BY NIALL SHERRY
Kellyann Doyle injury spoils Wexford win
Kilkenny advanced to an All-Ireland semi-final battle with Cork by seeing off the challenge of neighbours Wexford with relative ease.
Brian Dowling’s side took to the Páirc Uí Chaoimh turf determined to put the recent defeat to Galway behind them, and came out of the blocks sharply to show that they certainly meant business.
Aoife Doyle struck a fine point early on to set the tone, and followed up shortly afterwards when a Denise Gaule free was batted down by the Wexford keeper. The Piltown shooter’s persistence paid off when she emerged from a group of players to rifle a lovely shot to the back of the net in just the 3rd minute. Wexford had not been able to get a foothold in the game early on, and were grateful for a couple of points from the O’Connor sisters, Ciara and Sarah to help try and settle the young Slaneysiders nerves.
The Cats, who were playing into a stiff breeze in the first half, were rampant, and had further scores from Katie Nolan, Mary O’Connell and the ultra-reliable Denise Gaule as they surged ahead. They would have been completely out of sight, had it not been for a fine save from Wexford netminder, Laura Brennan, who reacted brilliantly to deny a certain goal. Kilkenny, energised by their start, then reeled off three points in quick succession. Such was the stripey-women’s dominance early on, that by the eight minute, five of the six starting forwards had registered flags.
Wexford, who arrived as massive under-dogs, were struggling to come to terms with the opposition’s movement, skill level and greater desire. With Windgap’s Denise Gaule prompting from a deep lying position, Dowling’s side made it to the first water break with what was looking like an unsalable 8-point lead, 1-8 to 0-3.
When play resumed, Kilkenny continued to turn the screw, with further scores from Nolan and Gaule, as the Model County had no answer to the cats’ inter-play as they looked a level below the black and amber. A number of silly fouls allowed Kilkenny to build on their lead, and the tie looked all but over when the second green flag was raised in the 24th minute. Following another great passage of play, the returning Katie Power off-loaded to Mary O’Connell who accelerated away from her marker before firing an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net.
Kilkenny’s front six were causing problems to Wexford all over the pitch. This platform was afforded to them by a hard-working and dogged defence, where once again, Davina Tobin was outstanding. The Emeralds club woman was giving an all-star performance, ably assisted by Michelle Teehan. Until injury struck, Kellyann Doyle was also in inspired form, making many surging rounds from wing-back. The Piltown defender appeared to be in much discomfort as she made her way off the pitch.
When Cork referee Andy Larkin brought first half proceedings to an end, Kilkenny had the job done, the scoreboard reading 2-13 to 0-6 in the Noresiders favour.
Wexford came out with much more purpose in the second half. Manager Kevin Tattan will have been pleased by how his charges acquitted themselves for the remainder of the contest. Once again, the 3rd quarter showing from Kilkenny won’t have pleased the management team. The Yellowbellies actually outscored their opponents six points to five in this period. Whether or not this was simply a case of taking the foot off the gas given the margin of lead held, or something more worrying, Brian Dowling will no doubt have taken note and will be keen to ensure the 3rd quarter drop-off isn’t repeated next time out.
After the second water break, Kilkenny livened up a little, and struck a couple of lovely scores from both Grace and Miriam Walsh. Tattan’s team continued to battle and attempted to reduce the deficit with a great score from Leah Walsh and a couple of frees from the very accurate Chloe Foxe, who finished the day with a personal tally of 0-7.
Again, Kilkenny responded. A Long-range attempt from Densie Gaule was misjudged by keeper Brennan, and the ball crossed the line to raise a 3rd green flag for the cats. At the other end, Aoife Norris, who had made a brilliant save to deny Ciara O’Connor, saw her line breached late on, with four-time All-Ireland winner, Katrina Parrock getting the final touch to a long ball into the danger zone, to add some respectability to the score line for Wexford.
As the game entered stoppage time, Kilkenny had substitute Miriam Bambrick red-carded following an off-the-ball altercation with Chloe Foxe. As the referee brough proceedings to a close, Kilkenny had earned the victory, on a score line of 3-19 to 1-12.
Another semi-final awaits, and just like last year, it’s the rebels of Cork that stand in the way, but that’s a matter for another day.
SCORERS FOR KILKENNY: D Gaule 1-6(3fs, 1 45); M O’Connell 1-3; K Nolan 0-3, M Walsh 0-3 each; A Doyle 1-0; K Power, G Walsh 0-2 each
KILKENNY: A Norris, C Dormer, D Tobin, M Teehan, C Phelan, M Farrell, K Doyle, G Walsh, D Gaule, M Walsh, K Nolan, M O’Connell, S Fitzgerald, K Power, A Doyle. Subs: N Deely for K Doyle inj (21), M Kenneally for Fitzgerald (47), L Murphy for Nolan (50), M Bambrick for Teehan (55)
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
All aboard the train to Croker! Yes, our stripey women our on the road again, and this time it’s a trip to headquarters for what’s sure to be an almighty battle with Cork…again!
The victory over this young Wexford side was expected, but at half-time the Kilkenny faithful would have possibly been expecting a bigger winning margin. The first-half display was one of great team-play, excellent execution of skill and a desire to progress.
In this half, the forwards were tormenting their markers, their pace and movement proving too much for the Wexford defence. In contrast, the Kilkenny back line were resolute. The Slaneysiders found it very difficult to create any attacking platform, relying on placed balls and long-range scores to try and keep in touch with their more illustrious opponents.
When we mention Denise Gaule, its normally in terms of accuracy and scoring prowess, but what gets frequently overlooked is her ability to win the ‘dirty ball’ and drop into pockets of space to launch numerous attacks. It may not be the ‘prettier’ side of the game, but by God it makes the team tick on a high level. Rightly named Player of the Match, the Windgap shooter finished with a tally of 1-6. Going back to the cats defence, they performed exceptionally well. Davina Tobin is a wall, a barrier, thou shalt not pass. The supporting cast of Phelan & Teehan, with Norris behind them did the job.
The shoulder injury sustained by Kellyann Doyle may prevent the Piltown defender from taking any part in the semi-final, coupled with Miriam Bambrick’s red card will mean manager Brian Dowling may need to shuffle the pack once more.
So, 4pm this Sunday in Croke Park. Let’s hope there’s another trip on September the 12th to plan afterwards.