Littlewoods Ireland Division 1 National League
Kilkenny 1-18 (21)
Limerick 1-10 (13)
By Martin Quilty
Brian Dowling’s chargers got off to the perfect start when they defeated visitors Limerick in the first round of the national league on Saturday last in Antarctic conditions at John Locke Park in Callan.
Kilkenny started the league with a a newbie and a couple of familiar faces back in the fold. Brian Dowling put faith in young Tiffany Fitzgerald and had Sarah ‘Spud’ Crowley and Julieann Malone back in the fold also. Limerick put it up to Kilkenny when they last played in the quarter final of the league last year and the players certainly weren’t taking Limerick for granted.
The home side struck first with two minutes on the clock with a Katie Nolan free after she was fouled bearing down on goal. The visitors started brightly and with two scores on the bounce saw them lead 0-2 to 0-1 with six minutes gone. Kilkenny then shifted up a gear and in a 10 minute spell dominated Limerick and scored 1-5 without reply. Points from Niamh Deely, Miriam Walsh (2) Aoife Doyle and Mary O’Connell, with Katie Nolan getting in for the decisive goal on thirteen minutes.
Steffi Fitzgerald got a ball out on the stand side of JLP and sent in a shot at goal, the ball was dropping short but Katie was at the edge of the square waiting and with a deft touch with her hurl put the ball past Claire Keating in the Limerick goal. It had the skill of Carey and Reid and a goal that had everyone talking at half time. Kilkenny were now 1-6 to 0-2 ahead and Limerick were in trouble, they couldn’t get to grips with Kilkenny’s passing game.
It was like the Limerck hurlers had come to play Camogie. The movement the speed of the pass and the accuracy was a joy to behold. Rebecca Delee and Caoimhe Costello got a couple of points for limerick just before the break but three further points from the stick of Katie Nolan saw Kilkenny go in at the interval with a healthy 1-9 to 0-4 lead.
John Lillis would have hoped for a bright start for his Treaty women in the second half but it was the reigning league champions who started the half where they finished the first. Miriam Walsh and Katie Nolan extened the hosts lead 1-44 to 0-4 with 34mins on the clock. Caoimhe Costello who tried her hardest for the visitors got two quick frees to narrow the lead. It was nip and tuck up until the 47th minute, at this stage the home side had a comfortable 1-14 to 0-8 lead. Limerick got a great score themselves, a long ball in on top of Grace Walsh saw the Tullaroan player let the high ball slip out of her hand and Rebecca Delee was there to pounce on the mistake before dispatching the ball passed the rushing Aoife Norris.
It was a goal that Limerick deserved. They had never dropped the heads despite Kilkenny’s big lead, they kept faith and it had paid off. That goal had made Kilkenny up their game for the closing 12mins as they scored four points to Limericks one. By the time Ray Kelly had blown his final whistle Kilkenny had won the game by eight points, 1-18 to 1-10.
Kilkenny will have been happy with their first outing. You could see the work that had been done in training, the support play was excellent, the first touch while not immaculate was impressive, the strength of the players and the way the players moved the ball with pave and purpose was different to what we saw in last years league. Brian Dowling will be very happy especially with his new players and in the knowledge that he still had some to return to the panel later in the league also. It was a case of dusting off the cobwebs from the All-Ireland semi final defeat in 2021 and look forward to 2022. Things don’t get any easier though as they now have two away games to Clare up next on 26th February and then Cork away in March.
Kilkenny:– Kilkenny: Katie Nolan 1-8 (0-5f), Miriam Walsh 0-4, Niamh Deely 0-1, Aoife Doyle, Mary O’Connell, Laura Murphy, Katie Power, Kellyann Doyle 0-1 each
Limerick:– Caoimhe Costello 0-6 (0-3f), Rebecca Delee 1-2, Caoimhe Lyons, Sarah O’Brien 0-1 each
Kilkenny: Aoife Norris; Michelle Teehan, Tiffany Fitzgerald, Grace Walsh; Kellyann Doyle, Claire Phelan, Sarah Crowley; Laura Murphy, Julieanne Malone; Niamh Deely, Katie Nolan, Steffi Fitzgerald; Mary O’Connell, Miriam Walsh, Aoife Doyle
Subs: Katie Power for M.O’Connell, Aoife Prendergast for L.Murphy, Ciara O’Keefee for J.Malone, Laura Norris for A.Doyle, Lydia Fitzpatrick for S.Crowley
Limerick: Claire Keating; Emma Kennedy, Marian Quaid, Sinead Barry; Muireann Creamer, Sophie O’Callaghan, Neamh Curtin; Orlaith Kelleher, Caoimhe Costello; Ailbhe Larkin, Rebecca Delee, Aishling Scanlon, Sarah O’Brien, Laura Fennelly, Caoimhe Lyons.
Subs: Stephaine for S.O’Brien
Referee: Ray Kelly (Kildare)