By Daragh Ó Conchúir
JENNY GRACE was named player of the match as Tipperary got the better of the local derby with Kilkenny to claim the county’s first Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 2 title.
Grace scored eight points, seven of which came from frees, and in a game of this nature, such a contribution was always going to be telling.
But it was a good team effort by Bill Mullaney’s troops, and a particularly momentous occasion for Joanne Ryan, the former All-Star and three-time All-Ireland Senior Championship winner, who was captain when Tipperary last garnered both top-tier national crowns.
Ryan contributed to the cause off the bench to emphasise the group effort and Tipp just found it a little easier to score, with Kilkenny losing freetaker Katie Nolan early on to injury. Kelly Hamilton was a threat for the Noresiders but in skipper Sabrina Larkin, Shauna Quirke, Andrea Loughnane and of course Grace, Tipp had more of the game’s best performers.
The match began at a high tempo, Nolan opening the scoring for Kilkenny and then Tipp goalie, Sarah Quigley saving from Caoimhe Dowling. Nolan and Kelly Hamilton added points and the black and amber were flying, three points up.
Nolan had to depart soon after though and Kilkenny suffered in the placed-ball department thereafter. In contrast, Grace was unerring, slotting three frees to complement a Loughnane score from play and now Tipp were ahead.
Niamh Treacy added a prodigious score and Grace a couple more, including one from play, and it was double scores, 0-8 to 0-4 at half time.
Grace continued to punish Kilkenny’s indiscretions from a variety of distances and with Loughnane also on target, the margin had grown to seven within five minutes of the resumption.
Hamilton provided the chief resistance with a brace of points either side of a shot at goal that was once again repelled by Quigley.
Urged on by joint managers Áine Fahey and John Scott, Kilkenny continued to battle but they wasted a number of good scoring chances. Quirke provided a telling response for Tipp, assisting the always-threatening Loughnane and Ciara McKeogh for vital points that settled the nerves in the closing stages.
SCORERS FOR TIPPERARY: J Grace 0-8(7fs); A Loughnane 0-4; N Treacy, C McKeogh 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR KILKENNY: K Hamilton 0-4(3fs), K Nolan 0-2(fs); C Phelan, L Green (f) 0-1 each
TIPPERARY: S Quigley, B Ryan, C Brennan, C Ryan, C Stakelum, S Larkin, E Carey, S Quirke, N Treacy, C McKeogh, J Grace, A O’Dwyer, S Delaney, A Loughnane, N Loughnane. Subs: J Ryan for N Loughnane (41), S Meagher for Carey (56), A McLoughney for O’Dwyer (57)
KILKENNY: A Walsh, N Carter, H Scott, A O’Gorman, N Leahy, A Prendergast, L Murphy, L Green, M O’Connell, C Phelan, L Fitzpatrick, K Nolan, C Lyng, K Hamilton, C Dowling. Subs: E Murphy for Nolan inj (6), M Doheny for Dowling (45), C Nolan for Fitzpatrick (58)
REFEREE: Philip McDonald (Cavan)