Kilkenny made a dream start to their senior national camogie league campaign by gaining some revenge for last year’s All- Ireland heartbreak.
The Cats started 2014 in the right fashion, beating All-Ireland champions Galway in Ballinasloe on Sunday.
Kilkenny hit the ground running, taking a decisive lead on seven minutes when Aoife Neary netted on the rebound after Michelle Quilty’s shot was saved.
The visitors kept up their pace, Denise Gaule (free) and Shelly Farrell hitting points to cancel out Emma Kilkenny’s score. Hopes of a Galway comeback were dealt a serious blow in the 19th minute when ’keeper Susan Earner spilled possession, allowing Quilty to dash in and finish the sliotar to the net and swell the Cats’ lead (2-3 to 0-2).
Although Galway came back with a Niamh Kilkenny free the Cats were on a roll, rattling off three points in succession through Gaule, Marie Dargan and Quilty. Another Niamh Kilkenny stopped the rot for Galway, but they still trailed their rivals by a considerable margin when the teams went in at half-time (Kilkenny 2-6, Galway 0-3).
Kilkenny started the second half the way they finished the first, with Denise Gaule (frees) and Quilty extending their side’s lead to 11 points by the 35th minute (2-9 to 0-4). Galway just didn’t have any answers for the Kilkenny women. Niamh Kilkenny added a point from a 65 after great goalkeeping by netminder Emma Kavanagh, following up with a free to narrow the gap slightly with little over 20 minutes to play (2-9 to 0-6).
Kilkenny eased off the gas, but never let Galway back in. Denise Gaule made sure of that, cancelling out two Niamh Kilkenny points with a brace to seal the win.
Kilkenny - Emma Kavanagh, Colette Dormer, Kate McDonald, Grace Walsh, Mairead Power, Edwina Keane, Elaine Aylward, Ann Dalton, Aisling Dunphy, Denise Gaule (0-6), Aine Connery, Aoife Neary (1-0), Michelle Quilty (1-3), Shelly Farrell (0-1), Marie Dargan (0-1). Subs: Laura Walker, Miriam Walsh, Claire Phelan, Kelly Hamilton, Lydia Fitzpatrick.
Galway - Susan Earner, Tara Kenny, Sarah Dervan, Heather Cooney, Paula Kenny, Lorraine Ryan, Therese Manton, Niamh Kilkenny (0-7), Deirdre Burke, Emer Haverty, Clodagh McGrath, Emma Kilkenny (0-1), Orlaith McGrath, Maria Cooney, Aoife Donoghue. Subs: Eva Concannon, Colette Gill, Molly Dunne, Sara Noone, Sinead Keane, Siobhan Coen, Catriona Cormican.
There was also a winning start for the Kilkenny intermediates, who beat a new-look Galway side by 2-8 to 0-3 in their league encounter on Sunday.
Although Galway opened the scoring with a fifth minute free from Edel Murray the Cats hit back in style, taking the lead just 60 seconds later. Orla Hanrick did the initial damage, cutting through the Galway defence before laying the sliotar off for Lydia Fitzpatrick to blast to the net.
With Sarah Crowley adding a point to extend the Noresiders’ lead Kilkenny continued to hold the upper hand. Aisling Finn narrowed the gap for Galway with a well-worked score but with Kilkenny enjoying a good spell of possession they couldn’t get any closer. Points from Lydia Fitzpatrick and Hanrick increased Kilkenny’s lead, an advantage that stretched to seven points (2-3 to 0-2) on 25 minutes when Aisling Butler latched onto a loose ball 25 yards from goal and drilled it high into the Galway net.
Edel Murray tried to rally the Galway charge, striking a good point from play on the stroke of half-time, but that would prove to be the Connacht side’s last score of the game.
Galway enjoyed a good period of dominance on the resumption, but couldn’t convert this possession into scores. Kilkenny found points few and far between, but kept their advantage rising through Emma Comerford’s 41st minute free.
The Cats did not score again until the 53rd minute but, when they did, they surged towards victory. Orla Hanrick rattled off three points in as many minutes to push her side into a double figure lead (2-7 to 0-3). A late free from second half sub Aisling Nolan wrapped up the win, ensuring Kilkenny picked up two important points on their travels.
Galway - Niamh McClean, Michelle Dunleavy, Linda Porter, Laura Porter, Christine Brennan, Maeve Moran, Lorraine Lally, Ciara Holden, Antoinette Cormican, Aisling Finn, Rachel Monaghan, Michelle Skehill, Aoife Dolan, Edel Murray, Breda Hanlon. Subs: Niamh Briscoe, Aine Dervan, Aoibheann Kenny, Aisling Spellman, Aoife Kilkenny, Chantelle Muldoon.
Kilkenny - Ann Maire Lennon, Christine Lyng, Maeve Mansfield, Sonia Buggy, Stacey Quirke, Claire Aylward, Aine Kinsella, Therese Muldowney, Lydia Fitzpatrick, Aine Fahy, Sarah Crowley, Orla Hanrick, Emma Comerford, Laura Wallace, Aisling Butler. Subs: Noelle Murphy, Siobhan Fahey, Noelle Maher, Ciara Holden, Aisling Nolan.