Eoin Brennan reports from the National Camogie League Division 1 Round 2 match in Cusack Park
Kilkenny 1-8 Clare 0-10
IT had to take an injury-time point from Kallyann Doyle to finally edge Kilkenny over the line and agonisingly deny Clare a dramatic share of the spoils in Cusack Park this afternoon.
Sunk by a brace of late Cork goals seven days previously at the same venue, this time it was the hosts who appeared to be finishing the stronger after a three point unanswered rally regained full parity by the hour mark.
It wouldn’t be a full reprieve though as from the puck-out, Kilkenny patiently worked the ball down to roaming centre-back Doyle to squeeze her shot just inside the right post for the winning score.
A draw would have been just reward for another hard-working display in difficult conditions, with newcomers Lorna McNamara and Caoimhe Carmody in particular excelling on the heightened stage against the 2020 All-Ireland senior champions.
However, Clare’s player of the National league so far is undoubtedly goalkeeper Doireann Murphy who despite having to face two penalties over the hour, didn’t allow either of Denise Gaule’s efforts to find the net and would make an even more impressive stop to repel a stinging Katie Nolan attempt at the two-thirds mark.
Kilkenny did manage to breach Clare’s watertight rearguard when Miriam Walsh powered through in the 24th minute, a goal that proved the difference until that late Banner backlash.
Up to that point, Clare had been the ones to set the pace with the aid of the wind as following a strong Murphy save from a Gaule sixth minute penalty, the home side edged in front on three occasions by the 23rd minute.
The tireless Caoimhe Carmody opened the scoring after nine minutes while Eimear Kelly and then Lorna McNamara also nudged their side in front at 0-3 to 0-2.
Walsh’s goal would be a game-changer though and quickly followed by points from Gaule and Laura Norris, ensured a three point gap by the break at 1-4 to 0-4.
To their credit, Clare, despite now facing into the conditions, continued to pose questions which Kilkenny answered to keep their hosts at arm’s length. Up the other end, the Cats were left frustrated though in their attempts to put the result beyond doubt as Murphy excellently came to her side’s rescue before a Gaule penalty just cleared the crossbar.
Clare did have chances of their own but Carmody took a point when perhaps a goal could have been sought while Aine O’Loughlin subsequently held up a Chloe Morey free but Eimear Kelly couldn’t obtain a levelling goal.
Trailing by three entering the final ten minutes, home spirits were lifted when Lorna McNamara twice won frees that she converted herself to sandwich Kelly’s second point as Clare reeled in Kilkenny right on the mark at 1-7 to 0-10.
The Banner couldn’t cling on to split the points though after Kilkenny used all their experience to immediately find a point through Doyle which essentially sets up a National Camogie League Semi-Final with Cork in a fortnight’s time.
Clare have a similar winner-takes-all showdown with neighbours Limerick to steer clear of relegation danger and will have taken confidence out of their resilient performances against two of the top three along with a comprehensive victory for the juniors over Down in Fr. McNamara Park this afternoon.
Goals from Aideen Hickey (2), Olivia Phelan (2) and Niamh Mulqueen completed a rousing home victory in Division 3 but while the Banner’s second string also face Limerick in their final group outing, it’s not for another month.
Kilkenny: Aoife Norris (Piltown); Sarah Crowley (Mooncoin), Tiffany Fitzgerald (Young Irelands), Grace Walsh (Tullaroan); Kellyann Doyle (Piltown), Claire Phelan (Lisdowney), Lydia Fitzpatrick (St Lachtain’s); Julianne Malone (Mullinavat), Niamh Deely (James Stephens); Steffi Fitzgerald (Young Irelands), Denise Gaule (Windgap), Laura Norris (Piltown); Miriam Walsh (Tullaroan), Katie Power (Piltown), Katie Nolan (St Martin’s). Subs: Aoife Prendergast (Dicksboro) for Malone (43), Aoife Doyle (Piltown) for L. Norris (47), Mary O’Connell (Clara) for Nolan (55). Scorers: Miriam Walsh (1-0); Katie Power, Denise Gaule (1 pen, 1f) (0-2 each); Katie Nolan, Laura Norris, Steffi Fitzgerald, Kellyann Doyle (0-1 each)
Clare: Doireann Murphy (Clarecastle); Ciara Grogan (Clooney-Quin), Clare Hehir (Inagh-Kilnamona) (Captain), Caoimhe Kelly (Kilkishen); Aoife Keane (Inagh-Kilnamona), Chloe Morey (Sixmilebridge), Alannah Ryan (Kilkishen); Regan Conway (Feakle-Killanena), Caoimhe Carmody (Kilmaley); Robyn Conway (Feakle-Killanena), Eimear Kelly (Truagh-Clonlara), Zi Yan Spillane (Feakle-Killanena); Lorna McNamara (Feakle-Killenana), Aine O’Loughlin (Truagh-Clonlara), Shauna Canny (Feakle-Killanena). Subs: Susan Daly (Scariff-Ogonnelloe) for Regan Conway (39), Lynda Daly (Scariff-Ogonnelloe) for Canny (53). Scorers: Lorna McNamara (0-4f); Caoimhe Carmody (0-3); Eimear Kelly (0-2); Aine O’Loughlin 0-1
Referee: Andy Larkin (Cork)