By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Just 24 hours after Tipperary had claimed the scalp of champions Galway, Clare concluded the opening round of the Very Camogie League’s Division 1A with a two-point victory over All-Ireland champions Kilkenny at Cusack Park.
The 2-7 to 0-11 triumph, coming hot on the heels of Tipp’s three-goal defeat of Galway, means that the stakes are already increasing for a whole host of teams in the coming weeks, even though there is still a long way to go in the competition’s new, exciting format.
With each team playing the opposition, leading to five games before the top two reach the final, it seems likely that there will be a lot to fight for come the last series of games on the weekend of March 25th-26th, when Kilkenny will play host to Tipperary, Cork (who enjoyed a stress-free outing against Dublin yesterday) welcoming Galway to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Clare taking on the Dubs back in Ennis.
This was a deserved victory for the Bannerwomen, achieved thanks to goals from Caoimhe Carmody and Áine O’Loughlin, the latter striking mid-way through the second half to put John Carmody’s side in front, having just fallen behind for the first time in the game.
Brian Dowling responded by bringing on the recently married Claire Phelan for Grace Walsh but though Katie Power and another sub, Sarah Barcoe pointed, Kilkenny couldn’t find the goal they needed and an O’Loughlin point kept them at arm’s length.
The home team led by 1-5 to 0-4 at half-time and it was notable that five different players were responsible for their scores, Carmody goaling in the seventh minute and the points coming from Chloe Morey, Carmody, Zi Yan Spillane, Lorna McNamara and Clare Hehir.
Reigning player of the year Miriam Walsh, who also got married at the end of last year, steadied the Stripeywomen with the first of her three points and Denise Gaule added a brace.
Last year’s All-Ireland-winning captain Aoife Prendergast, Gaule and Miriam Walsh all found the target to nose Kilkenny ahead but it was Clare who made the best of their way home, Caoimhe Kelly restoring parity before O’Loughlin’s major and seeing the tie out impressively from there.