HOPES OF scoring a league and championship double over their near-neighbours ended for the Kilkenny ladies Gaelic footballers after Carlow gained their revenge on Sunday.
Having lost by the narrowest of margins in the league (3-4 to 1-9), a counter-attacking Carlow made no mistake with a solid win in the opening round of the All-Ireland championship in Tinryland.
A Kilkenny side in transition - just five of the junior All-Ireland-winning panel remain - struggled to get to grips with the pace of the game. Opting to press on in attack when points were there for the taking, they were caught when Carlow overturned possession and hit back through the double threat of Elaine Ware and Edel Hayden.
It wasn’t always that way, as Sinead Doyle’s opening point was quickly cancelled out by Aine Lannon’s 14 metre free which flew to the Carlow net. Lannon then traded points with Edel Hayden, leaving the Cats purring by the tenth minute (1-1 to 0-2).
Kilkenny’s full back line of Stacey Quirke, Jamie O’Sullivan and Emer Roantree defended well, but with the pressure building the visitors were soon on the backfoot. Carlow started to take control of the game, drawing level through Marion Hayden and Grainne Cowman before a fine move out of defence ended with the unmarked Elaine Ware rifling the ball to the Kilkenny net (1-4 to 1-1). Worse was to follow as Ware, despite being surrounded by defenders, struck a low shot to the corner of the net just a few minutes later to leave her side well in command (2-4 to 1-1).
The Cats needed a score but attempts by Alice Farrell, Bronagh Neary and Aoife Gorey were denied by a hard-working Carlow defence. They did get a lifeline when, following a foul on Yvonne McGrath, Aine Lannon made no mistake from the penalty spot to leave just three points between the sides after 20 minutes. That gap was stretched to four by half-time, as Moira Griffith slotted over a point, but Kilkenny were not out of the game (2-5 to 2-1).
Kilkenny came out with all guns blazing in the second half, but despite launching several attacks on the Carlow goal they found it difficult to get into shooting positions. Instead it was Carlow’s Elaine Ware who got the scoring underway with two points in the opening ten minutes, stretching her side’s lead to six.
Needing a goal to stay in the game - Kilkenny’s prayers were answered when Aine Lannon’s long delivery from midfield caught the Carlow defence off-guard. The ball bounced all the way to the net to give the visitors that much-needed score (2-7 to 3-1).
However, Carlow didn’t panic. Working the ball upfield, Leah Mullins saw her shot blocked by Aine Sheehy but Sinead Doyle reacted quickest, driving the rebound home to restore the six-point gap with 15 minutes left to play.
Carlow kept the pace up in the final quarter, moving further in front through Hayden and Stephanie Kehoe. Miriam Maher pulled a point back but Carlow continued to dominate, as Hayden (2) and Leah Mullins rounded off a good display with points in the closing stages. Kilkenny never gave up, finishing the scoring with a Jenny Reddy pile-driver, but time ran out on their attempts to haul back the hosts.
Kilkenny will face Louth on August 6 in what is a must-win game. If the Cats can overcome the Wee County the three-team group will be thrown wide open again. Defeat will spell the end of Kilkenny’s championship aspirations.
Kilkenny - Aine Sheehy, Stacey Quirke, Jamie O’Sullivan, Emer Roantree, Niamh Whelan, Sally Teehan, Grainne Daly, Miriam Maher (0-1), Sara Walsh, Aine Lannon (3-1, 2-1 frees) Bronagh Neary, Aoife Gorey, Alice Farrell, Jenny Reddy (1-0), Yvonne McGrath. Subs: Niamh Maher, Aoife Dunne, Orla McCormack, Miriam O’Keeffe, Shauna Carroll.
Carlow - Tanala Kehoe, Tierna Kehoe, Tara Wilson, Deirdre Tomlinson, Amy Doyle, Grainne Tomlinson, Grainne Cowman (0-1), Pam Dowling, Ciara Mullins, Moira Griffith (0-1), Leah Mullins (0-1), Elaine Ware (2-2), Sinead Doyle (1-1), Marion Hayden (0-1), Edel Hayden (0-4). Subs: Sinead Ruth, Hilary Griffin, Marie Kinsella, Aine Kinsella, Stephanie Kehoe (0-1), Leanne Lambert, Caoimhe Whelan.
Referee - James Flood (Wexford).