CLARE battled until the end but Kilkenny’s superior quality up front shone through as they secured the spoils in Sixmilebridge writes Ivan Smyth.
A battling Clare side fell to a 0-16 to 0-22 defeat against Kilkenny as the reigning All-Ireland and league champions held on for a deserved win.
Clare certainly gave as good as they got throughout and can look back on some spurned goal chances in the second half going forward . Chloe Morey saw a 20m free blocked on the line early in the second half while corner forward Eimear Kelly was thwarted by Kilkenny goalkeeper Emma Kavanagh. Morey was also fouled going through on goal late in the game while Bridin Dinan saw Kavanagh save her goal-bound effort in the final play of the game.
Despite the goal chances Kilkenny possessed the greater firepower up front with Clare heavily reliant on Morey frees for scores in the second half. They only shot three points from play in the concluding 30 minutes of action, two of which came in additional time. Meanwhile, Kilkenny had seven different scorers and were able to bring the talented duo of Kellyann Doyle and Katie Power off the bench.
Despite the sides sharing the opening four scores, Kilkenny shot five in a row before the water break with Denise Gaule accurate from placed balls. Kilkenny’s corner forward Katie Nolan found the net but referee Andy Larkin did not play the advantage and the goal did not stand.
To Clare’s credit they cut their arrears to four points at half time as Chloe Morey struck three points after the water break. In the second half the reigning league champions pushed their lead out to nine points with substitute Katie Power proving dangerous in the full forward line.
Morey responded for Ger O’Connell’s side as she struck over a free, a ’45 and a point from play to give Clare a glimmer of hope with five minutes of normal time remaining. A Gaule score increased Kilkenny’s lead as Clare knew they needed goals to have any chance of upsetting the odds. They were denied by a tough Kilkenny defence with Emma Kavanagh pulling off two excellent saves to keep her clean sheet.
Rebecca Foley and centre back Niamh O’Dea struck late points but it was not enough to prevent Clare falling to an opening round defeat. Despite the result, Ger O’Connell and his backroom team will be proud of his side’s attitude and workrate as they prepare to face last year’s All-Ireland finalists next weekend.
Clare: Doireann Murphy (Clarecastle), Susan Daly (Scariff Ogonelloe), Clare Hehir (Inagh/Kilnamona), Ciara Grogan (Clooney-Quin), Kilkishen), Niamh O’Dea (Kimaley), Sinead Conlon (Tulla), Orlaith Duggan (Clooney Quin), Zi Yan Spillane (Feakle/Killanena), Aoife Keane (Inagh/Kilnamona), Aine O’Loughlin (Truagh/Clonlara), Rebecca Foley (Truagh/Clonlara), Eimear Kelly (Truagh/Clonlara), Chloe Morey (Sixmilebridge), Robyn Conway (Feakle/Killanena).
Subs: Laura McMahon for Conlon (inj, 25 mins), Maire McGrath for O’Loughlin (37 mins, inj), Siofra Ní Chonaill for Spillane (41 mins), Caoimhe Carmody for Conway (54 mins), Roisin McMahon for Daly (52 mins).
Scorers: Chloe Morey (0-11, 7f, 2 ’45), Orlaith Duggan (0-2), Niamh O’Dea, Aine O’Loughlin and Rebecca Foley (0-1 each).
Kilkenny: Emma Kavanagh, Michelle Teehan, Claire Phelan, Davina Tobin, Niamh Deely, Meighan Farrell, Miriam Bambrick, Laura Murphy, Grace Walsh, Denise Gaule, Mary O’Connell. Steffi Fitzgerald, Katie Nolan, Miriam Walsh, Michaela Kenneally
Subs: Katie Power for Michaela Kenneally (37 mins), Aoife Prendergast for O’Connell (50 mins), Kellyann Doyle for Deely (50 mins), Laura Norris for Fitzgerald (60 mins).
Scorers: Denise Gaule (0-11, 8f), Katie Nolan (0-4), Katie Power and Miriam Walsh (0-2 each), Laura Murphy, Steffi Fitzgerald and Aoife Prendergast (0-1 each).
Referee: Andy Larkin (Cork).