Hopes of a return to the All-Ireland final grew stronger as Kilkenny edged towards a semi-final berth after beating a gallant Clare in Ennis.
The Cats were quick off the mark on Saturday, racing into a four point lead inside five minutes thanks to Shelly Farrell (2), Michelle Quilty and Denise Gaule. Their advantage could have been greater, but Power had a seventh minute goal chalked off after she was adjudged to have fouled the sliotar before hand-passing it to the net.
That let-off roused Clare, who halved the deficit by the 13th minute thanks to Claire McMahon (free) and Deirdre Murphy. Farrell kept Kilkenny ticking over with a point from 21 metres, but a Chloe Morey free quickly cancelled that out.
Kilkenny were determined not to give up their lead, posting minor scores through Aisling Dunphy and Gaule (free) to ensure they held a four-point lead at the break (0-7 to 0-3).
Things got even better for the Cats after the restart, as they surged even further ahead. Latching on to a breaking ball, Aisling Dunphy made no mistake when she drilled the sliotar to the net from 14 metres.
Denise Gaule continued Kilkenny’s good start, converting a free and a 45. She added another placed score, cancelling out a Claire McMahon free to leave Kilkenny nine points in front after 37 minutes (1-10 to 0-4).
Two Chloe Morey points kept Clare in the game, but they grabbed a lifeline after Gaule was sent off in the 48th minute. Another Morey free made it a six-point game, but while Aisling Dunphy responded with a point Kilkenny’s lead was reduced even further as Clare hit two on the trot through Deirdre Murphy and Morey (1-11 to 0-9).
Although Ann Dalton pointed a massive free to push Kilkenny six clear again Clare wouldn’t give up. After her side won a 21-metre free Chloe Morey went for goal, but her effort was saved.
While Morey converted the 45 Aoife Neary quickly grabbed a like score to take the sting out of that point. Clare did get two more frees, but it was too little too late.
Kilkenny play Derry this weekend. Victory would all but ensure they can look forward to a championship semi-final berth next month.
Kilkenny - Emma Kavanagh, Mairead Power, Kate McDonald, Jacqui Frisby, Claire Phelan, Colette Dormer, Elaine Aylward, Aine Connery, Ann Dalton (0-1, free), Leann Fennelly, Aisling Dunphy (1-2), Denise Gaule (0-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 45), Michelle Quilty (0-1), Katie Power, Shelly Farrell (0-3). Subs: Aine Kinsella, Aoife Neary (0-1, 45), Grace Walsh, Edwina Keane, Miriam Walsh, Stacey Quirke, Claire Aylward, Lydia Fitzpatrick, Aine Fahey.
Clare - Denise Lynch, Chloe Morey (0-6, 0-5 frees), Maire McGrath, Carol O’Leary, Eimear Considine, Niamh O’Dea, Roisin McMahon, Kate Lynch, Orlaith Duggan, Niki Kaiser, Lisa Loughnane, Deirdre Murphy (0-2), Ellen Horgan, Fiona Lafferty, Claire McMahon (0-4). Subs: Aisling Corbett, Aoife Griffin, Kathleen Hogan, Caitriona Hennessy, Vera Loughnane, Helen McMahon, Kate O’Gorman, Aida Griffey, Aoife Keane, Sinead Collins, Sarah O’Donnell, Naomi Carroll.
Referee - Cathal Egan.