KILKENNY’S quest to regain their minor camogie All-Ireland title ended in agony as a last-gasp rally saw Tipperary snatch the crown from their grasp.
The Cats were within touching distance of the spoils in Semple Stadium on Saturday, but they were sunk as a late Nicole Walsh free saw Tipp cap a fine second half performance in which they rallied from nine points down.
The Premier County girls had made a fine start, dashing into the lead thanks to Sarah Fryday’s fourth minute goal, but they were kept quiet for the remainder of the half as Kilkenny took control. The Cats were level within a matter of minutes thanks to points from Claire Phelan, Orla Hanrick and Aisling Curtis, before Phelan grabbed Kilkenny’s first goal on 11 minutes, the Lisdowney player rattling the net after Lydia Fitzpatrick had carved Tipp open with a searing burst.
Kilkenny looked good for their lead. With an iron-clad half-back line of Laura Norris, Megan Farrell and Grace Walsh keeping the Tipp attack quiet the Cats were able to use the stiff breeze at their backs to pile the pressure on the hosts.
The scores continued to flow as Curtis and Miriam Walsh (0-2) led the charge with more points before Orla Hanrick wriggled free from Tipp full-back Sheila Ryan’s challenge and drilled the sliotar to the net on the stroke of half-time.
Kilkenny had purred throughout that first half. The performance left them nine points to the good as the sides trooped in at the break (2-6 to 1-0).
With the wind in their favour now Tipp wasted little time in mounting their comeback. As in the first half, they got off to a fine start when Fryday broke through for her second goal of the game just minutes after the restart. A Brid Quinn point shaved another score off the deficit, before Michael Graham pounced to smash a loose sliotar to the Kilkenny net in the 43rd minute after ’keeper Aine Kinsella had stopped a Nicole Walsh free.
On a high
Tipperary were on a high after that, moving to within a point of the long-time leaders (2-6 to 3-2) when Tara Kennedy grabbed a minor score to leave the game delicately poised with 15 minutes to play.
Kilkenny were looking over their shoulders by that stage, but their nerves were settled somewhat when Lydia Fitzpatrick remained ice-cool to convert two placed balls (a 45 and a free) to ease her side three clear again. With ten minutes left to play it looked like Kilkenny would kick on from here, but they were left flattened when Walsh cracked home Tipp’s fourth goal to level the game with eight minutes to play.
Neither side wanted to let the game escape now. Kilkenny sub Emma Kavanagh swapped points with Alice Fogarty, as the game moved into the final stages, but Walsh’s late free saw the Tipp girls take the title almost at the death.
Kilkenny - A. Kinsella, N. Phelan, J. Cunningham, L. Norris, M. Farrell, G. Walsh, N. Maher, K. Holland, K. Hamilton, L. Fitzpatrick, C. Phelan, M. Walsh, A. Curtis, O. Hanrick, A. Murphy. Sub: E. Kavanagh for Curtis.
Tipperary - O. McEniry, J.A. Burke, S. Ryan, L. McLoughlin, C. Quirke, A. Cremin, M. Barry, B. Quinn, C. Maher, A. Loughnane, E. Fryday, N. Walsh, S. Fryday, M. Graham, C. McGrath. Subs: A. Eviston for Barry, T. Ryan for Loughnane, T. Kennedy for Loughnane, A. Fogarty for McGrath, M. Teehan for Quinn.
Referee - M. O’Kelly (Cork).