Kilkenny cruised to their first National Camogie League Division I title since 2008 when they easily defeated Clare in the final in Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday.
Kilkenny opened the scoring in the third minute when Aine Connery tapped over after gaining procession from an Ann Dalton pass. They were on their way to an easy win.
In the sixth minute Clare lost influential half back, Eimear Considine with a knee injury and even at this early stage it was an uphill battle for them. Kilkenny did not score again until the 11th minute when Ann Dalton put over a massive score from 55 metres after good link up play with Miriam Walsh.
Deirdre Murphy got Clare off the mark with a free in the 14th minute from 30 metres after Niamh O’Dea was fouled. Denise Gaule put two in it again when she pointed a free a minute later after Aoife Neary was fouled.
Miriam Walsh then pointed two in-a-row. The first came from a brilliant pass from Michelle Quilty and then Aoife Neary passed to Walsh to tap over from a tight angle (0-5 to 0-1).
Deidre Murphy pointed for the Banner ladies in the 18th minute from an Orlaith Duggan pass. Denise Gaule put four in it again from a free when Michelle Quilty was fouled when in for a certain goal.
Kilkenny had a brilliant goal chance in the 25th minute to end the game as a contest, but Aoife Neary’s attempt went agonisingly wide. Leann Fennelly put Kilkenny further ahead when she pointed from an Ann Dalton pass.
Aine Connery pushed the Noresiders seven clear when she pointed near the end of the half. Miriam Walsh got the last score of the half in the 34th minute after gaining possession form an Aine Connery pass.
Half-time: Kilkenny 0-9, Clare 0-2.
Clare grabbed the opening score of the second half when Chloe Morey pointed a monster 50 metre free after Mairead Power was penalized for throwing the ball. The outstanding Denise Gaule then put the Cats seven clear again when she pointed from an Ann Dalton pass. Gaule pushed Kilkenny eight in the 37th minute after Miriam Walsh was fouled.
Leann Fennelly extended it to nine in the 38th minute with a well taken point. The crucial score came in the 40th minute when Aoife Neary goaled from the edge of the small square to put Kilkenny 1-12 to 0-3 ahead. There was no way back for the Banner ladies.
Denise Gaule put Kilkenny 13 points clear after latching on to an Aine Connery pass. Clare were nearly in for a goal in the 44th minute but Emma Kavanagh blocked an Ellen Horgan effort. Jacqui Frisby swept up the loose ball to clear the lines.
There was then a barren patch as the game took on the pace of a challenge. Denise Gaule pointed in the 52nd minute with a brilliant individual effort.
This was a terrific victory for the Kilkenny team who play a great brand of fast, open camogie. They have their sights on higher achievements later in the year after the disappopintment of losing the All-Ireland last season.
Kilkenny co-manager, Graham Dillon was happy with the display. The intention was to turn it into an open hurling game, and that was what happened.
“We knew that it was going to go one of two ways,” he said. “It was either going to be an open hurling match or it was going to be a dogfight. Luckily enough we dictated the trend and it turned into an open hurling match, which suited us down to the ground.
“We knew if it went that way we definitely had the hurlers to kick on, so we are happy enough. We have an extremely strong squad. The players work very hard and push each other in training. There are no easy options in training. Everyone who picks you up is going to give you a hard time.
“We are working hard in training and luckily we were able to bring our form on to the playing field.”
Bigger tests lie ahead for the Kilkenny senior team with Offaly coming up in the Lenister semi-final on Sunday. That game is fixed for Birr (2.30pm).
Scorers: Kilkenny - Denise Gaule (0-6, 0-3 frees); Miriam Walsh (0-4); Aofie Neary (1-0); Leann Fennelly, Aine Connery (0-2 each); Ann Dalton (0-1). Clare - Deirdre Murphy (0-3, frees); Chloe Morey (0-1, free).
Kilkenny - Emma Kavanagh, Mairead Power, Kate McDonald, Jacqui Frisby, Colette Dormer, Edwina Keane, Elaine Aylward, Aisling Dunphy, Ann Dalton, Denise Gaule, Miriam Walsh, Leann Fennelly (capt),Michelle Quilty, Aine Connery Aoife Neary.
Subs - Ann-Marie Lennon, Grace Walsh, Shelly Farrell, Claire Phelan, Stacey Quirke, Lydia Fitzpatrick, Marie Dargan, Claire Aylward, Aine Kinsella, Aine Fahey, Megan Farrell, Sarah Crowley
Clare - Denise Lynch, Chloe Morey, Maire McGrath, Carol O’Leary, Roisin McMahon, Niamh O’Dea, Eimear Considine, Kate Lynch (capt), Orlaith Duggan, Niki Kaiser, Fiona Lafferty, Deirdre Murphy, Caitriona Hennessy, Laura McMahon, Ellen Horgan.
Subs - Aisling Corbett, Vera Loughnane, Katie Cahill, Kathleen Hogan, Lisa Loughnane, Helen McMahon, Aine O’Brien, Aoife Griffin, Aida Griffey, Sarah O’Donnell, Sinead Collins, Kate O’Gorman, Claire McMahon, Laura Linnane, Aoife Keane.
Referee - Ger O’Dowd (Limerick).