Hurling & Camogie

Galway and Wexford can claim top-flight honours at Croke Park

The Tribe have an impressive strength in depth this season

Down's Niamh Mallon
The addition of former Down forward Niamh Mallon has further strengthened Galway's options

Very Ireland Camogie League finals

Division 1A

Tipperary v Galway (Sunday, Croke Park, 2.30pm)

EVERYONE apart from Galway will be hoping that Tipperary continue their recent run of form and collect their fourth Division One title and first since 2006.

It’s 15 years since they last contested a national final and camogie in general could do with a “new” team coming through. The last 11 championship titles have been split between Cork (5), Kilkenny and Galway (3 each) while the league break down is Galway (5), Galway (4) and Cork (2).

Galway are going for three in a row. Last year they trailed Cork in the early part of the final, but in the end won by 2-13 to 1-12 and they come into the final on the back of a 0-14 to 0-9 win over the All-Ireland champions in Ballinasloe a fortnight ago.

A week earlier they hit two very late points to edge All-Ireland finalists Waterford, who had beaten Tipperary by a goal in a first round fixture.

That was Tipperary’s only loss as they bounced back the following week with a 3-10 to 1-13 win over Galway and then beat Cork, Kilkenny and Clare to claim their place in the final.

Eimear McGrath hit 3-7 against Galway and backed it up with some top-class performances in the other league games. Going into the final, she is the player of the league and Galway will look to curb her influence on the game.

However, the holders are beginning to look good. They have a strong panel of players and gave Niamh Kilkenny a 10-minute cameo at the end of the Cork game. The former player of the year had taken a break from inter-county last season.

Also added to their bench for the past two games has been former Down captain Niamh Mallon.

So Galway look to have real strength in depth on their bench as well as on the pitch.

While Tipperary are showing good form at the minute and will welcome a return to Croke Park, they may not have the same game-changers to bring into action during the second half.

Verdict: It will be a well-contested final – but Galway know how to win that type of game.

Division 1B

Wexford v Dublin (Saturday, SETU Carlow, 2pm)

THIS was the opening fixture in Division 1B and it is the one that will decide who replaces Clare in 1A next year.

Antrim were the only team likely to give either county problems but, given the Saffrons difficulties at the start of the season, there was no real chance of one or other not making this final.

Wexford won that first match by 2-15 to 0-17 and really impressed in all their other games – apart from the last against Limerick when a place in the final was already secured. They fielded a good few of their subs in that game and were still well in control until a late burst from Limerick was enough to steal the points.

That was a good scoreline for the opening game of the competition and both teams will have improved since then as they generally built up good leads in each game and then were able to empty their bench.

Wexford lost out to Waterford in last year’s final and, having watched the Déise move up gears last summer, will want to follow them to the bigger stage.

However, Dublin at this point in the league are set up fairly well defensively and I would expect them to concede less than 2-15. The challenge will be to score well at the other end.

If Wexford get out of the blocks quickly, it will be difficult for Dublin to chase the game. If it remains score for score for around 40 minutes, Dublin could upset the predictions.

Verdict: Wexford will edge home in a very close encounter.