A LOT of eyes were on Galway as they got the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Camogie Championship under way with a 1-16 to 0-9 win against Clare at Pearse Stadium.
The westerners are on a fifth manager in four seasons after Tony O’Donovan was replaced by Cathal Murray at the end of the National League. His reign began well as they garnered the Gael Linn Cup representing Connacht at interprovincial level and he will have been delighted with this victory against a Clare unit that had hoped to provide a sterner challenge.
Galway enjoyed the ideal start with a goal from Niamh Hannify followed by points from Rebecca Hennelly and Niamh McGrath. The visitors showed commendable composure to steady the ship thanks to points from Clare Hehir, Chloe Morey and Niamh O’Dea to make it 1-4 to 0-3 at the end of the opening quarter.
Galway had a plethora of scoring options however and a couple of points by Carrie Dolan helped them establish a 1-8 to 0-5 lead at the break.
Clare had the wind at their backs in the second half and Morey scored a nice point but Galway had all the answers, with Dolan, player of the match Niamh Kilkenny and Ailish O’Reilly keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
Sub Caitriona Cormican was denied a goal by a brilliant Lauren Solan save, while Clare were reduced to 14 after Eimear Kelly was sent off late on, but the they were already resigned to an opening round defeat by that juncture.
In the other Group 1 game, Kilkenny produced a stunning second half performance to record a resounding 2-18 to 0-11 win over Limerick in Bruff.
The Shannonsiders were another side with a new manager, Declan Nash stepping in after John Tuohy stood down, and bringing with him Mark Dunne and Niall Corcoran, who were in charge of Galway last year.
They had beaten Kilkenny in the League and began very well, opening up a 0-7 to 0-3 lead after 26 minutes, with their long-time talisman Niamh Mulcahy hitting six of those scores. A couple of points from Davina Tobin enabled Kilkenny to get back within two at half time, 0-8 to 0-6.
The Noresiders found another level after the resumption, keeping Limerick to three points while running riot themselves. Michelle Quilty, Shelly Farrell and Meighan Farrell raised white flags before goals by Miriam Walsh and Quilty put 13 between them at the end.
In Group 2, All-Ireland champions Cork went on the rampage, where it finished 1-19 to 0-7 against Wexford at Páirc Uí Rinn.
The Rebels, without the retired Rena Buckley and Orla Cotter, who recently got married, set the tone right from the outset, moving six points to no score clear. Five different players were on target from the time Ashling Thompson found the target from the left flank, with Orla Cronin becoming the first multiple scorer by landing the first point from a free after 13 minutes.
Linda Bolger ended Wexford’s drought but Katrina Mackey brought her tally to three with a couple of fine scores to make it 0-9 to 0-3 at half time.
It was a procession in the second half as Amy O’Connor, Cronin, Lauren Homan and Thompson all had points before Mackey delivered the coup de grace with a goal, finishing with customary aplomb after good build-up play involving Thompson and O’Connor.
Dublin were one of the stories of last year’s Championship when they made the last four and they will be happy to have started with a 3-14 to 3-9 triumph over Offaly.
Siobhán Kehoe (45) and Siobhán Flannery (free) exchanged points early on but when Gráinne Quinn goaled after six minutes, Dublin moved six points ahead.
Sarah Harding goaled for Offaly at the end of the first quarter but Kehoe found the net at the other end to maintain the home team’s dominance. Two points from Eimear McCarthy and another from Kehoe made it 2-11 to 1-6 at the interval in favour of Dublin.
David Herity’s outfit kept the foot on the throttle and a goal soon after the restart opened a 10-point margin. Once more though, Offaly showed commendable resolve and a couple of goals, including one from a penalty by Flannery halved that gap with four minutes to go for Mike Wall’s charges, but they could not make any further inroads.
Meanwhile at The Ragg, Tipperary made light work of newcomers Meath, second-half goals from Cáit Devane (two) and Megan Ryan helping to secure a 6-14 to 0-10 win.
Devane was completing a hat-trick on the way to compiling a tally of 3-6 that would have won the game on its own, while Eibhlís McDonald and Casey Hennessy also registered goals. Dual star Orla O'Dwyer was very prominent too, chipping in with five points.
It was a big step up for Meath after winning last year's All-Ireland Intermediate title. It was no surprise to see the veteran Jane Dolan making the most of her long-awaited Senior debut, notching up eight points for the Royals. Megan Thynne and Amy Gaffney completed the scoring for the visitors.