It wasn’t pretty at times but the relocation of Aoife Donohue to the inside line was just about the deciding factor as Galway gritted it out in a war of attrition against Cork to set up a mouth-watering Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 final at Croke Park next Sunday night.
That will be a repeat of last December’s All-Ireland final, in which the westerners finished off second best and they won’t want for motivation. They are the defending champions too, having won the last final in 2019.
If Kilkenny will be looking for an improvement after their slightly fortuitous defeat of Tipperary, so too will Galway, even if no one could argue with their two-point success to set up a Croke Park final to be played in front of up to 5,000 people.
Katrina Mackey had a point for Cork after 15 seconds but Carrie Dolan shot the next three points, including two from placed balls.
Catherine Finnerty played the hand-pass to Siobhán McGrath and the Sarsfields poacher drilled to the net cleverly on the half-volley in the 13th minute, realising she would have been hooked with a regular strike out of the hand.
Cork’s 26th minute goal got them back into the fray however, and it was something they would have been working towards, getting Amy O’Connor into space and utilising her Olympian speed.
It was the Galway custodian’s first concession this season and she might not have been helped by the slight deflection off the retreating Sarah Dervan.
Laura Hayes and Niamh Kilkenny swapped points afterwards, then Cronin and Dalton slotted frees before Thompson stole forward well just before the short whistle and split the posts confidently to make it 1-7 to 1-6 at the break.
It was Galway that found a bit more rhythm after the restart, even if Ciara O’Sullivan extended the margin to two early on.
Dolan pointed from play before Donohue was fouled for a penalty in the 49th minute after a glorious bit of skill.
At first, the diminutive attacker won a ball she wasn’t favourite for. Then she spun Libby Coppinger and flicked the sliotar over the advancing Ellen Murphy, taking it back on the hurley without breaking stride. Her progress was halted illegally however but Dolan opted to take a point from the resulting award.
It was frantic stuff in the closing minutes, as Cork poured forward, their bench having a significant impact.
With two minutes left Cork were awarded a penalty for a foul on Thompson but Sigerson’s low drive found the advertising hoarding rather than the net.
Mackey made it a one-point game however, before another sub Cliona Healy, hitting a super point over her left shoulder, the sliotar dropping over off the inside of the upright to force extra-time.
Having gone so close to losing it, Galway outscored their opponents by four points to one in the first period of extra time, Donohue providing two of them before seeing out the win in the second stanza.
C Dolan 0-12(8fs, 1 45, 1 pen); A Donohue 0-4; S McGrath 1-0; R Hennelly 0-2(1f); N Kilkenny 0-1.
A O’Connor 1-1; K Mackey, O Cronin(fs), C Healy(2fs) 0-3 each; L Hayes, A Thompson, C O’Sullivan, F Keating, L Collins, S McCarthy, C Sigerson 0-1 each.
Sarah Healy, S Dervan, Shauna Healy, T Kenny, R Black, E Helebert, S Gardiner, N Kilkenny, N McGrath, C Dolan, S Spellman, A Donohue, S McGrath, A O’Reilly, O McGrath.
C Finnerty for O McGrath inj (12), AM Starr for S McGrath (47), D Higgins for O’Reilly (55), R Hennelly for N McGrath (ft), S McGrath for Gardiner (ft), N McGrath for Spellman (68), O’Reilly for S McGrath (80+2).
A Lee, M Cahalane, L Coppinger, E Murphy, H Looney, L Treacy, L Hayes, K Mackey, A Thompson, C Sigerson, O Cronin, C O’Sullivan, F Keating, A O’Connor, L Collins.
C Healy for Collins (47), I O’Regan for O’Sullivan (51), S McCarthy for Looney (52), I Sheehan for Mackey inj (ht et).
Liz Dempsey (Kilkenny).