Semple Stadium, Thurles will host the TG4 Ladies Football Intermediate Semi-Final as Tipperary aim to reach their first final since 2008 when they take on the Fermanagh for the right to play in the September 29th All Ireland Final at GAA HQ in Croke Park. Tipperary under the management of Sean O’Donovan, John Kinahan, Mary O’Shea, Elaine Powell and Kay Lyons will be underdogs for this game against a Fermanagh side fresh from winning a competitive Ulster Championship with a victory over Down in July. Fermanagh followed this up with an impressive victory over Roscommon in the Quarter-Final which has compensated somewhat for a poor league campaign in Division 2 where they narrowly avoided relegation.
Tipperary’s path to Saturday’s semi-final has seen them take a longer route but their progress is no less impressive. A first round away defeat to Waterford in the Munster Championship was followed by a hard fought win over Limerick to qualify for a Munster Final rematch with Waterford. Played in very hot conditions in Castletownroche on July 13th, the Munster Final was a close affair throughout. An early goal by Gillian O’Brien put Tipperary in front but Waterford fought back to retire at the interval in the lead by 1-7 to 1-6. Tipperary did well in the third quarter to take a three point lead but a Waterford goal with ten minutes remaining proved the all-important score as Waterford secured their 5th Munster title in a row on a score line of 2-13 to 1-13.
Despite this defeat, there were many positives for the Tipperary management to build on and after a four week break, Tipperary drew Limerick in Round 2 of the All-Ireland Qualifiers. Played in Mungret, Limerick led for much of the first half only for a Lorraine O’Shea goal to give Tipperary a three point interval lead. Tipperary turned on the style in the second half with goals by Gillian O’Brien, Lorraine O’Shea and Edel Hanley putting the finishing touches to a 4-20 to 1-10 victory.
Longford would provide the Quarter-Final opponents at Birr and what an epic struggle that turned out to be. Played in wet and windy conditions, pre-match favourites Longford dominated the first half with wind assistance but led by just three points at the interval. Two early second half goals by Edel Hanley and Mairead Morrissey put Tipperary in front only for Longford to come back and force extra time. Tipperary managed to edge in front in the second period of extra time and held out for a 3-11 to 3-10 victory.
Tipperary have done well to reach this stage with a nice blend of youth and experience. Players such as Patricia Hickey, Claire Carroll, Mairead Morrissey, Sheelagh Carew, Jennifer Grant, Gillian O’Brien, Catriona Walsh, top scorer Edel Hanley and Anne O’Dwyer who captains the team were all part of Tipperary’s last success at this grade in 2008. They have been joined by younger players such as Brid Condon, Rachel Kennelly, Aisling McCarthy, Lorraine O’Shea and Laura Dillon to help navigate the Premier County to within an hour of Croke Park and an All-Ireland Final. Manager Sean O’Donovan from the Moyle Rovers Club is happy with the progress to date but is under no illusions about the task which Fermanagh will provide – “I believe that Tipperary are in a very good place at the moment and the Longford game will have brought us on further. The girls have trained well throughout the season and are a credit to their clubs and county. However, Fermanagh will certainly be justifiable favourites by virtue of them being worthy Ulster champions in a very competitive championship”.
Tipperary Ladies Football Board Chairman Tommy Campbell is happy with the progress made to date in 2013. “A lot of work is going on at the grassroots level in Tipperary Ladies Football. Our development at underage in recent years is beginning to pay dividends with our Under 14 team reaching this year’s All-Ireland Final while our Intermediate panel has seen an influx of younger players joining the panel in the past couple of years. While the foundations for the future look to be bearing fruit, we would hope to get back to the Senior grade at the earliest opportunity and Saturday’s game is an important part of that journey. On home soil, we would appeal for lots of blue and gold support for the girls in Semple Stadium on Saturday”.
Tipperary captain Anne O’Dwyer from Cappawhite is looking forward to the semi-final “It has been 5 years since Tipperary have been in a semi-final, this what we have being been working towards since we started back on the pitch last January. While we are under no illusions considering the calibre of the Fermanagh challenge, we are looking forward to Saturday’s game and hope for a good home support on the day.”
Throw-in on Saturday next at Semple Stadium is at 2:15pm in a match which is the curtain-raiser for the mouth-watering all Munster clash of Cork and Kerry in the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Semi-Final at 4pm. All support for the team on the day would be welcome with admission to Semple Stadium being €10 for adults, €5 for Students / OAP’s while all Under 16s are free. If you can’t make it, follow the girls via live coverage on TG4.