THERE were two reasons to be cheerful when the Kilkenny under-14 and 16 ladies Gaelic football teams got their Leinster campaigns off to winning starts.
The teams hosted Longford in the first round of the provincial championships in Castlecomer. Both ended their day on a high, each scoring a two-point win over the opposition.
The under-14s got the ball rolling when they beat Longford by 0-10 to 2-2. Kilkenny started strongly, showing great accuracy as scores from Ciara Delaney, Danielle Morrissey, Rebecca Nevin and Hannah Scott saw them race into a 0-8 to 0-0 lead.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, as Longford came right back into the game with two goals to leave just two points separating the sides. Kilkenny continued to create plenty of scoring chances but the crossbar and some solid Longford defending kept the game on a knife edge.
Two further Kilkenny points stretched the lead to 0-4 but Longford added two of their own, leaving Kilkenny holding on to their two-point cushion.
Kilkenny under-14s - Laura Tynan, Lucy Power, Neasa Galwey, Andi Snyder, Emily McCarthy, Aobha O’Gorman, Shauna Valentine, Blathnaid Galway, Saoirse Comerford-Liston, Hannah Scott, Danielle Morrissey, Ciara Delaney, Rebecca Nevin, Rebecca Roche, Nicole Carter, Beth Behan, Emma Nolan, Laoise Prendiville, Hannah Kelly, Rachel Kelly, Roisin Allen, Eva Hynes, Lizzie Buckley, Kate Drennan.
A new-look under-16 side made light of unknown territory as they beat Longford by 4-5 to 2-9.
Despite the fact many were stepping up to under-16 level for the first time, with another six donning the county jersey for the first time, Kilkenny made their intentions known from early on. Several shots went narrowly wide before Becky Walsh pounced on a loose ball to rattle the net for the opening score in the 12th minute.
Although Longford did manage scores of their own, two points apiece for Ria Lawson and Aoife Cantwell gave Kilkenny a 1-4 to 0-5 half-time lead.
Longford came out with all guns blazing in the second half, rattling off 1-3 to take control of the game for the first time. However, the young Kilkenny side failed to panic. Muckalee’s Aine Murphy struck a point to leave just a goal between the sides on 45 minutes before Railyard forward Megan Walsh levelled matters with a rocket-like shot that flew to the net. Aine Murphy followed up with Kilkenny’s third goal to restore her side’s lead (3-5 to 1-8).
The Cats had the finishing line in sight when Becky Walsh and Ria Lawson combined for goal number four but a second Longford goal reduced Kilkenny’s lead to 0-3 as the game went into injury-time.
The final minutes were a tense affair and a great save by Niamh Sheehy kept Kilkenny’s lead intact when the ball looked to be heading for the bottom corner of the net. Longford managed a point from a free but the home side held on for a hard-earned but a well-deserved win.
Kilkenny under-16s - Niamh Sheehy, Francis Farrell, Enya Foley, Katelyn Skehan, Ciara Cody, Jane Walker, Ellie Barcoe, Aoife Cantwell, Lucy Teehan, Aine Murphy, Lucy Elvidge, Ailis O’Shea, Ria Lawson, Megan Walsh, Becky Walsh, Laura Walsh, Anita Brennan, Shauna Cody, Fiona Long, Brianna Mallon, Ruby Harvey.