Camogie: Blair's late strike sinks Galway and crowns Tipp Division 1A champions

April 14, 2024

Tipperary celebrate with the trophy after the win over Galway at Croke Park ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Tipperary 1-13
Galway 0-15

by Daragh Ó Conchúir at Croke Park

Tipperary celebrated the 20th anniversary of their famous League and Championship double from an era when they were the queens of camogie, by winning their first national title since.

In become the Very League Division 1A champions, the Blue and Golds are the first county outside of Cork, Galway and Kilkenny to be successful in one of senior camogie’s two marquee competitions since Wexford secured their All-Ireland three-in-a-row in 2012.

Karin Blair was the hero, as the scorer of the winning point in the 59th minute. But were many who deserve the garlands, Eimear McGrath among them. The Drom-Inch star converted eight frees, many of them crucial as Tipp made it back from the brink of being in real trouble, six points down after 21 minutes, to going in at the interval trailing by just 0-8 to 0-7.

Then there was the belter from just insider her own 65 in the second half. If you didn’t get a lift from that, it was time to check your pulse.

But team captain, Karen Kennedy was probably the right choice for player of the match because her contributions that really swung things the way of Denis Kelly’s crew.

Starting at centre-forward, it was her point that ended Galway’s run of six straight scores that threatened serious separation, particularly as it had taken a couple of last ditch interventions from the likes of the brilliant Mairéad Eviston to deny the westerners a goal on top of that.

Cleverly, Kelly and co moved the Thurles All-Star, better known as a centre-back and sometime midfielder, to the edge of the opposition square after the restart and her 38th minute goal – around 60 seconds after she had notched up her third point – helped Tipp move four clear.

Cathal Murray had to call on Niamh Hanniffy, back from a serious knee injury, to replace Róisín Black, who seemed to suffer a hamstring injury and some positional reshuffling followed.

Then he turned to two of the greatest in the game right now in former player of the year Niamh Kilkenny, who made her return at the latter end of the competition after having a baby last year.

It was Niamh Mallon who had the biggest impact though. The former Down legend has long been known as one of the greatest forwards of the past decade. Her transfer to former All-Ireland club champions Sarsfields went through mid-way through the League and she had had to wait till now to make her bow for her adopted county.

She scored with her first ever touch in a Galway jersey and finished with three points as the Maroons drew level.

She was also fouled for two frees but the normally unerring Carrie Dolan missed them both, including the more difficult chance to level from the last puck of the game after Blair had edged Tipp’s noses back in front.

It had all seemed unlikely as Ailish O’Reilly, who tasted defeat in yesterday’s national intermediate basketball league final with Claregalway, zipped over two points in a minute to signal the Tribeswomen moving through the gears towards the end of the opening quarter.

McGrath did have a kicked shot at goal brilliantly stopped by the advancing Fiona Ryan but it felt at that juncture as if Tipp had really needed that to keep in touch as Aoife Donohue, Dolan and Siobhán McGrath added points.

Donohue was looking particularly threatening in this period, though a midweek illness might have zapped the energy from the normally dynamic Mullagh player, who was substituted in the second half.

But in probably the game’s most significant period, Tipp made a few substitutions of their own, calling on experienced duo Clodagh Quirke and Juilieann Bourke, and they began to compete more vigorously in the critical middle third battle zone.

At a point down going in at the break, Tipp would have been bouncing and they carried that positivity into the resumption, going four points ahead via McGrath’s stick. Immediately after, Kelly brought on Mary Ryan, who joined the Tipp panel in 2005 – just missing out on the glory years - and played when the Premier last reached a national final in 2009.

Mallon only needs an inch of space and she did her stuff, along with another sub, Niamh Niland, who pointed within seconds of coming on.

Mallon equalised with a drilled shot in the 58th minute that didn’t clear the crossbar by much but it was Blair that had the final say, the former forward that has been repackaged as a defender this year, getting forward link her name to Tipp camogie history to forever.

SCORERS FOR TIPPERARY: E McGrath 0-8(fs); K Kennedy 1-3; C McCarthy, K Blaire 0-1 each

SCORERS FOR GALWAY: C Dolan 0-5(fs); A O’Reilly, N Mallon 0-3 each; A Donohue, S McGrath, O McGrath, N Niland 0-1 each

TIPPERARY: N Walsh, M Eviston, E Loughman, C McCarthy, C McIntyre, K Blair, E Cunneen, C Hennessy, T Ryan, C Maher, K Kennedy, G O’Brien, E Heffernan, E McGrath, R Howard. Subs: C Quirke for McIntyre, J Bourke for Cunneen (both 26); M Burke for O’Brien (43); M Ryan for T Ryan (51)

GALWAY: F Ryan, R Hanniffy, R Black, A Crowe, D Higgins, Á Keane, C Hickey, A Hesnan, A Starr, N McPeake, A O’Reilly, C Dolan, A Donohue, S McGrath, O McGrath. Subs: N Hanniffy for Black inj (36); N Kilkenny for Hesnan (42); N Mallon for Donohue (46); O Rabbitte for O’Reilly, S Rabbitte for McPeake (both 53)

REFEREE: Aaron Hogg (Clare)

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