Kilkenny laid down a strong marker for the Liberty Insurance senior camogie championship when recording a 1-10 to 1-8 away win over Galway in the opening round writes Daragh Ó Conchúir. While the Noresiders were far from unconsidered outsiders given their recent Leinster final victory over All-Ireland champions Wexford, this still represents a shock result and considerably boosts their prospects of emerging from a very difficult group that also involves Wexford, Clare and Derry.
It was in the first half that Kilkenny laid the groundwork for the victory, which adds credence to the notion that this could be the most competitive championship in years. They held their opponents scoreless in this period, while scoring six points.
The excellent Shelley Farrell provided three of those from play, with Katie Power, Aisling Dunphy and Ann Dalton also getting on the mark.
The critical score arrived two minutes after the resumption when pressure by Farrell and Denise Gaule led to the latter finding the Galway net.
That put Kilkenny in a very strong position but Galway responded with their best camogie. Ann Marie Hayes goaled in the 44th minute, flicking the rebound to the net after Emma Kavanagh saved Ailish O’Reilly’s shot.
A couple of Niamh McGrath frees reduced the margin further but Kilkenny had enough in hand and points from Gaule, Power and Katie Hamilton ensured a deserved victory.
Offaly made light work of a very disappointing Dublin at O’Toole Park, cruising to a 3-13 to 0-5 success. Just a point separated the sides in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final and Dublin certainly had enough possession in the first half.
They shot nine wides in that period however, and never recovered from the double-whammy of goals from Aoife Kelly and Ann-Marie Guinan within a minute of each other towards the end of the first half.
That gave Offaly a 2-2 to 0-4 lead and Aidan Franks’ crew used the wind to stretch clear in the latter period.
Elaine Dermody hand-passed to the net in the 48th minute as she finished with a personal tally of 1-8, while the Offaly defence, in which Sheila Sullivan gave a player-of-the-match exhibition, successfully shackled the Dublin attack.
Derry made history by playing senior championship camogie for the first time and they recovered from a very nervous start at Donaghmore Ashbourne to give an excellent account of themselves in the second half. They were unable to deny Clare however, coming out the wrong side of a 3-11 to 1-6 scoreline.
This was the first clash between the sides since 2007 but Clare were fully aware of Derry’s potential threat and with the wind at their backs, clinically took every opportunity that presented itself. Derry weren’t as accurate and they trailed by 1-8 to 0-0 at half time.
Both ends of the experience spectrum were involved in Clare’s 14th minute goal, as newcomer Sinéad Tuohy set up Deirdre Murphy, who like Derry goalkeeper Claire O’Kane, was commencing her 17th season of adult championship camogie.
Murphy was the game’s brightest performer, as she hoovered up possession around the middle third and finished with 1-2.
Derry came out firing in second half with five points in eight minutes, four from the brillian Karen Kielt and one from captain Gráinne McGoldrick. Kielt drove a 20m free under the crossbar to reinvigorate the Derry challenge and bring her tally to 1-5, but a brace of goals from All-Ireland handballer, Lisa Loughnane cemented the verdict for John Carmody’s outfit.
A youthful Tipperary put up a good fight in the first half against Cork but they had no answer to the pace and power of the league champions in the second half. The Leesiders outscored their opponents by 2-6 to 0-3 in the latter period to win 2-15 to 1-5.
Jenny O’Leary was magnificent for Paudie Murray’s charges throughout and her 48th minute goal finally ended the resistance of outstanding Tipperary goalie, Rita Burke.
Last year’s captain, Julia White came off the bench to score 1-2, with the major coming in injury time. Briege Corkery and Eimear O’Sullivan also stood out for the winners.
Noreen Flanagan struck the net for Tipp, with Nicole Walsh hitting all her side’s points in the 2-15 to 1-5 outcome and Jill Horan resisting with all her habitual might right up to the final whistle.