By Daragh Ó Conchúir
INTERIM Tipperary manager has hailed the influence of her predecessor Bill Mullaney and the reaction of the players to a difficult few weeks.
The Premiers had their initial Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Group 2 tie with Waterford abandoned a fortnight ago after a serious injury to Nicole Walsh and then it was announced after their loss to Cork last week that Mullaney was standing down due to health reasons.
The rest of the management team have stepped up, with Niamh Lillis inheriting the title of interim manager, while Walsh was back on the line cheering on her teammates at Nowlan Park on Saturday. Lillis and co got the perfect response to the trying period as their crew prevailed by 4-11 to 2-14.
They led by a point at the interval, Waterford responding well with goals from a penalty by Beth Carton and another by Annie Fitzgerald after Ereena Fryday and Megan Ryan had struck the net at the other end early on.
Fryday and Grace O’Toole raised two more green flags early in the second half and though Carton landed six second-half points, Cáit Devane registered a pair of vital scores to cement the win for Tipp.
“I have to give credit to the girls” said Lillis. “They were absolutely fantastic. Waterford came back at us like all good teams do and we dug deep and found absolute character. Absolutely thrilled for the girls. Tough couple of weeks with Nicole and Bill as well. They deserve this.
“Bill has built a lot of character into these girls as well you know and they’ve been fantastic today and I can’t credit them enough. Pity there wasn’t more Tipperary people here to see them today because they absolutely played out of their skin and we couldn’t ask for anymore.”
Kilkenny maintained their flawless record from three outings with a 2-17 to 2-7 victory over a valiant Offaly but manager Ann Downey, who has been relishing playing further up the pitch after a number of years wearing the number six jersey, was not happy with the performance at the headquarters of Noreside GAA.
“Whether it was the hot weather or maybe coming off the back of a big win last week (against Wexford), maybe a bit of complacency, I don’t know” said the 2018 player of the year.
“Offaly are a good team as well. They have nothing to lose coming down to Kilkenny and they threw everything at us.
“(Our) first touch was off. Overplaying the ball. We've a lot of things to work on for the next few weeks. Hard training now for the Limerick game. That sort of performance will not get us over the line against Limerick and I think the girls know that themselves. They are as disappointed as we are but they have to learn from it.
“They set high standards for themselves and (we) weren't happy with ourselves at half time. We know if we start off badly, we felt in ourselves we were flat. Lots to be done.”
Anne Dalton struck for two first-half goals in response to Gráinne Egan’s early major for Offaly and with Denise Gaule imperious from play and placed balls, there was never any doubt about the result, even though the Faithfuls’ top score Mairéad Teehan did breach the Kilkenny defence late on.
Meanwhile in Croagh, Limerick are two from two but Barry Kennedy must have been heartened by the performance of his Wexford players. While they lost by 1-18 to 10, their improved competitiveness, one week after losing by 43 points to Kilkenny, augurs well.
An early Linda Bolger goal set the tone for Wexford and they went in at the break level. Niamh Mulcahy registered a phenomenal 14-point tally however as Limerick gradually edged clear and Caoimhe Costelloe’s late goal removed all doubt.