by Daragh Ó Conchúir
Derry banished the ghosts of 2022 to claim their place in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate final with an extra-time win over Kilkenny in FBD Semple Stadium.
They will play Meath, who ground out a derby victory over Westmeath at the same venue.
Meanwhile, the premier junior final which will get the triple header of deciders under way at Croke Park on August 6, will be contested by Clare and Tipperary.
Derry had conceded three of the last four points in injury time to lose last year’s semi-final and the same fate seemed ahead of them when they failed to score in the last quarter to allow Kilkenny to hit six in a row and take the lead.
Emma Manogue had been a key contributor for the Cats, registering six points in total in a fantastic play
However Aoife Shaw, who scored six points also, held her nerve to point a 45 in the fourth minute of added time to send the teams into extra time.
Derry capitalised on the second bit of the cherry, scoring six points in a row and though Kilkenny made a bit to eat into that, player of the match Áine McAllister drove forward for three late scores to bring her tally to eight (five from play) and seal the Croke Park ticket.
The other encounter was a thrilling one that was decided by an Amy Gaffney goal on the hour, Meath advancing by 1-11 to 0-10 against their neighbours.
Westmeath had given every bit as much as they had taken but it was Gaffney who landed the knockout blow.
Westmeath led by a point at half-time, 0-7 to 0-6 as Sheila McGrath and Megan Dowdall shared six points. Aoife Minogue was Meath’s primary contributor with three points.
The second half was tight but always exciting, with defences making some remarkable last-ditch interventions. In particular, the calibre of hooking and blocking was notable. Points from Minogue, Gaffney and Emma O’Connell had edged Meath marginally ahead when Gaffney cemented their place at HQ next month.
Clare were another team shedding sorrowful semi-final memories, after losing by a point at the end of two periods of extra time against subsequent champions Antrim at the penultimate hurdle of the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Premier Junior Championship 12 months ago.
It was touch and go this time too but they came out the right side of a 0-22 to 2-15 scoreline at the expense of last year’s runners-up Armagh at Donaghmore Ashbourne.
A goal from former Cork All-star Jenny Curry helped Armagh settle and they were level at 0-11 to 1-8 at the break in a game dominated by frees.
A goal from Eimear Smyth five minutes into the second half put them back into the lead and points from the excellent Sinéad Quinn (two) and Rachel Merry frees (three) put the Ulster side into a 2-14 to 0-15 lead by the 47th minute.
However they failed to add to their total until the fifth minute of added time when Merry brought her total to eight from placed balls. By then Sarah Loughnane from frees and Grace Carmody from play had put Clare in a winning position.
Earlier on in the Meath venue, Jean Kelly was the star as Tipperary proved too strong for Roscommon by 2-12 to 0-8. The former senior player has scored all ten of her sides’ goals in this year’s championship and her two killer strikes in three minutes as the game moved into the final quarter killed off their valiant Connacht opponents.
In all Kelly contributed 2-7 and with Ciara McKeogh doing an excellent marking job on Roscommon danger woman Shauna Fallon, and Ciannait Walsh dominant in attack, they were worthy victors.
Niamh Watson, Fallon and Orla Connolly were among the Roscommon scorers but when Kelly pounced for her two goals, the Premier were planning for Croker.Tweet