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Kilkenny battle for places competitive despite absence of big names

Mon 03rd Jun

Daragh Ó Conchúir


By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Rather than focus on the unavailability of former player of the year, Denise Gaule having gone to Australia, and long-serving defender Claire Phelan, who has retired, Kilkenny are talking up the competitiveness of their squad.

They always expect to be challenging for the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship down Noreside and indeed won their last two titles, in 2020 and 2022, despite having lost a number of elite operators.

Julianne Malone (pictured above) was named player of the match after the Cats cut through Antrim by 6-15 to 0-9 at Corrigan Park on Saturday, grabbing two goals, as did Asha McHardy. Katie Nolan and Sarah Barcoe also shook the rigging and though Róisín McCormick, Caitrin Dobbin and Maeve Kelly split the posts for a gritty Antrim, they could not withstand the visitors’ goal rush.

There were six changes from the side that had accounted for Limerick by 18 points seven days previously, with five players making their senior championship debuts, but that there was no drop-off in standards will have delighted manager, Peter Cleere. It certainly left Malone buoyed.

“We came up to do a job, get a win, get two points so we’re very happy,” said Malone. “Antrim put it up to us but we’re building on our own performance.

“Our team is very competitive. There’s places up for grabs every week so for us it was about a team performance and I feel like everyone put in a great effort there today. It was great to see girls coming off the bench and getting their names on the scoreboard too.

“Every week you’re going to training and there’s places up for grabs. No one has their position concrete yet. I suppose it’s not a bad thing really, keeping it nice and open, giving every girl an equal opportunity, making girls prove themselves, which they are.”

Few argued with Malone’s POTM selection but the Mullinavat attacker has high standards.

“My second-half performance wasn’t great. I made some bad decisions, hit some wides, but hopefully I can build on that performance if I get the opportunity to.

“I wouldn’t have scored only the girls were feeding nice balls into me. Laura Murphy put some nice balls in in the second half. The backs put in a savage effort but you couldn’t pick out any fault in the team today.

“It’s good to build, game on game, getting two wins builds on the confidence as well. We’re looking forward to Waterford next week knowing it’ll be a tough battle but we’re well ready for it now.”

Cleere, who took over from the hugely successful Brian Dowling as manager this year, was satisfied too.

“If you’d have said at the start we’d have two wins from two games going down to Waterford next week, I’d have taken that. We’re on the right trajectory so I’m very happy with today’s result.

“The positive is we’re creating loads of chances, which is fantastic. A couple of occasions, there were two or three goal chances we felt we should have been more ruthless and clinical with, but having said that, when you score six goals you have to be happy with that.

“In the first 15 minutes of the second half we made a few poor decisions, but over the course of the game, as a panel and as a squad it was a great performance. Five girls made their championship debuts for Kilkenny at senior level and it’s great that the panel is building in confidence and strength as we go along.”

Last year’s All-Ireland finalists, Waterford had lost to League champions Tipperary in their opening tie but took care of business when waltzing to a 5-15 to 0-9 success over Limerick at Walsh Park.

Mairéad O’Brien bagged her second brace of goals in a week, and Orla Hickey and Annie Fitzgerald also raised green flags but what stood out most was the goal of minor star, Maggie Gostl on her senior debut.

“Fantastic and she’s a very down to earth player as well,” said Déise skipper, Lorraine Bray afterwards of the De La Salle tyro. “We’re delighted to have a few young girls coming in from the minor panel. That’s what you want, the younger girls coming up. I’m delighted for her.

“It’s a massive step-up next week. We’ll have to put in hard work for the week ahead to get ready and prepare for Kilkenny.”

All-Ireland champions Cork also registered an easy win, coming away from Páirc Esler with a 4-21 to 1-7 verdict. Katrina Mackey top-scored with a goal and eight points while Fiona Keating, former Down star Sorcha McCartan and Clare Mullins also found the net for the Rebels.

Ger Manley made five changes from the side that beat Wexford in the opening round and was pleased with how they performed.

“We had a really good performance and got a couple of good goals in the first half that set us up for the win,” said Manley in The Evening Echo. “In fairness, their ‘keeper made a couple of good saves in that half as well and we could have had a few more.

“But our touch at times could have been better in front of goal. We scored 2-13 in the first half which was a great return against the wind and I couldn’t have asked for much more really.

“Two more in the second half set us up nicely for the win and that was the most important thing, to pick up the points and make it two from two.

“Games like this are important as it gave us the opportunity to make a few changes and get game time into players that we need to do. We have Clare now next week and we will probably make a few more changes for that one as well.

“You can’t beat games and some players played very well today. Laura Hayes was outstanding, Grainne Cahalane did well as did Emma Murphy in midfield.

“The forwards did well, with others like Rachel Harty coming on who all played their part. So it was a good win and it sets us up now nicely for another tough away game against Clare next Saturday.”

The most notable result of the day was Wexford’s draw with Galway, Anais Curran landing the last two points, including an injury-time equaliser, to end it on 2-15 apiece at Bellefield’s McCauley Park.

Colin Sunderland’s charges were in contention right the way through and Chloe Foxe’s goal directly from the puckout, after Aoife Donohue’s 49th minute major, was indicative of their character.

Curran, who finished with 1-8, had a first-half goal for the home team, with Galway replying through Mairéad Dillon to set up a thrilling second half and a dramatic conclusion.

Tipperary are another outfit with two wins from two outings after defeating Derry by 5-22 to 0-13 at the Derry GAA Centre of Excellence. Róisín Howard had two goals for Denis Kelly’s side, with Eimear McGrath,, Eimear Heffernan and Clodagh McIntyre also grabbing three-pointers, and McGrath exhibiting her skills with a first-half two-point sideline.

Aisling Maher, Áine Gannon, Kerrie Finnegan and Sinéad Nolan were the primary scoring contributors as Dublin got off the mark with a 0-18 to 0-9 victory at St Peregrine’s over a Clare team that apart from, Áine O’Loughlin and Róisin Begley, did not present enough of a scoring threat.

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