BY JACKIE CAHILL
NATIONAL League Division 2 champions Clare got their All-Ireland Gala junior camogie championship campaign off to a perfect start with a hard-fought 0-10 to 0-7 victory against Clare at Cusack Park yesterday (Sunday).
Clare, last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists, overturned a 0-5 to 0-3 half-time deficit against dogged Offaly, who were restricted to just two points in the second half, both from placed balls.
Laura Linnane, Deirdre Murphy and Aoife Ryan were on target with Clare points from play in the opening half but Offaly held the interval advantage thanks to scores from Micheala Morkan, Siobhßn Flannery, Michelle Davis (2) and Arlene Watkins.
However, Clare were right on their game after half time and picked off the first three points to move into the lead.
Claire Commane drilled over three points in the second half; Karina Rosengrave supplied a brace of points while Murphy and Linnane chipped in with a point each.
Offaly could only muster two frees midway through the half from leading scorer Morkan in response as Clare registered a gritty win, with Down up next on July 13.
Meanwhile, Ulster champions Antrim ran out comfortable 4-17 to 2-9 winners against Down in Ballela to ignite their championship charge.
Antrim had already beaten Down in the Ulster championship and were too good again on this occasion as Jane Adams scored a brace of goals with sisters Orla and Aisling McColl also on target.
The three goalscorers all hail from the Rossa club while Antrim’s defensive performance was also noteworthy as Loughiel teenager Emma Connolly and SinÚad Laverty were particularly impressive.
The one bright spot for Down was the return from long-term injury of Fionnuala Carr, daughter of Down senior football manager Ross.
This was a much improved and polished performance from Antrim compared to their recent Ulster final performance and their sights are now firmly set on the forthcoming fixture against Offaly on July 13.
In Group 2 of the competition, Waterford were far too good for Laois at Walsh Park and with just three teams in this section, the DÚise look a good bet to qualify.
Waterford, who will meet Dublin in their other group game, had Sunday’s game against visitors Laois wrapped up at half-time as they led by 3-6 to 1-2 before finally sealing a 4-10 to 1-5 success.
Kate Marie Aherne scored all but one goal of her 2-2 tally in the first half as Nicola Morrissey and Jenny Simpson scored the Munster outfit’s other goals.
Nicola Morrissey scored a first half goal for Laois but it was never going to be enough as Waterford opened up that huge half-time lead with the wind at their backs and only conceded 0-3 in the second period.
Elsewhere, impressive Derry guaranteed their place in the latter stages of the Gala All-Ireland intermediate championship with an emphatic 3-18 to 0-6 victory against Tipperary, with the game changed from Castledawson to Bellaghy at the eleventh hour.
Catriona O’Kane helped herself to 2-7 and Attracta McPeake scored 1-1 for the Oak Leafers, who led by 1-14 to 0-3 at half-time.
The McGoldrick sisters Maeve and Grßinne were also in free-scoring form as the siblings contributed 0-4 apiece in this handsome win.
Derry have now recorded three victories in the competition as this success adds to the earlier conquests over Cork and Galway.