by Daragh Ó Conchúir
CORK rubber-stamped their place in the semi-finals of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship as Group 2 winners with a hard-earned victory over Offaly, while Wexford took a big step towards securing a place in the quarters by holding off Tipperary.
The Yellowbellies could still lose out however if Limerick beat them by more than four points next week and Offaly overcomes Tipperary.
However, the Premier County women still have a squeak of bagging third in the group themselves if they could secure their first win of the campaign and Wexford got the better of Limerick.
The second half introduction of Chloe Foxe proved significant at Innovate Wexford Park as she weighed in with 1-2 to edge Wexford clear, while Úna Leacy continued her stellar form throughout the campaign with a similar return in the first half.
Wexford began well with a brace of points by Leacy as well as scores from Stacey Kehoe, Linda Bolger and Emma Walsh but Cáit Devane kept Tipperary in it, though Leacy struck a major blow with a trademark goal off the sod after 24 minutes to leave it 1-5 to 0-4 at half time.
Two pointed frees from Linda Bolger opened up a six-point gap, but Tipperary reminded the home crowd of how they pushed their side to the brink in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, with two goals in three minutes from Orla O’Dwyer and Ereena Fryday to make it 1-7 to 2-4.
Matty Flynn-O’Connor and John Kelly had seen enough and Foxe was sent in. She converted a free immediately, and O’Dwyer equalised, but the sub pounced for a goal in the 44th minute to give Wexford the lead. They pulled clear with late points from Stacey, and Shelley Kehoe, Foxe and Joanne Dillon before Devane struck two late points for Tipp to leave it 2-12 to 2-7.
Meanwhile, Cork were pushed all the way in Birr but showed real intestinal fortitude by landing six of the last seven points to take the honours on a flattering 1-13 to 0-11 scoreline.
Offaly flew out of the traps as Ann Marie Guinan pointed before setting up Siobhán Flannery, who added a couple more later on as Ashling Thompson kept Cork in touch with a pair of points.
It was 0-6 to 0-2 when Hannah Looney took a pass from Orla Cronin and finished expertly to the net to get the visitors going.
Katrina Mackey slotted a couple of points, and they led by 1-6 to 0-8 at the break.
Aoife Murray had to make a good save just before the short whistle however and was called into action again on a couple of occasions in the second half as Offaly threw everything at their more fancied opponents.
Arlene Watkins and Flannery brought them level after Cronin had initially stretched the Cork lead, but Paudie Murray’s outfit finished very strongly, Mackey, Cotter (two), Cronin, Amy O’Connor and the returning Julia White all hitting the target to see it through.