By Seamus McAleenan
PHOTOS BY INPHO
O’Connell sees red as Kilkenny win
Glen Dimplex All Ireland Senior Camogie Championship
Pearse Park, Dunloy
Antrim 1-9 Kilkenny 1-15
ANTRIM got their first real test of playing a top-three team in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Championship in Dunloy on Saturday and came out of the game feeling that they could maybe have pushed Kilkenny that little bit closer than the final score line read.
However, the 2020 All-Ireland champions showed their experience in continuing to pull away after corner forward Mary O’Connell picked up a red card in the 40th minute for a tackle on Antrim goalkeeper, Catriona Graham.
It was a tough, hard-fought game and the challenge from Clara’s O’Connell didn’t look out of place. In fact, play continued until an umpire drew Westmeath whistler, Barry Nea’s attention to the incident. At 1-10 to 1-6 the Saffrons had a chance.
But after eight more minutes of play, Katie Power floated over her second point, and despite a free from Róisín McCormick in reply, Kilkenny hit three further points and had sealed the result by the 55th minute.
Antrim were under the Cosh for the first quarter. They conceded a point through a free from the championship’s top scorer Denise Gaule within a minute and then Tullaroan’s Miriam Walsh powered her way in from the right corner for a fourth minute goal. It was looking ominous for the home side.
Points from Róisín McCormick and Caitrin Dobbin came before six minutes were up, but Kilkenny continued to make the running and three points in a row, two for Captain Aoife Prendergast and a super score from Julieanne Malone, opened a 7-point gap with the scoreboard reading 1-6 to 0-2 in the 15th minute.
Antrim were playing Amy Boyle as a sweeper in front of the full-back line and McCormick and Dobbin as the only players inside their opponents’ 45 metre line. In the second quarter space seemed to open up for the Saffron’s front pair, despite the presence of a third defender, and they made it count.
McCormick and Katie Power swopped points before a pass over the top from Lucia McNaughton put Dobbin in the clear and she pulled clear of the chasing defenders before firing past Aoife Norris to the back of the stripey women’s net.
That goal came in the 21st minute and goal–scorer Dobbin and the impressive Roisin McCormick added points over the next four minutes to close the gap to just two. That was how it remained until the break, with the visitors leading 1-7 to 1-5.
For the second half Kilkenny were a lot more compact at the back and, despite a quite brilliant Dobbin point from out on the side-line, the Noresiders pushed on to lead by four points with their half-forward line in particular really impressive.
The home side didn’t really take advantage of the extra player with a number of passes out of defence and midfield going astray while forwards in possession simply couldn’t create openings for shots, due to great pressure from the Kilkenny rearguard.
This game was a real test for the Saffrons and they came through it with great credit, although it will undoubtedly form part of the learning curve they must ascend before they can really challenge at the top table.
Amy Boyle was superb in defence while the half-backs kept Kilkenny’s forwards under a lot of pressure. The pace of McCormick, Dobbin and Caoimhe Wright created some openings, but the experienced Kilkenny defenders were able to close the space after the break and that allowed Denise Gaule, Julieann Malone and full-forward Miriam Walsh to keep pressure on the home defence. The returning Mullinavat club woman has certainly strengthened manager Brian Dowling’s hand.
The sending off of Clara’s Mary O’Connell proved not to be costly, and the pacy attacker can count herself unlucky to have been dismissed on the word of the umpires.
Antrim now have Galway coming to Dunloy on June 25th while Kilkenny, assured now of a spot in the knock-out series, have a home tie against Offaly.
Antrim: C Graham, C Drain, N Donnelly, M Lynn, C Patterson, C Conlon, K Laverty, L McNaughton capt, N O’Neill, S McKillop, M Laverty, A Boyle, C Wright 0-1, R McCormack 0-5 (4 frees), C Dobbin 1-2.
Subs: Á Magill 0-1 for C Wright (46), NA Donnelly for N Donnelly (58), C Laverty for S McKillop (58).
Kilkenny: A Norris, M Teehan, G Walsh, T Fitzgerald, A Prendergast 0-2, Claire Phelan, S Fitzgerald, L Murphy 0-1, N Deely, M Walsh 1-2, J Malone 0-3, D Gaule 0-5 (frees), M O’Connell, K Nolan, K Power 0-2.
Subs: M Bambrick for T Fitzgerlad (HT), S Crowley for A Prendergast (46), L Fennelly for K Nolan (54)
Referee: Barry Nea (Westmeath)
>> SHERRY SAYS…..
A trip to Dunloy is a good way to build momentum for bigger days ahead. Going into the Saffron’s back yard and getting a result against last year’s intermediate champions will have please manager Brian Dowling.
Following the harsh sending off of Clara’s Mary O’Connell, Dowling’s team re-grouped and got the job done.
PwC’s player of the month for April, Miriam Walsh, is looking sharp and dangerous in the forward line. Throw in the returning Julieann Malone, Windgap’s Denise Gaule and Katie Power, to name but a few, and Brian Dowling is assembling quite an arsenal if it comes down to a shoot-out at the business end of the season.
So, the stripey women’s unbeaten start to the championship continues, Down, Limerick and now Antrim defeated.
Next up for the Noresiders will be the visit of Offaly on the Weekend of June 25th. Then a little trip to the west, to take on the tribeswomen in the final group game.
Things are building nicely.
*additional reporting by Niall Sherry*