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Rebels edge out Cats in thriller as Galway and Waterford also win

Sat 17th Feb

Daragh Ó Conchúir

County, Latest

Eight points from Katrina Mackey was one of the features as All-Ireland champions Cork began 2024 with a hard-earned 1-17 to 1-16 win over a much-changed Kilkenny unit, after a pulsating opening round Division 1A Very Camogie League tie at UPMC Nowlan Park.

Both sides are under new management since the Rebels overcame the then reigning All-Ireland titleholders in last year’s quarter-final, with Ger Manley, who served as coach under Matthew Twomey, stepping into the vacancy left by the Douglas clubman, while Peter Cleere was appointed after Brian Dowling brought his successful term to a conclusion.

There was a far more familiar look to the Cork team but Kilkenny gave every bit as much as they got and led at the end of the first half by 1-9 to 1-8.

Aoife Doyle opened the scoring for Cleere’s crew from the first attack and though Mackey equalised soon after, a fired up Kilkenny soon established a three-point advantage thanks to scores from Asha McHardy, Sophie O’Dwyer (free) and Katie Power.

The advantage had stretched to four by the end of the first quarter but after Mackey split the posts for the first time, Claire Mullins continued the goal-scoring form with Sarsfields that earned her a call-up at this grade, with a smart finish after a trademark solo run by Hannah Looney and assist by Mackey, exhibiting her customary360 degree awareness.

That brought the sides level and a Looney point in the 29th minute edged the visitors in front for the first time. The Kilkenny response was excellent however, with Doyle goaling from the restart with a rifled finish from a tight enough angle after Power had pounced on an error by Ashling Thompson, to ensure they the Stripeywomen held marginal sway at the break.

Manley’s players bounced out with the first three points of the second half including another two from the outstanding Mackey, who was excelling in general play as well as converting placed balls, and when the evergreen attacker brought her individual tally to eight points from a free after 46 minutes, Cork had moved three ahead.

But you never write off Kilkenny and they hit the next three points themselves, the equaliser coming from an O’Dwyer penalty that rose over the crossbar rather than under.

Cork’s All-Ireland-winning captain and three-goal hero in that game, Amy O’Connor came on as a sub and worked a pocket of space before snapping her side into the lead. O’Dwyer responded with her eighth point but Emma Murphy drove over an excellent score to restore Cork’s advantage.

The Glen Rovers flier followed up with another neat finish, which was vital as the lively Katie Nolan reduced it to the minimum before the final whistle sounded.

Galway have been in the last four League finals, winning three of them and got their bid for a three-in-row under way with a comfortable 0-17 to 0-8 triumph against Clare at Cusack Park.

Five points from vice-captain Carrie Dolan, including two from play, enabled the Maroons to establish a 0-10 to 0-4 half-time lead in very difficult conditions.

Niamh McPeake and Niamh Niland were among the other scorers for Galway, with the more experienced duo Aoife Donohue and Ailish O’Reilly also on the mark, while Áine O’Loughlin and Caoimhe Carmody were on target for Clare.

The Banner girls couldn’t make inroads on a resolute defence well martialled by new Galway captain Róisín Black, and though O’Loughlin, Ellen Casey and Lorna McNamara raised white flags for the home team, the very impressive Niland doubled her first-half tally to finish with four points form play and Dolan also kept the scoreboard ticking over to ensure the verdict was never in doubt.

In the last game of the division, Waterford repeated their victory in last year’s dramatic All-Ireland semi-final over Tipperary, a first-half Beth Carton goal the difference at the end of a ding-dong tussle that finished with a 1-10 to 0-10 scoreline at the Sean Treacy’s club grounds in Kilcommon.

These teams will meet in the group stages of the 2024 championship but with only the top two teams qualifying for the League decider and perhaps more pertinently, the bottom side of a competitive division to be relegated, there was plenty at stake here.

The Déise led by 1-5 to 0-6 at the end of their first half of competitive camogie under Jerry Wallace, Niamh Rockett slotting a couple of points to supplement the Carton goal. Points from Eimear McGrath and Eimear Heffernan had settled Tipp after Carton’s 14th minute major.

Denis Kelly’s charges battled away and were well in the game but once Carton ensured that there was more than a score between them – the margin got to five points at one juncture – Tipp didn’t really look like prevailing though they did get it back to three at the death thanks to Róisín Howard.

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