By NIALL SHERRY SPORTS EDITOR
Sensational strike from Doyle seals win as Power returns!
Kilkenny’s camogs delivered yet more silverware following an exhilarating encounter with Galway at Croke Park recently.
Brian Dowling’s charges secured a three-point win at headquarters, following an inspired second half comeback.
The game was a repeat of December’s All-Ireland Final, and thankfully the cats again emerged victorious.
Like previous league matches this season, the cat’s started sluggishly and found themselves behind at the first water break. Galway were proving to be difficult opponents, with Carrie Dolan picking off some lovely scores.
However, our camogs are nothing if not resilient, and just like the quarter-final and semi-final wins over Limerick and Tipperary respectively, the girls dug deep and responded in the manner of All-Ireland champions.
Trailing at the interval, Kilkenny hit 1-5 without reply, turning a three-point deficit into a five-point advantage. Mary O’Connell opened the scoring in the second half, but it was an absolutely outstanding goal from Aoife Doyle that lit the fuse for the black and amber camogs. Having picked up the sliotar on the ‘40, Doyle showed a blistering turn of pace before unleashing an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net.
Galway kept fighting and drew level, before a wonderful score from Steffi Fitzgerald edged the cats ahead, two more scores would settle the affair.
Player of the match was Kilkenny net-minder, Aoife Norris who made 3 great saves in her sides victory.
Captain Meighan Farrell raised the trophy aloft and the players and management team celebrated a hard-fought but deserved win.
In the aftermath of his side’s victory, manager Brian Dowling paid tribute to his team:
“The girls really upped the ante in the second half, especially the first 10 minutes after half-time,” a delighted Dowling said after the full-time whistle.
”We showed huge character there, Galway scored a goal and probably could have pushed on. But we got a score back which is great. Look, it was tough at the end. It could have gone either way and I thought it might be heading for extra-time at one stage.
“I suppose we were fouling a lot in the first half and we wanted to cut that down as well, and wanted to run at Galway a bit more in the second half and I think we did that, and caused them problems.”
“Look, we’re delighted to get over the line and any time you win up here is great.”
As with the previous two comeback victories over Limerick and Tipp, the cats boss hailed the impact of the Kilkenny bench, citing Steffi Fitzgerald’s impact and the much-anticipated return of star player Katie Power. “It’s brilliant to get Katie Power back on the pitch,” Dowling said of the Piltown forward who has struggled with injuries in recent years.
“I suppose we hadn’t planned for it but she went very well in a challenge game last Sunday with the intermediates and Tuesday night at training.
“We said we’d get her on for 10 minutes no matter what way the game is going. Katie has been through absolute hardship the last two years with injuries. I don’t think people would believe you if you explained what was going on.
“Just the work she’s after putting in, and we just wanted to get her back on this pitch. She had a positive impact which was brilliant.
“We’ll get another four weeks [of] tough training into Katie and hopefully she’ll be ready for championship.
“This time last year, she was in the stand and she was crying. She found it very tough to watch the girls winning. Just to get her back on the pitch and get 12 or 15 minutes into her is great.”
The camogs have now begun preparation for the championship, and will once again face-off against the tribes-women of Galway on the group stages. Based on this showing, the two sides may well meet again with more silverware at stake.
> SHERRY SAYS…
What a game! What a performance! Our camogs know how to put their fans through the mill!!
It was fitting that our national broadcaster had decided to televise the league decider live from Croker.
With this match also acting as a ‘test event’ for the re-introduction of spectators, 3,000 lucky Gaels were in attendance and witnessed an unbelievable advert for the women’ game.
‘Keeper Aoife Norris was outstanding, pulling off a string of fine saves. Denise Gaule, supported by others kept the scoreboard ticking over, but Aoife Doyle’s second half goal was a thing of beauty. The speed, the control, but most importantly the finish – BOOM!
Winning the league title wasn’t the only victory – getting the talented Katie Power back on the pitch was the icing on the cake. Hopefully the injury-ravaged star can sustain a healthy campaign which we all hope will end in more glory at Croker!
Like their hurling counterparts, Brian Dowling’s panel now focus their minds on the championship.
This resilient bunch have plenty more in the tank – let’s hope we see the tank emptied many more times this season.