The Kilkenny dream of claiming their second Jack McGrath Cup in the intermediate camogie All-Ireland final in Croke Park on Sunday ended in heartache.
The hard going, hard chasing Cats had to give way to a superior Limerick outfit, who made up for the disappointment of losing last year’s decider in what was a mighty battle for honours.
The losers opened well. Mags Fennelly got them into the grovee when scoring an excellent point in their first raid within 30 seconds of the throw-in. Niamh Mulcahy responded for Limerick with a free from 45 metres.
Mulcahy doubled Limerick’s account in the fifth minute when she put the Shannonsiders ahead. Lydia Fitzpatrick equalised for Kilkenny but the deadly Niamh Mulcahy put Limerick back in the lead again with a point in 12th minute after Rebecca Delee was fouled.
Mary O’Callaghan doubled Limerick’s advantage with a an excellent point from play before Lydia Fitzpatrick responded for the losers with an excellent point in the 15th minute. This was typical of the exchanges - one side scored, then the other.
The winners, who were playing into the breeze, then hit a high gear and scored 1-1without reply in what turned out to be a crucial stage in the contest. Niamh Mulcahy tapped over a free in the 18th minute before Deborah Murphy got in for the opening and only goal in the contest.
Murphy latched on to a breaking ball before blasting home from 14 metres (1-5 to 0-3).
Shaken but far from floored by the concession, Kilkenny stormed back into the game and scored three points without reply. Orla Hanrick started the good run with a point in the 26th minute after she was fouled on the 20 metres line. Full-back Catherine Foley continued the comeback when she converted a massive free from all of 80 metres.
Orla Handrick cut the gap to two points before the interval with a free in the 32nd minute to leave it 1-5 to 0-6 at the break.
Kilkenny, who are inexperienced at this grade, showed great fighting qualities to get back into the game after the concession of the Murphy goal and they were not overcome by the occasion.
They showed great character to get back into the contest against a driven Limerick outfit who operated at senior level throughout the League.
The losers started the second half brightly. They took less than 60 seconds to open the scoring, Orla Handrick latching onto a Catherine Foley free to tap over from 21 metres. The gap was down to the bare minimum.
Limerick bounced back for a brace of points from Caoimhe Costello (1-7 to 0-7). The first a good distance. She put three between the teams when she pointed on 40 minutes to keep Limerick’s good run going.
Kilkenny gave chase again. Mags Fennelly got to the end of a delivery from Catherine Foley and pulled back a minor. When Orla Handrick showed good skill to add another, it was back to a one point game again (1-7 to 0-9).
Limerick’s experience then began to show. The outstanding Niamh Mulcahy led them to safety yet again. She started a burst of scores with a point from 40 metres.
Mulcahy then tapped over another point in the 45th minute. Limerick looked sgtrong, and their belief was growing.
Rebecca Delee, who was tremendous in the contest, then extended Limerick’s lead to 1-10 to 0-9 as the match driffted into the last quarter.
Orla Handrick stopped the rot for Kilkenny when she pointed a free from the edge of the large square following a foul on Anna Farrell. Limerick took this blow on the chin and roared back and closed out the game with two points from Niamh Mulcahy in the 50th minute before Rebecca Delee pointed in from 30 metres.
Try as they might the young and brave Kilkenny side couldn’t get through for the crucial goal that might have sparked a game saving effort. Limerick ran down the clock and ran out deserving winners.
Obviously the result was a huge disappointing at the end of the season for Kilkenny, who put together an unbeaten run to qualify for the final.
However, the bitter experience of this day should stand to the girls in the future. No one could take an iota from a terrific Limerick outfit, who were simply outstanding on the day.
They showed great determination. Kilkenny are a very young outfit. In time they will get over the disappointment, but that could be gthe fuel that will drive them to victory on another day.
SCORERS: Kilkenny - Orla Handrick (0-5, three frees); Mags Fennelly, Lydia Fitzpatrick (0-2 each); Catherine Foley (0-1, free). Limerick - Niamh Mulcahy (0-7, four frees); Deborah Murphy (1-0); Caoimhe Costello, Rebecca Delee (0-2 each); Mary O’Callaghan (0-1).
Kilkenny- Ann Marie Lennon, Edel Frisby, Catherine Foley, Therese Muldowney, Claire Aylward, Aine Fahey, Stacey Quirke, Megan Farrell, Mary O’Connell, Sarah Crowley, Anna Farrell, Laura Norris, Mags Fennelly (capt), Orla Hanrick, Lydia Fitzpatrick.
Subs - Aine Gannon, Aine Kinsella, Sarah Ann Quinlan (used); Laura Walker, Aisling Butler, Mary O’Connell, Aisling Nolan, Catherine Connolly, Emma Comerford, Kirsty Maher, Meave Mansfield, Sonia Buggy.
Limerick - Sile Moynihan, Fiona Hickey (capt), Michellle Casey, Judith Mulcahy, Katike Campbell, Sarah Carey, Claire Mulcahy, Rebecca Delee, Mary O’Callaghan, Deborah Murphy, Niamh Mulcahy, Caoimhe Costelloe, Lorraine McCarthy, Aoife Sheehan, Mairead Fitzgerald.
Subs - Sinead McNamara, Dympna O’Brien, Karen O’Leary, Niamh Ryan, Deirdre Fitzpatrick (used).
Referee - P. Kelly (Kildare).