BY Martin Quilty
Rebels on Leeside next up for Dowling & Co.
Littlewoods Ireland League Division 1
Clare 0-10 Kilkenny 1-08
Cusack Park, Ennis
It wasn’t pretty, nor impressive, but Kilkenny managed to make it back-to-back Littlewoods League wins, following their trip to Ennis last weekend.
Those in attendance at Cusack Park had little to get excited about across the 60-odd minutes, and the game as a spectacle wasn’t helped by referee Andy Larkin, who appeared reluctant to let the game flow, as he repeatedly halted play and awarded frees, when perhaps a less ‘fussy’ official may have allowed play to continue. A taste of what lay ahead was possibly the opening period of the game as neither team troubled the umpires in the first five minutes.
The game sprung to life when Kilkenny were awarded a penalty after St Martins Katie Nolan was fouled. Like she did in the 2020 All-Ireland final, Windgap ‘wonder’ Denise Gaule stepped up to take it but with a different outcome on Saturday. It wasn’t Gaule’s best ever penalty; but it was well saved by Doireann Murphy in the Clare goal. The Gaels watching on probably expected a different outcome, given Gaule’s recent football exploits with Mullinahone in the Tipperary and Munster Junior Championship recently, where she claimed both County and Provincial titles.
Little would separate the sides in the first 20 minutes as the home side hit points Caoimhe Carmody, Lorna McNamara and Eimear Kelly getting scores from Clare while Katie’s Power and Nolan pointing for Kilkenny.
The Banner’s play was superior to the stripey women, but they couldn’t convert the chances in the final third. Kilkenny’s first touch seemed to have eluded them in comparison to the Limerick game two weeks previous, and it was almost as if a different team had turned up to play Clare.
The turning point came in the 24th minute when Steffi Fitzgerald latched onto a ball outside the ‘D’ and went direct for the goal. The Young Irelands star drew a couple of Clare defenders to her, before giving a beautiful handpass inside to the waiting Miriam Walsh, she sidestepped a Clare defender and the keeper, before slotting home for a well worked goal.
Kilkenny had taken the lead for the first time in the game. The Banner had led on three separate occasions up to the Tullaroan stars major, but following the green flag; John Dermody’s team would remain in arrears for the rest of the match. A mini spell of dominance then followed with points from Gaule and Laura Norris just before the interval saw the visitors lead at the break 1-4 to 0-4.
The second half didn’t really make much more of an impression than that of the first.
Brian Dowling’s side did however make plenty of chances and Clare can thank netminder Doireann Murphy for keeping Clare in the game after she pulled off a point blank save from Katie Nolan, after great work between herself and Miriam Walsh almost raised a second green flag.
Kilkenny’s decision making during the second half was poor, some of their shot selections left a lot to be desired but the fact that they did make numerous chances would have pleased their mentors to a certain degree. At the other end, Kilkenny’s defence stood firm and didn’t let Clare in for any easy chances. Piltown goalkeeper Aoife Norris wasn’t called on to make one save from the Clare forwards. That was testament to how well the Kilkenny rearguard played in Ennis.
The visitors were also awarded another penalty during the second period, which Denise Gaule rifled over the crossbar. Further points from Katie Power, Laura Norris and marauding wing-back, Kellyann Doyle pushed the Marble County’s lead to 3, but credit to Clare, they battled on with points from Lorna McNamara and Eimear Kelly, but fell just short as the long whistle sounded. Final score 1-8 to 0-10 in favour of Kilkenny.
The result was perhaps a touch cruel on the Banner women who had outscored the visitors 0-6 to 0-4 in the second half. For long periods, Clare outplayed the stripey women and no many in attendance would have said Clare possibly deserved to get something out of the game.
Brian Dowling spoke to the media after the game “We definitely got out of jail” Dowling said, We were very lucky to come away with the points, we didn’t deserve it. We didn’t play well at all, missed a lot of chances, composure was poor at times. We know ourselves we have a huge amount to do. It was a very frustrating game. I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a game where there have been so many stoppages.” He was very frustrated about the way the game had been refereed, “It was very frustrating on both sides – we couldn’t tackle without it being a free. We’re coming away thinking that camogie is being more physical, then it turns out that it’s not. Any neutral coming in to watch that game couldn’t say they enjoyed it”.
The result in Ennis means that it now a showdown away to Cork in two weeks’ time to decide who goes into this year’s League Final.
Scorers Kilkenny: Miriam Walsh 1-0, Katie Power 0-2, Denise Gaule 0-2 (one penalty, one free),
Katie Nolan 0-1, Laura Norris 0-1, Steffi Fitzgerald 0-1, Kellyann Doyle 0-1
Scorers Clare: Lorna McNamara 0-4 (four frees), Caoimhe Carmody 0-3, Eimear Kelly 0-2, Aine O’Loughlin 0-1
Kilkenny: Aoife Norris; Sarah Crowley, Tiffany Fitzgerald, Grace Walsh; Kellyann Doyle,
Claire Phelan, Lydia Fitzpatrick; Julianne Malone, Niamh Deely; Steffi Fitzgerald, Denise Gaule, Laura Norris; Miriam Walsh, Katie Power, Katie Nolan
Subs: Aoife Prendergast for Malone (43), Aoife Doyle for L. Norris (47), Mary O’Connell for Nolan (55)
Clare: Doireann Murphy; Ciara Grogan, Clare Hehir, Caoimhe Kelly; Aoife Keane, Chloe Morey, Alannah Ryan; Regan Conway, Caoimhe Carmody; Robyn Conway, Eimear Kelly, Zi Yan Spillane; Lorna McNamara, Áine O’Loughlin, Shauna Canny.
Subs: Susan Daly for Regan Conway (39), Lynda Daly for Canny (53)
Referee: Andy Larkin (Cork)
* Additional reporting by Niall Sherry