Two first-half goals from Niamh Hanniffy and a peach from Aoife Donohue were the highlights as Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie champions Galway swatted understrength Offaly aside with ease at a rain-sodden Pearse Stadium.
The 3-13 to 0-3 victory means Cathal Murray’s side will play host to Cork next week with both sides assured of a place in the final six but a direct berth to the semi-final available to the victors as Group 1 table toppers.
The damage was done in the first half, though Offaly would not have been too downhearted to be trailing by 0-6 to 0-0 approaching the first water break. Hanniffy struck in that period’s final act, however, and it was a significant rapier thrust.
It was wonderfully crafted, the stellar Aoife Donohue winning the opposition puckout after a Carrie Dolan point, and delivering diagonally to Orlaith McGrath, who gathered smoothly and turned to carry.
She then transferred to Ailish O’Reilly, who spotting a trademark run from deep by Hanniffy and sent a perfectly-weighted one-handed stick pass into the centre.
Hanniffy controlled and shot without handling but Offaly goalie Mairéad Jennings had sensed the danger and advanced quickly, bravely blocking with her body. There was nothing she could do about the rebound though, which Hanniffy tucked home with aplomb.
The half-forward’s second goal arrived right on the half-hour, and again it was the Donohue-McGrath tandem involved, the midfielder hitting her pacy team-mate with another astute diagonal.
McGrath left the cover for dead with a lightning swivel and solo deep into danger territory before feeding Hanniffy, whose shot was too powerful for Jennings to keep out.
Dual player Gráinne Egan shot Offaly’s only score of the opening period with an outstanding effort off her left but Niamh Kilkenny raised the flag four times and Galway led 2-11 to 0-1 at half-time.
Conditions worsened and with the game won, it was perhaps no surprise the scoring rate slowed, though that was not the indicator when Donohue pounced with a 34th-minute glimpse of art.
Offaly looked to have averted the initial danger provided by another McGrath run but Donohue pounced with the sharpest of pick-ups, advanced into space, and with a shortened hurley and left-sided strike, drilled the sliotar to the corner of the net.
⏲RESULT – @LibertyIRL All-Ireland Senior Championship group 1:
Offaly 0-03 pic.twitter.com/khxW3dduvL
Clare’s second-half surge secures quarter-final slot
Clare secured a quarter-final berth at Dublin’s expense as they prevailed by 11 points in Fr McNamara Park on Saturday afternoon, 1-18 to 1-7.
It was knockout championship in all but name at the Ennis venue, following Tipperary’s win over Dublin in the previous round, and the tension was palpable right from the start.
In a tight opening half, neither side was able to build a commanding lead. Dublin’s Aisling Maher pointed a brace of frees, Chloe Morey slotted a ’45 between the posts and Eimear Kelly was on target as the first four scores of the game. Mairéad Scanlon edged Clare in front but Dublin wing-back Niamh Gannon produced a real highlight-reel moment when she pushed forward to fire a rousing score with 25 minutes gone, in a game where every score was hard earned.
The Dubs managed to move in front through Aisling Maher, but Clare’s hard running and support play in the forward line tested Dublin’s discipline in the tackle and they edged 0-6 to 0-4 in front at half time thanks to three scores without reply, two of them from dead ball points.
A commanding performance in the third quarter from the home side effectively settled the contest. Player of the match Niamh O’Dea led the way with a dominant display at centre back, anchoring a powerful defensive unit, and gradually they started to pull away with three more unanswered points.
Mairead Scanlan scored from an acute angle in another moment of sheer quality for the Banner women and while Dublin dug their heels in, Ger O’Connor’s women struck a decisive blow in the 38th minute. Dublin failed to deal with an Orlaith Duggan delivery and it was Scanlan who reacted quickest, gathering the sliotar and firing it to the back of the net to move Clare eight points ahead.
Clare hit four more scores without reply, tightening their grip on the contest and suffocating the life out of Dublin at the same time, with very few attempts on Aisling Corbett’s goal. Corbett was eventually beaten in the 59th minute when Sinéad Wilde’s ground pull got the better of the Scariff-Ogonolloe custodian, but it was academic as Clare progressed to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, putting their defeat to Tipperary behind them.
Cork too strong for Wexford
After 237 days without a competitive game, Cork returned to action exactly as they would have wished, overcoming Wexford by 3-12 to 1-8. Wexford will feel that the losing margin does not tell the whole story, as two late Cork goals added gloss to the victory.
Paudie Murray’s Cork side started slowly with the sides level at two points apiece in the early stages. However, the 2018 All-Ireland winners began to settle into the contest, with Orla Cronin’s accuracy from frees helping Cork establish a lead. Amy Connor found the net in the opening half as she struck 1-2 in the first 30 minutes of action, with Cronin’s five first-half frees contributing to a 1-8 to 0-6 half-time lead.
Linda Bolger converted three placed balls and Shelley Keogh added two well-taken scores from play for Wexford.
Wexford managed to hit back with a goal in the early stages of the second half to cut their arrears to two points. With Ciara O’Connor excelling at centre back, they continued to frustrate their opponents with Cork only leading by three at the water break.
However, Cork summoned all their experience and a second Amy O’Connor goal sealed the victory. Substitute Saoirse McCarthy added a third as Cork found the scores they needed to set up a top of the table clash against Galway next weekend.
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