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Devane steps in, McGrath steps out as Championship kicks off in style

Mon 27th May

Daragh Ó Conchúir


By Kevin Egan
The return of Cáit Devane to the Tipperary colours and the departure of Siobhán McGrath from Galway’s were just two of several notable talking points as the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship got under way on Saturday.

Devane’s appearance in Tipp’s 1-19 to 2-13 win over Waterford, having missed their entire Very League winning campaign, during which she got married, was only one of the many aspects that left manager, Denis Kelly extremely satisfied.

“Cáit rolled back the years. We didn’t know until after the League final that she was going to come back” he beamed, as he reflected on a game where Waterford held a 1-7 to 1-5 half-time lead, thanks to a Mairéad O’Brien goal and an impressive five-point haul from Beth Carton.

Tipperary found the net through Clodagh McIntyre (above), but were put under more pressure when O’Brien scored her second goal to push Waterford further in front, and it needed a strong finish from the Premier women to see them home in a contest that was very physical and very competitive.

“It was a great spectacle to look at. We don’t want frees blown willy nilly for small tackles and I must credit (referee) Liz Dempsey,” said Kelly.

“She let both teams go at it and the crowd there were fierce excited because she let the game play out and that’s what you want to see. It was a great test of our women and their character. We were tested in the League final as well and we’ve come up trumps.

“There’s serious jockeying for positions there now and there’s some girls who didn’t come on today who will be disappointed and they’ll come back next Tuesday night fighting for a spot against Derry.”

McIntyre went on to collect player of the match honours, greeting it in typically understated fashion. It was an excellent response to a rare below-par display in the League final that led to her substitution.

“We just about fell over the line, so a good start for the Championship” she said.

“I didn’t have a great match in the League final and so I wanted to prove something. Everyone was telling me to take the ball and put the head down. It wouldn’t be anywhere near goal of the year or anything but a goal’s a goal,” smiled the Lorrha club woman.

On a day when four of the six senior championship fixtures were decided by at least nine points, the other tight battle was in Galway, where Cathal Murray felt that his Tribeswomen had to shake off ring rust before edging out Dublin by 0-17 to 1-11.

“We’re delighted with the win first and foremost. Lots of teams have come up here and the results gone the other way. Certainly, at a point in the second half it looked like it was going to go the other way” he said.

“But we hadn’t had a game in six weeks, that was a huge disadvantage. Dublin had several games in the Leinster championship and we were rusty, you could see that. We just made a lot more mistakes all over the field, but we were really happy with some of our play as well. The longer the game went on, the better we were getting, and hopefully that’s a good sign”.

Murray paid tribute to McGrath, the two-time AIB club player of the year who stepped away from the panel this week, but the recruitment of former Down star Niamh Mallon is likely to be a huge addition. Mallon shot 0-10 and won player of the match as Galway responded well to Aisling O’Neill’s goal.

“They’ve been great” said Mallon, speaking about her switch to Galway.

“I’ve been in Galway a long time with work and that made it very hard to get back up home and play, but I can’t thank Cathal and the girls enough for everything that they’ve done to welcome me in, and I hope to be able to contribute in some way over the summer.”

Elsewhere around the county, a rain-soaked Páirc Uí Rinn saw Cork play host to Wexford. The Rebels lead by 0-8 to 0-2 at half-time and then bounced back from the concession of a Ciara O’Connor penalty goal to take the lead before seven minutes into injury time, Clodagh Finn’s green flag put the final exclamation point on their win.

It was even more straightforward for Kilkenny as they eased past Limerick by 1-19 to 0-4 at Mick Neville Park, Rathkeale. Leading by 0-10 to 0-2 at half-time, Kilkenny didn’t let up from there, with Steffi Fitzgerald putting her name on the game’s only goal.

Down made a bright start against Clare at Cusack Park, leading by four points thanks to a goal from Ciara Fitzsimmons against the run of play after 22 minutes, but Áine O’Loughlin replied in kind for the Banner women and they shut up shop after half-time, keeping Down to a single second half point before running out 1-14 to 1-5 winners.

In the Ulster derby, Aoife Shaw found the net twice and Aimee Lennon struck a killer third goal for Derry in their 3-17 to 2-10 win over Antrim at Cushendall.

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