BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
Cork Showdown set for Sunday
Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship
Group 2, Round 3, UPMC Nowlan Park, Saturday July 1st
Kilkenny 2-8 Tipperary 1-11
Kilkenny advanced to a quarter-final encounter with old foes Cork after Densie Gaule rescued a point in a titanic struggle with neighbours Tipperary at UPMC Nowlan Park last Saturday. The result means Brian Dowling’s charges finished second to Tipp in the group and will tackle Matthew Twomey’s Rebel’s as part of a double-header with the senior hurlers at headquarters on Sunday. The Premier County will take on the challenge of Antrim ahead of Henry Shefflin’s Galway’s tussle with Limerick tomorrow.
Last weekend’s draw with Tipp will no doubt have raised more questions than answers in the Kilkenny camp, and management and players alike know that there are no second chances moving forward.
Denise Gaule got the scoreboard moving inside the first couple of minutes of the game from a placed ball, but Tipperary’s response was immediate. After a little bit of a ruck, the ball was played back to midfielder Casey Hennessey who struck a tame effort towards the Cats goal. As the ball trickled along the ground, netminder Aoife Norris attempted to pick the sliotar up, but misjudged it and Roisin Howard nipped into rifle the ball to the Kilkenny net.
Denis Kelly’s team got the next two scores of the game, a pair of free’s from Drom & Inch player Eimear McGrath. The home side found themselves 4 points down after 7 minutes of play, not the start that Brian Dowling would have envisaged or wanted.
As has been the case in many games this season, Densie Gaule is the player that has stepped up and dragged Kilkenny with her as the Stripey women have stuttered along this campaign. The Windgap player sent over a brace of frees to reduce the Tipp lead, but then had a major impact on proceedings.
Mullinavat’s Julieann Malone picked up possession and headed for goal. Her pointed effort was blocked and dropped short in the danger zone. Densie Gaule got the better of her marker and rifled a fierce effort across Tipp netminder Caoimhe Bourke to the back of the net. Kilkenny now led by a point, 1-3 to 1-2.
Midway through the opening half and the next score came from the hurl of full-forward Michaela Kenneally with a fine point from play. Drom & Inch’s Niamh Treacy struck over a nice point for the visitors, before home major number 2 arrived.
An effort from Piltown’s Katie Power was dropping short and Tipp keeper Caoimhe Bourke came off her line to tidy things up. As she went to control the ball, she collapsed to the ground under a little pressure from the alert Aoife Prendergast. Last season’s winning captain collected the ball and struck it into the unguarded net. Kilkenny now led by 4 points.
The Premier County were forced to replace keeper Bourke following the goal with former All-Star Áine Slattery taking over between the posts.
That goal from Prendergast was to be Kilkenny’s last score of the opening period, as they failed to build on that second major. Tipperary hit four points before the short whistle sounded, a brace each for Eimear McGrath and Clonoulty Rossmore’s Casey Hennessey to leave the sides deadlocked at the interval, Kilkenny 2-4, Tipperary 1-7.
The opening score of the second period came from the visitors. Tipp put huge pressure on the home side as the Noresiders tried to play out of defence. Having turned the ball over, they worked it out to Cait Devane on the left swing and the Clonoulty Rossmore forward split the posts with a classy effort to edge her side ahead.
The next score didn’t arrive until the 13th minute of the second half, and again it was a Tipp score, this time a point from play by centre-back Karen Kennedy. Eimear McGrath then sent over another placed ball to push the visitors lead out to 3 points. Kilkenny were struggling and needed something to spark them into life. Dicksboro’s Asha McHardy got the home side up and running in the second half after some 17 minutes of play, that’s a long time in championship camogie.
Dowling’s charges hit the next two scores, thanks to fine efforts from St Martin’s Katie Nolan and the dependable Denise Gaule to level matters with 20 minutes played. Another hiatus followed in terms of scoring and it be the 27th minutes before the Nowlan Park crowd were treated to another score, and it was a placed ball effort from the accurate Eimear McGrath to nudge Tipp back into the lead.
Defeat was staring Kilkenny in the face, but not on Densie Gaule’s watch. The six-time All-Star stepped up to take a free out on the right after Aoife Doyle was fouled by Mairead Eviston, who had done a great job in tightening up the Tipp defence since entering the fray in the first half. The Windgap maestro possibly stole a couple of yards to make the angle more favourable and struck the effort from just inside the ‘45 and despite the best efforts of sub keeper Slattery, the sliotar dropped over the bar. The game was tied, the game was over. Full-time in UPMC Nowlan Park, Kilkenny 2-8, Tipperary 1-11.
>> SHERRY SAYS Q/F PREVIEW…
We’ve qualified for the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland. We are still alive and kicking. What we all know is that our ladies are going to have to show massive improvement if they are to get one over old foes Cork on Sunday.
The Rebels haven’t exactly set the world alight this season either, but their manager Matthew Twomey will be seeking revenge for last year’s final defeat to Brian Dowling’s side when they clash as part of a double-header in Croker this weekend. Hopefully having our senior men in action afterwards will mean a big Noreside support will be in headquarters for both games.
So, Cork – what will they bring to the table? Fight, skill and a sense of revenge. Dangerous qualities and ones that we will need to deal with if we are to progress to a semi-final with Galway or Waterford.
Leading from the front for the Leesiders is captain Amy O’Connor. The St Vincent’s clubwoman is a real class act and will take a bit of watching in Croker. The talented O’Connor is not on her own in the attacking zone for the Rebels. The Cork front 6 are a genuine threat and have the nous and quality to trouble any defence. Former Down star Sorcha McCartan was in goalscoring form last day out in the easy win over the Banner, while the cental attacking spine of Fiona Keating and Katrina Mackey are ably supported by the hard-working Cliona Healy and Killeagh’s Chloe Sigerson on the flanks.
Against Clare, the Rebels had eight different players on the scoresheet with Amy O’Connor top scoring with 1-9. Boss Twomey will hope that Hannah Looney and Orlaith Cahalane will return to the Camogie having been on ‘big ball’ duty last time out. With Libby Coppinger anchoring the defence, the ladies in red will look to Meabh Cahalane, Laura Tracey and experienced campaigner Pamela Mackey to contain the Stripey women’s forward threat. Keeper Amy Lee has been around the scene long enough to know what to expect from Brian Dowling’s side and will hope that her defence contains Gaule & Co on Sunday.
To secure a last four berth in the race for the O’Duffy Cup, we will once again need Densie Gaule and Katie’s Nolan and Power to lead the way. You get the sense in the continued absence of Player of the Year, Miriam Walsh, the management team haven’t quite found a settled attacking unit to put their faith in. Aoife Prendergast, Asha McHardy, Jenny Clifford, Michaela Kenneally and Aoif Doyle have all been given minutes and it will be interesting to see what the front six make-up is come Sunday.
The experience and know-how of Grace Walsh, Claire Phelan and Michelle Teehan will be very much crucial in attempting to quell the Leesiders attack. Netminder Aoife Norris will need to stand firm and giver her side a good attacking platform with her restarts. Let’s hope Sunday is a good one for our County. Here’s to a black and amber double.