By Daragh Ó Conchúir
The final round of the group stages of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship was certain to be dramatic with so much yet to be decided and that's how it proved.
Only one of the 10 teams was out of contention prior to the action, with Cork's place in the semi-finals as winners of Group 2 the sole certainty in terms of qualification.
Following the latest results though, it is now known that All-Ireland champions Kilkenny have secured the other automatic semi-final berth as Group 1 victors.
The quarter-finals, which will be played on August 5, will see Galway play Tipperary while Wexford will take on Dublin.
It was Tipp who were the big winners, having started the day propping up Group 2 with no points from their three previous games. But they emerged from St Brendan's Park in Birr with a 3-13 to 2-13 victory over Offaly and in the process leapfrogged over the Faithful women by virtue of a one-point better score difference.
There was never much between the teams. Ciardha Maher struck for the first of her two goals but Siobhán Flannery responded at the other end. And when Orla O'Dwyer raised a green flag once more for the visitors, Tina Hannon's riposte was immediate, leaving the teams deadlocked on 2-6 each at half time.
Maher registered her second major early in the second half but this time, when Offaly attempted their now customary reply, it was Orla McEniry that made one of the game's most significant contributions by saving a Michaela Morkan penalty.
Róisín Howard and Cáit Devane edged Tipperary further ahead and though a couple of Flannery placed balls kept Offaly in touch, they fell one point short of securing their ultimate aim of reaching the knockout stages and it was Brian Boyle's charges that were celebrating.
In the other game in that group, Wexford made sure of second place and ended Limerick's hopes with a 1-13 to 0-11 win in Bruff.
Youngsters Joanne Dillon and Chloe Foxe gave Wexford an excellent start, with a goal and a point respectively. Foxe finished the half with four points and Úna Leacy had two but Niamh Mulcahy ensured the home side were still competitive, shooting six points to make it 1-8 to 0-8 at the change of ends.
The second half was extremely tight but Limerick were unable to make any impact on the excellent Wexford defence and their season is over.
In Group 1, there had been a slim chance that Galway could miss out on the knockout stages but they held off a stern examination from Clare to win by 2-11 to 0-11 at Cusack Park, Ennis.
Chloe Morey and Ailish O'Reilly exchanged some early frees but it took 22 minutes for the first score from play, courtesy of Orlaith McGraith. Rebecca Hennelly planted a penalty to the Clare net and Galway led by 1-6 to 0-5 at the interval.
Points from Niamh O'Dea and Morey helped reduce the margin to one but a Maria Cooney goal gave Galway the breathing space to hold out, although Sarah Healy needed to be alert to make a goal-line clearance from Morey late on.
Dublin were never in contention against Kilkenny, falling by 3-14 to 0-8 at Tom Ryall Park but with Clare failing to overcome Galway, they had done enough by triumphing over Waterford and the Bannerwomen to bag the last quarter-final slot.
Goals from Miriam Walsh and Danielle Morrissey in four minutes stunned the Metropolitans. Anna Farrell, Denise Gaule, Katie Power and Aisling Dunphy all had points before Walsh backed her second goal and made it 3-8 to 0-5 at the break, Aisling Maher responsible for all the visitors' scores.
Kilkenny were content with points after the resumption, Morrissey, Meighan Farrell and Jenny Reddy among the scorers. Dublin just couldn't break the Noresiders down, though young goalkeeper showcased her long-range free-taking abilities once more with two points.