Cork got the Matthew Twomey era off to a winning start yesterday in Group 2 of the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League but Clare, who themselves were competing under a new eight-person management team, made sure it wasn’t a comfortable day at the office as the Rebels had to work very hard in a wet, wild and windy Cusack Park before eking out a 2-6 to 0-4 triumph in Division 1 of the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League.
Twomey, who is stepping up to the hot seat having served his apprenticeship under Paudie Murray and can boast hurling legend Davy Fitzgerald among his coaching set-up, will be pleased with the resourcefulness shown by his charges but there was much to be positive from a Clare perspective too.
Another notable aspect of this game was the debut in red of former Down star Sorcha McCartan, who has been based in Cork since last year and plays her club camogie with St Finbarr’s. And the daughter of ex-Mourne football All-Ireland winner Greg made a significant impact, scoring a goal and a point to help the Rebels overturn a one-point interval deficit.
Áine O’Loughlin struck two points, and Chloe Morey and Eimear Kelly were also on the mark to give the hosts that half-time advantage, Izzy O’Regan, Laura Hayes and Amy O’Connor splitting the posts for the Leesiders.
O’Connor equalised soon after the restart before McCartan gave Cork the lead but it was only when McCartan blasted to the net from a penalty after 53 minutes that proceedings finally edged towards Twomey’s outfit. O’Connor raised a second green flag in the fourth minute of injury time to put a slightly flattering look on the final scoreline.
Tipperary have absolutely flown from the traps and last year’s semi-finalists brought their tally to 7-37 from two Group 1 games with 4-21 to 1-5 defeat of Offaly at the Shamrock GAA grounds in Mucklagh on Saturday.
That means Bill Mullaney’s charges have only conceded 1-8 in the 130-plus minutes or so of action and if they will know that there are tougher challenges to come than an understrength Down and Offaly, both without a substantial Portaferry and St Rynagh’s cohort, they are short a number of elite players themselves in Karen Kennedy, Orla O’Dwyer and Caoimhe Bourke.
They are clearly building real competition for places however, as they look to challenge for silverware in 2022 after a sustained period of progress in the last five years.
To put their dominance in perspective, they only scored six points in the second half, with Offaly adding three, and though the hosts certainly contributed the more even second half, there was a clear drop in intensity from women in blue and gold.
Up to then, they had been unstoppable, Róisín Howard so influential and Caoimhe Maher an industrious presence around the middle. That enabled the attack to make hay, with Caoimhe McCarthy and Clare Hogan among those to impress.
The duo had a goal each and Clodagh McIntyre rattled the onion sack too as Tipperary took on the role of enforcers inside the opening 13 minutes. Orla Gorman did breach the visitors’ defence before the break and Offaly did show plenty of character in the second half that gives them something to work with but Tipperary look like a team that mean business.
Also in Group 1, All-Ireland champions Galway got their campaign under way with a 1-15 to 0-6 defeat of a Dublin side that showed plenty before giving way at Round Towers GAA in Clondalkin.
Cathal Murray was without his sizeable Sarsfields contingent but he has used the League to allow newcomers establish themselves in the side over the past few years and sprinkled some less experienced operators with a slew of All-Stars for the trip to the capital.
Dublin were in touching distance, however, trailing by just 1-9 to 0-5 until Jody Couch was given her marching orders for a second yellow card offence, nine minutes into the second half. They fought valiantly for most of the rest of the affair but it was no surprise that they would begin to tire as a result, and O’Reilly hit the game’s last four points to make it look slightly more comfortable than it might have been.
It was 1-7 to 0-4 at half-time, the teams having split the opening six points before Aoife Donohue’s 16th minute goal. Carrie Dolan, O’Reilly, Rebecca Hennelly and Catherine Finnerty raised white flags, while Aisling O’Neill, Aisling Maher and Sinéád Lohan were on the mark for the Adrian O’Sullivan’s crew.
O’Neill had replied to points from Finnerty and Áine Keane when Couch was sent off and it was always an uphill battle from there for the doughty Dubs.
In Division 2, a late goal from Róisín McCormick gave Antrim their second set of points in Group 3 by virtue of a 1-12 to 1-8 defeat of Galway in Portglenone.
Méadhbh Laverty, Siobhán McKillop and Caoimhe Wright were not even on the Saffrons panel last year, but the trio contributed seven points to a successful outing on this occasion.
Galway scored a goal through Tara Rutledge and Katie Gilchrist added a point in the couple of minutes before the short whistle to claw the visitors back into the game, trailing by just 1-7 to 0-3 and they hit the front after the restart.
Áine Magill and McCormick edged Antrim ahead once more however with Gilchrist pointing a free in reply to leave the game finely balanced over the last five minutes, until McCormick’s goal killed it off.
Meanwhile Derry, without the Slaughtneil or Eoghan Rua players involved in All-Ireland club games, fell to a second defeat, this time a double-scores loss to Wexford at Owenbeg. Wexford, who play in the senior championship, were ahead by 0-10 to 0-5 at the break and went on to record a 2-20 to 1-10 victory.
In the same group, Cork had a 4-16 to 2-6 over Kildare at Hawkfield and that means that Derry need to beat Kildare this coming weekend to avoid a relegation dogfight at the end of next month.