by Daragh Ó Conchúir
Galway qualified for the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Semi-Final, having survived the severest of stress tests from a vibrant Waterford at Semple Stadium.
The Déise have been pinpointed as a coming force but are clearly impatient and not willing to wait, as they went toe-to-toe with the League champions before wilting late on.
They led by 2-7 to 1-6 at the conclusion of an exhilarating first half and forced Sarah Healy into two tremendous saves within four minutes of the restart.
Healy was equal to Niamh Rockett’s shot and then made a stupendous save from Annie Fitzgerald’s hand pass, though Beth Carton, who was terrific in a midfield role, pointed from the resultant 45.
Waterford would rue those missed opportunities though and remarkably, they failed to score again.
Cathal Murray will be worried by the problems Waterford caused but the manner in which they asserted themselves in the second half to put down the threatened revolution and foil what would have been one of the shocks of the modern era in the All-Ireland Championship was pleasing.
The Waterford defence, that had been so good for 40 minutes or so, began to creak under increasing pressure and Carrie Dolan capitalised on the many opportunities presented to her, finishing off with 10 points from frees.
Niamh Kilkenny had been anonymous in the opening period but showed all her class and leadership when Galway needed it, bringing the teams level and then with 10 minutes left, giving them the lead for the first time since Carton replied to Aoife Donohue’s opening goal after 16 seconds with a green flag from a penalty two minutes later, after the De La Salle All-Star had been fouled by Heather Cooney.
Waterford were tiring now as Galway got their running game into overdrive, and when Ailish O’Reilly netted with six minutes of regulation time remaining, latching onto a Kilkenny delivery and finishing coolly after driving through the heart of the Déise defence, it was over.
Last year, the occasion of a first-ever Senior Quarter-Final seemed to affect Waterford but was no hint of nerves as they shook off the concession of such an early goal with a brilliant half of Camogie.
Carton’s well-struck penalty infused them with belief, and she pointed subsequently, fetching Fiona Morrissey’s cross-field delivery after Annie Fitzgerald had initially won back possession.
Dolan equalised from a free but by the end of the opening quarter, Waterford led by two points, Áine Lyng grabbing a brace, including an inspirational effort from just inside the Galway 65, after a being found by Caoimhe McGrath.
Waterford were defending resolutely, and Galway’s much-vaunted scorers were struggling, almost completely dependent on Dolan’s accuracy from frees.
In contrast, Waterford were flying and Morrissey hit a fabulous score, Carton winning a dirty ball to set it up.
Dolan had brought the teams level but disaster struck for Galway when Shona Curran’s drive from a free right on midfield flew all the way to the net.
The defenders will be disappointed that they didn’t bat it away and Sarah Healy had no hope once the sliotar bounced in front of her and flew to the net.
Carton had the final say of the half, claiming another hard-won possession before being fouled and doing the needful from 64m to make it a four-point affair at the break.
In the end, it wasn’t to be their day, as Galway had too much in the tank.
SCORERS FOR GALWAY: C Dolan 0-10(fs); A Donohue, A O’Reilly 1-0 each; N Kilkenny, N Coen 0-2 each; C Murphy, R Hennelly 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR WATERFORD: B Carton 1-4(0-2fs, 0-1 45, 1-0 pen); S Curran 1-0(f); A Lyng 0-2; F Morrissey, N Rockett 0-1 each
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, Shauna Healy, S Dervan, H Cooney, T Kenney, E Helebert, L Ryan, A Donohue, A M Starr, C Dolan, S Spellman, N Kilkenny, N Coen, M Cooney, A O’Reilly
Subs for Galway: C Cormican for M Cooney (ht), C Murphy for Starr (40), C Finnerty for Spellman (59), R Hennelly for Donohue (60)
WATERFORD: B O’Regan, S Harney, I Heffernan, K Lynch, C McGrath, S Curran, L Bray, O Hickey, B Carton, F Morrissey, N Rockett, T Jackman, Á Lyng, A Fitzgerald, S Lacey
Subs for Waterford: K Corbett Barry for Morrissey (41), C Whyte for Hickey (49), M Power for Harney (59), E Roche for McGrath (60+4)
REFEREE: Owen Elliott (Antrim)