Dubs dig deep to set up final battle with Kerry

LEINSTER champions Dublin and Munster surprise packets Kerry advanced to the semi-finals of the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies SFC with hard-fought quarter-final victories at Banagher on Saturday.

Dublin, beaten All-Ireland finalists last year, had to dig really deep against this season’s Munster runners-up Clare before securing a 2-18 to 2-12 victory in a hugely-entertaining game.

Earlier, Kerry continued their remarkable run through the back door as captain Bernie Breen inspired a narrow 2-9 to 1-11 victory against Connacht champions Galway.

Sinead Ahern scored 2-4 for Dublin and player of the match Elaine Kelly added 0-4 as the Sky Blues booked their place in the last four.

At half-time, Dublin led by just a single point against Clare, 1-7 to 1-6, as the Jackies and the Banner County traded first-half goals within two minutes of each other.

The teams were level three times in the opening 16 minutes before Dublin were dealt a blow when full-back and Clare native Noelle Comyn was forced off with a knee injury.

Dublin’s luck changed in the 19th minute when they were awarded a soft penalty for a foul on Orla Egan and Ahern made no mistake for her first goal.

Two minutes later, Clare hit back when their joint top scorer Eimear Considine took advantage of a Rachel Ruddy error, ran through on goal and buried her shot past Dublin’s All-Star goalkeeper Cliodhna O’Connor.

A minute before the break, Clare were rocked by Michelle Delaney’s sin-binning and that numerical advantage told for Dublin in the opening minutes of the second half as they reeled off five unanswered scores to move six points clear.

Clare, now 1-6 to 1-12 in arrears, hit back with two points before Dublin responded by raising three white flags in quick succession to move 1-15 to 1-8 in front.

Back came Clare with a fine goal from their other joint top scorer, Niamh O’Dea, in the 46th minute and two further points cut the gap back to just two points again.

With 10 minutes left Clare could have edged ahead but Considine was denied by O’Connor’s brilliant save.

Three minutes later, the superb Ahern wriggled clear of two defenders before sending a low shot into the bottom corner to effectively clinched victory for Dublin.

Dogged Clare hit back with two points from Niamh Keane and O’Dea, while Fiona Lafferty shot just wide, before Dublin closed out the game with scores from Ahern and Niamh Hurley to clinch a six-point win.

Meanwhile, Kerry held on by just a point against Connacht champions Galway, 2-9 to 1-11. There were four penalties awarded by match referee Joe Murray, three converted, while Galway’s top scorer Una Carroll missed with 13 minutes remaining.

The sides were level twice in the early stages but by half-time, Kerry had established a 0-8 to 0-3 lead.

Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh landed four first-half points for Kerry, who had assumed almost complete control after the sides traded the opening four scores.

It could have been even better for Kerry but Sarah Houlihan dragged a shot wide in the 17th minute.

After scoring two points in the first 11 minutes, Galway managed just one more for the rest of the half, as Carroll converted a 19th minute free.

The second half was punctuated by those four penalty awards and the first of those arrived five minutes into the second half, when Mags O’Donoghue bagged the first of her two goals for Kerry.

That gave the Kingdom an eight-point lead – 1-9 to 0-4 – before Galway launched a strong fightback. Three unanswered points cut the gap back to five before Carroll’s missed penalty in the 47th minute, after Sinead Burke was fouled.

Galway kept on coming and two points from Kara Mullins brought the Westerners to within a goal – 0-9 to 1-9.

But Kerry assumed control again in the 53rd minute when O’Donoghue was successful from the penalty spot after a foul on Emma Sherwood.

Galway responded with points from Patricia Gleeson and Mullins before Dora O’Gorman scored a last-minute penalty for the Tribe which cut Kerry’s winning margin to a point.

Scorers for Kerry: M O’Donoghue 2-1 (2-0 pens), L Ní Mhuircheartaigh 0-4 (3f), B Breen 0-1, S Houlihan 0-1, L Galvin 0-1, P Dennehy 0-1.

Scorers for Galway: U Carroll 0-5 (4f), D O’Gorman 1-0 pen, K Mullins 0-3, P Gleeson 0-2, L Joyce 0-1.

Scorers for Clare: E Considine 1-3, N O’Dea 1-3, L Henchy 0-2, N Keane 0-2, E O’Connor 0-1, R Lenihan 0-1.

Scorers for Dublin: S Ahern 2-4 (1-0 pen), E Kelly 0-4, N Hurley 0-3, C Barrett 0-2, M Nevin 0-1, L Davey 0-1, G Fay 0-1, L Peat 0-1, A McGuinness 0-1.

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