine O'Loughlin and Vera Loughnane giving them an early foothold but Kilkenny showed the mettle of champions with a couple of points from Gaule to go in level at the break 0-8 to 2-2.
When Julieann Malone goaled early in the second half, it seemed inevitable that the champions would kick on but O'Loughlin hand-passed her second major immediately and it was nip and tuck from there to the end.
Meanwhile, Galway were far too strong for Waterford, prevailing by 5-28 to 1-10 at Kenny Park. The home team had nine different scorers and Ailish O'Reilly and Noreen Coen in particular made hay, accumulating 2-6 and 2-4 respectively. Finola Keely claimed the other goal while Aoife Donohue (0-6) and Niamh McGrath (0-5) were others who would have enjoyed their days.
It was a difficult outing for Waterford, whose goal came courtesy of Becky Kavanagh, while Lorraine Bray struck four points.