By Daragh Ó Conchúir
BETH CARTON has been Waterford’s key attacker since bursting onto the scene as a 17-year-old in the Déise’s Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship-winning season in 2015 but the evidence of the last 12 months indicates that the De La Salle destroyer of defences is getting the kind of support that can take Senior Championship Quarter-Finalists to another level.
Niamh Rockett earned an All-Star nomination along with Carton, who claimed her county’s first award, and this year, Rockett has found another level befitting her status as captain.
She excelled in the home side’s 1-11 to 1-5 Senior Championship defeat of Dublin at Walsh Park, scoring a goal and two points, including the definitive 52nd minute major. Her trademark industry and aerial ability was to the fore as well and with Carton slotting eight points, Waterford were able to pull away late on.
Manager Donal O’Rourke had high praise for the duo, and was satisfied with the result, if not all aspects of the performance.
“That’s what we expect out of them” said O’Rourke of the Rockett and Carton. “They’re leaders of the team, we demand that out of them every day but in fairness to them, they’re like two good postgirls, they always deliver.
“A win is a win. We didn’t hurl brilliantly today but we’re happy to get out of here with two points and that’s all that mattered.”
Rockett, whose brilliant half-volleyed goal on the run came with the teams level, after Kerrie Finnegan had struck the net for Dublin in the first half, revealed the difficulty in processing last week’s events, when Waterford were leading by four points late on before the abandonment of their game with Tipperary due to an injury to Premier star Nicole Walsh.
“It was touch and go there until the goal in the last 10 minutes” Rockett declared. “We always knew we were going to come into a good fight with Dublin, so it was great to win, especially with the way last weekend went.
“I was talking to Nicole during the week and she said she was okay, she had a concussion and hopes to be back soon. It’s very hard for both teams, you’re so psyched up and you prepare for all eventualities, draw, lose, win and to come away with nothing is hard but we’ll look forward to meeting them again and they’re always up for a good match.
“We’re training really hard since October and coming out on Walsh Park, the pitch is brilliant compared to last year as well. No matter how bad your game is going or how good your game is going, workrate is what you’re hoping to get.”
Another key feature of the tie was the excellence of Waterford legend Trish Jackman, who only returned to the county colours after a three-year absence against Tipperary and was playing just her third competitive game of Camogie in over two years due to her job as lecturer at the University of Lincoln.
Elsewhere in Group 2, All-Ireland champions Cork cut loose in the second half after going in at the break level with Tipperary on 0-10 to 1-7 at CIT, Megan Ryan goaling for the visitors.
Tipp only managed a point in the second half however, as Cork plundered 2-10, the goals coming from the all-action Julia White and a late penalty by the brillliant Chloe Sigerson, leaving it 2-20 to 1-8.
Clare got off the mark by the skin of their teeth after Meath illustrated their increased competitiveness for a second week in succession before once again falling just short, by 0-12 to 0-11 at Páirc Táilteann.
Jane Dolan hit seven points for Meath as they drew level entering injury time, but Mairéad Scanlon’s fifth point and another by Chloe Morey enabled the Banner girls to hang on, Megan Thynne’s response not enough to grab what would have been an historic draw for the Royals in their second season at this level.
In Group 1, League champions Galway translated a six-point interval lead into a 3-15 to 0-6 triumph over Offaly in Lusmagh. Catherine Finnerty bagged two goals while the outstanding Ailish O’Reilly also found the net.
Kilkenny annihilated Wexford by 7-28 to 0-6 at Bellefield. Katie Power helped herself to a hat-trick of goals, while Miriam Walsh nabbed a brace. Anne Dalton and substitute Michelle Quilty also raised green flags.