It is still all to play for in Division 1A of the Camogie League

March 29, 2024

Eimear McGrath of Tipperary and Dervla Higgins of Galway ©INPHO/James Lawlor

Three teams are on top of the table on nine points, with Galway at the summit by virtue of a +13 score difference. That is one point more than Tipperary on +12, who in turn, have two white flags to spare on Cork, who are on +10. Two of these will play in the final at Croke Park on April 14.

At the other end of the table, there is still a mathematical possibility of Clare avoiding relegation at Kilkenny’s expense but with a 36-point gap to turn around, the  young Banner outfit are up against it.

Clare v Tipperary, Cusack Park, 2pm

As stated, Clare have a glimmer of hope of avoiding relegation, but it is very faint. For while a big win and Kilkenny losing in similar style to Waterford might wipe out the 36 points between them on score difference, it would represent a huge shock.

John Carmody’s youthful panel have battled commendably in every game and avoided really heavy defeats, giving the manager plenty to be happy about. But they haven’t looked like winning a game either.

And in Tipp, they are facing a squad of players that is getting stronger all the time with injured players returning to the fold. They are cock-a-hoop, having responded to a first-round defeat to Waterford by beating Galway, Cork and Kilkenny respectively.

Eimear McGrath has been on fire in terms of planting her frees and also hitting the net from the full-forward berth vacated by Cáit Devane, notching up a hat-trick against Galway. Karen Kennedy has hit the ground running since coming back from injury and there appears to be a real depth to the squad.

A draw will be enough to put them in a national senior final for the first time since the 2009 League decider and though the likes of Áine O’Loughlin has been ultra-consistent for Clare, it would be calamitous for Denis Kelly’s Premier outfit were they to fail to bridge that gap given their form to date.

Galway v Cork, Duggan Park, 2pm Live on Camogie YouTube
We can expect a good crowd in Ballinasloe and the figures on the livestream to be healthy too as this is a mouth-watering clash between two of the game’s superpowers, with something tangible at stake.

Twelve months ago, they met with Galway needing to win to advance to the final against a Cork side already qualified. They did the job and then repeated the trick in the decider. In the first round of the championship, the Tribeswomen prevailed again but it was the Rebels that held the whip hand at the penultimate hurdle on the way to winning the All-Ireland.

The westerners are actually in the running to complete a League three-in-a-row, which would be quite some achievement and the presence of recently transferred former Down star, Niamh Mallon and ex-player of the year, Niamh Kilkenny on the bench last weekend speaks of their depth.

Both sides were beaten by Tipperary but with a three-point better score difference, a draw will be enough for Galway this time, though that would do for Cork if Clare shocked Tipped. In all likelihood though, Cork must win to be on the pitch at HQ in 16 days.

Waterford v Kilkenny, SETU Arena, 2pm

Given that they were going into competition without legends such as former player of the year Denise Gaule and Claire Phelan, as well as injured Walsh cousins, Grace and another ex-player of the year Miriam, and with Peter Cleere beginning as manager, it always seemed unlikely Kilkenny would be challenging for silverware in the spring.

They were impressive in just falling short by a point against Cork but although the likes of Steffi Fitzgerald, Asha McHardy and Katie Nolan have shone, they have fallen short against everyone apart from Clare.

Waterford were minutes away from a win in Galway last weekend that would have put a League final spot in reach but now they have nothing to play for with regard to the top or bottom of the table.

There is the matter of local bragging rights though and they would not have too many wins over Kilkenny in competitive fare in recent years. And they will want to build on what has been a good campaign under new boss Jerry Wallace.

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