A fine haul of 2-2 from Ann Dalton helped the Kilkenny senior team secure safe passage to the national camogie league Division One semi-finals after a hard-fought victory over Limerick in Bruff on Sunday.
The Treaty girls were first off the mark, Niamh Mulcahy grabbing a point from 45 metres after just three minutes, but Kilkenny responded brilliantly and got in for their first goal through Ann Dalton.
Winning possession 65 metres from the posts, Dalton cut through the Limerick rearguard and blasted the sliotar home for an excellent score.
Limerick’s answer was to hit a brace of scores to level matters. Karen O’Leary started the run with a seventh minute point, Niamh Mulcahy tapping over a free a minute later to draw her side level (0-3 to 1-0).
Kilkenny fought back with two points on the spin. A Denise Gaule free, converted after Anna Farrell was fouled, was followed by a fine score from Sarah Ann Quinlan, who latched on to an Ann Dalton pass to make it 1-2 to 0-3.
Again, the tie swung back Limerick’s way through two points from Niamh Mulcahy, the second via a 20th minute free after Deborah Murphy was fouled.
It was advantage Kilkenny again when Denise Gaule converted a free, but Caoimhe Costello squared the tie again with a well-taken point off the hurley in the 29th minute.
It seemed as if the stalemate would continue into the interval, but a quick burst of three points saw Kilkenny close out the first half scoring.
Julie-Ann Malone started the run with a good point. Denise Gaule continued it with an excellent free from 21 metres out on the sideline. Ann Dalton then tapped over the last score of the half, splitting the posts with a point from 30 metres to make it 1-6 to 0-6 in Kilkenny’s favour at the break.
Like the first half Limerick were quickest off the mark after the restart, Niamh Mulcahy converting a free from 45 metres in the opening minute. However, Denise Gaule responded with two frees on the trot, the latter after Anna Farrell was fouled, to make it 1-8 to 0-7 in Kilkenny’s favour.
Limerick needed a big run to stop the game getting away from them - Niamh Mulcahy responded with four points on the trot. She started the run with a well-taken 38th minute point, then added a free after she was fouled. Another free, this one from long range, narrowed the gap to a point before a 50 metre free restored parity with 44 minutes on the clock.
Looking for another score, Kilkenny upped the ante. Michelle Quilty edged her side back into the lead with a point, but Niamh Mulcahy’s ninth point of the afternoon had the sides level again.
Kilkenny’s response was to hit back with 1-1 on the spin. Julie-Ann Malone fired over a 53rd minute point before Ann Dalton got in for her and Kilkenny’s second goal, latching on to a breaking ball on the edge of the small square to tap home and make it 2-10 to 0-12.
Again Limerick fought back with a pointed free from Niamh Mulcahy but Sarah Ann Quinlan responded with a well taken point to make it 2-11 to 0-13 points before Ann Dalton, who had an outstanding game, tapped over her second point of the afternoon, a massive point from 60 metres out.
Although beaten, Niamh Mulcahy closed out the scoring for Limerick with a point in the last minute, a score which ensures her side will have a chance of reaching the knockout stages of the league - but they must go the playoff route next weekend against Cork after the sides finished level on nine points and the same scoring difference.
Kilkenny, who finished top of the table, will play Group One runners-up Tipperary in the league semi final on April 17.
SCORERS: Kilkenny - Ann Dalton (2-2); Denise Gaule (0-5, frees), Sarah Ann Quinlan, Julie Ann Malone (0-2 each); Michelle Quilty (0-1). Limerick - Niamh Mulcahy (0-12, 0-9 frees); Karen O’Leary, Caoimhe Costelloe (0-1 each).
Kilkenny - Emma Kavanagh, Sarah Crowley, Davina Tobin, Sarah Kent, Edwina Keane, Stacey Quirke, Jacqui Frisby, Colette Dormer, Meg Farrell, Julie Ann Malone, Sarah Ann Quinlan, Ann Dalton, Aine Gannon, Anna Farrell, Denise Gaule. Subs: Ann Marie Lennon, Kate McDonald, Miriam Frisby, Aoife Neary, Michelle Quilty, Kelly-Ann Doyle, Laura Murphy, Grace Walsh, Miriam Walsh, Katie Power, Shelly Farrell.
Limerick - Claire Keating, Noreen Barry, Lorraine McCarthy, Judith Mulcahy, Rebecca Delee, Fiona Hickey, Niamh Richardson, Sarah Carey, Karen O’Leary, Siobhán Enright, Clíona Lane, Niamh Mulcahy, Mary O’Callaghan, Caoimhe Costelloe, Sinéad McNamara. Subs: Marguerite McCarthy, Muireann Creamer, Deborah Murphy, Síle Moynihan, Leanne Browne, Rebecca Noonan, Donna Mulcahy, Katie Hennessey, Sinéad Madden, Sarah Crotty, Laura O’Neill, Aisling Ryan, Deirdre Ward.
Referee - Cathal Egan (Cork).
Cats lose to Laois
In other camogie news the Kilkenny Intermediate team finished their league campaign away to Laois in Trumera also on Sunday.
Kilkenny who couldn’t make the knockout stages began the game with a gale force breeze behind them and enjoyed a 1-2 to 0-3 point lead at half time with the Kilkenny goal coming through Jenny Clifford in the tenth minute. Kilkenny added to this with points through Jenny Clifford and Katie Nolan.
The weather conditions deteriorated further in the second half and Laois, who had a chance of making the knockout stages, used a strong breeze to hit six unanswered points to win by 0-9 points to 1-2.
Next up for Kilkenny is a meeting with Westmeath in the Leinster championship on May 8.