THE Kilkenny Ladies Gaelic under-16 footballers earned a shot at the Leinster C title when they outclassed Westmeath at the weekend.
Conditions in Moate were tough, with the teams battling against the wind and rain, but this didn’t stop the Cats from showing their skills and booking their place in the final, where they’ll face the winners of the Offaly v Carlow semi-final.
Boosted by a strong breeze in the first half, Kilkenny made the advantage pay rich dividends. Sinead Whelan opened the scoring with a fine point following some great work by newcomer Jane Walker and Sara Murphy in the corner. Further points followed from Ailish Butler, Mary O’Connell and Jane Walker, before a long Eimer Fitzpatrick delivery found the Westmeath net.
That goal boosted Kilkenny’s determination to pile on more scores, which they duly did. Aine Gannon was next to hit the target, blasting a penalty to the Westmeath net. Further points from Eimer Fitzpatrick and Sinead Whelan rounded off the first half scoring, and left Kilkenny with a commanding lead at the break (2-6 to 0-1).
Turning around at the break Kilkenny played into the teeth of a biting breeze. Coupled with that, they were also faced with tackling a Westmeath side which had been stung by that first half blitz.
The hosts started well, picking off a number of points, but it was Kilkenny’s ability to keep their goal intact that made sure Westmeath could not get a grip on the game. Enya Foley was sound in goal and cleverly used her kick-outs against the breeze, while the full-back line of Jennifer Norris, Nelle Henderson, Alice Carey were ably assisted by Anna Walpole and Maeve O’Connor in repelling the attacks, limiting Westmeath to hard-fought points.
Ailish Butler and Niamh Nolan competed fiercely in midfield and used possession well to release ball carriers Sinead Whelan and Mary O’Connell to set up scores to ensure no Westmeath comeback was on the cards. Defence started in the opposition half and subs Katlyn Phelan, Orlaith Butler, Antonia Power and Ellie Barcoe ensured the workrate did not drop.
It wasn’t all defensive work from Kilkenny. The second half saw the visitors tack on 2-2 to their winning tally, the goals coming from Mary O’Connell and Claire Nolan, while Sinead Whelan and Aine Gannon bagged the insurance points that ensured Westmeath’s late seven-point rally was to no avail.
The county senior league has reached the closing stages, with Thomastown and Railyard all set to meet in the league semi-final this evening (Wednesday). Thomastown overcame Railyard in round one and will have to match that performance to overcome their experienced opponents.
Freshford await the winners in the final, where they will be hoping to add a league title to their 2010 championship crown. The final will be played on Sunday.