Two former champions, Monaghan and Mayo, advanced to the semi-finals of the TG4 Ladies All-Ireland senior football championship with varying degrees of difficulty in last Saturday’s quarter-finals at Croke Park.
In the first game played at GAA HQ, Ulster champions Monaghan enjoyed a comfortable nine-point victory, 0-19 to 0-10, against beaten Connacht finalists Sligo.
Later, Connacht kingpins Mayo survived a late fightback from beaten National League and Munster finalists before running out one-point winners, 2-12 to 1-14.
Both ties were played in miserable conditions but Monaghan captain Niamh Kindlon made light of that against Sligo with a superb individual performance which yielded eight points, six of those from frees.
Kindlon was aided by attacking colleagues Therese McNally and Edel Byrne, who both scored three points from play, while four of Catriona McConnell’s five points were frees.
Monaghan, aided by the wind, led by 0-7 to 0-0 after 14 minutes and by 0-10 to 0-2 four minutes before half-time.
At the interval, the winners held a comfortable 0-10 to 0-4 half-time lead and that could have been more as two goal chances came and went in the opening half.
Amanda Casey saw her ninth-minute effort well saved by Sligo goalkeeper Katrina Connolly and in first half stoppage time, Therese McNally found the sidenetting at the Canal End with only Connolly to beat.
Sligo needed a good start to the second half to have any chance but instead, two-time winners Monaghan roared away with five unanswered points to open up a 0-15 to 0-4 advantage.
The Yeats County fought hard to the finish and were twice denied goals by the crossbar as Therese Marren’s shot cannoned over seven minutes after half-time before Stephanie O’Reilly was denied in similar fashion in the 44th minute.
Having twice trailed by eleven points in the second half, Sligo cut the gap back to seven with six minutes remaining but late scores from McConnell and McNally eased the Farney girls into the last four and a step closer to a third All-Ireland senior crown, and first since 1997.
Meanwhile, Mayo were left hanging on for a narrow victory against Kerry, despite leading by seven points with 20 minutes remaining, 2-10 to 0-9.
Kerry had cut the gap to just a single point by the finish as Geraldine O’Sé’s injury-time goal ensured a nervy finish for four-time champions Mayo.
Decorated Mayo forward Cora Staunton chipped in with a 1-7 haul but the Kingdom’s corner forward O’Sé matched that tally with her late goal adding to seven pointed frees during the game.
Staunton struck for her superb solo goal after 23 minutes, dummying dummying three defenders before slipping the ball coolly past Kerry goalkeeper Laoise O’Driscoll to open up a 1-6 to 0-5 lead.
Staunton added a 26th-minute free but Kerry hit back with three unanswered points before Marcella Heffernan’s injury-time point ensured a 1-8 to 0-8 half-time lead for Mayo.
The winners, driven by midfielder and player of the match Martha Carter, dominated the early stages of the second half but their second goal was a fortuitous effort, one that Kerry will look back on with some regret.
The Kingdom’s wing back Mairead Finnegan and goalkeeper O’Driscoll got themselves in a mess seven minutes after half-time and Mayo’s Kathryn Sullivan forced home a scrappy goal, which proved to be the game’s decisive score.
Mayo now led by 2-9 to 0-8 and after the sides traded points, there looked no way back for Kerry.
Credit is due to the Munster outfit for a spirited revival which fell just short but it is Mayo who march on to the last four harbouring genuine hopes of claiming a first All-Ireland senior title since 2003.
Meanwhile, the remaining two quarter-finals are down for decision next Saturday.
Reigning All-Ireland and Munster champions Cork, chasing a fourth successive national crown, will take on Galway while Leinster kingpins Dublin meet Tyrone.
Scorers for Monaghan: Niamh Kindlon 0-8 (6f), Catriona McConnell 0-5f, Therese McNally & and Edel Byrne 0-3 each.
Scorers for Sligo: Therese Marren 0-3, Noelle Gormley 0-3f, Stephanie O'Reilly and Louise Brett 0-2 each.
Scorers for Mayo: Cora Staunton 1-7 (0-6f), Kathryn Sullivan 1-0, Lisa Cafferky 0-2, Fiona McHale, Martha Carter and Marcella Heffernan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kerry: Geraldine O’Sé 1-7 (0-7f), Patrice Dennehy 0-4 (2f), Deirdre Corridon 0-2, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh 0-1.