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Orchard girls thrash Laois to reach the final four

By Damien Donnelly

Armagh and Down ladies teams both booked tickets to All-Ireland semi-finals with weekend victories that proved very different in nature. The Orchard girls overwhelmed Laois by 5-17 to 0-9 at O'Connor Park in Tullamore as the Ulster senior champions progressed through in style to the final four of the top tier competition.

Down, meanwhile, were pushed every step of the way in their All-Ireland intermediate quarter-final by Sligo at St Tiernach's Park in Clones before the Mourne team emerged victorious on a 2-14 to 3-10 margin.

Monaghan play Galway next weekend in the senior quarters as they try to continue Ulster's good run. Dublin and Kerry contest the last senior quarter, Cork having thwarted Mayo on Saturday to join Armagh in the last four pool.

Eammon Ryan's champions Cork waltzed into the semi-finals with a comfortable 1-15 to 0-9 victory over Mayo in Saturday's quarter-final in Tullamore.

The Rebelettes finished with a flourish to book their place in the last four once again and with hopes of a ninth All-Ireland crown in ten seasons still very much in their sights.

Eimear Scally came off the bench to palm home Cork's only goal of the game eight minutes from time and Mayo finished the game with 14 players when midfielder Claire Egan was sin-binned.

Armagh head into those senior semis full of confidence following their comprehensive weekend win. The Orchard camp are keeping their feet on the ground, though, as player-of-the-match recipient Caroline O'Hanlon pointed out afterwards.

"There are lots of positives to take from the win but some negatives can be pointed out too that we will be working on," she said.

"The scoreline does not reflect the level of effort that Laois put in and we got goals at opportune times to establish a big lead.

"We know that our own performance levels must step up again ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final but it's a challenge everyone in the camp is relishing'', said the Armagh lady who only a few weeks ago was playing netball for her country in the Commonwealth Games.

O'Hanlon contributed 2-6 to Armagh's tally against Laois but there was a good spread of scores in general as the Ulster winners took firm command of proceedings.

Mags McAlinden also doubled up on the goals front for Armagh, Lauren McConville scoring a single major and adding two points as well for an Orchard team that showed ahead 3-7 to 0-2 over half-time.

Martina Dunne scored six points for Laois, Tracy Lawlor among others on target for a Leinster side that tried hard in vain to cope with Armagh's greater movement and forward thrust.

It was a closer affair at Clones as Down just got the better of a thrilling tussle against Sligo. There was only one point between them as gallant Sligo staged a late rally but Kyla Trainor, Lauren Cunningham, Grainne Kelly and team-mates secured their last four slot.

Ulster champions Down have an All-Ireland semi-final to plan for as the Mourne girls aim to maintain their winning momentum.

Belfast Telegraph

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