IT WASN’T THE prettiest performance, but in the end proved effective as Kilkenny qualified for a second consecutive All-Ireland minor camogie decider.
The Cats had their work cut out but overcame a hard-trying Cork outfit at a windy Ballyagran on the Cork/Limerick border on Saturday afternoon.
The catalyst for Kilkenny’s victory was based on a strong work ethic of sheer grit and determination especially their exceptional defensive unit who were simply brilliant.
Cork had their fair share of the possession throughout the hour, but were subdued by the determination of the Kilkenny backs. The winners were led by Michaela Kenneally, who dominated the left-corner back position from start to finish.
The Dunammaggin native never gave her direct opponent a shot on goal; on several occasions she bustled her way out of danger in swashbuckling style.
Kenneally’s fellow corner-back Laura Dunne also excelled. She gave an exceptional display, especially during the closing minutes when Cork applied strong pressure, making vital interceptions to deny the Rebelettes.
The half-back line excelled greatly also. Megan Farrell gave a typically great display at wing-back, with her long clearance eventually leading to the crucial goal.
Centre-back Miriam Walsh was superb, operating in front of the full-back line as she shut down Cork’s route to goal. Netminder Noelle Murphy might not have had much to do over the hour, but like the one-point victory over Galway in the opening round, the Lisdowney shot-stopper was on hand to pull off two point-blank saves.
Brave and alert
Murphy had to be brave and alert late on as Cork almost grabbed a second goal. A defensive mistake late in the game almost cost Kilkenny, but the defence was thankful for Murphy’s presence, as she brilliantly pulled off a one-handed save to keep her team in front.
Further afield, the Kilkenny midfielders and forwards may not have excelled like their defence, but they kept applying a strong work ethic right to the very end.
Sarah Anne Quinlan gave an exhibition during the opening half. She scored 0-3 from play and was central to the majority of Kilkenny’s attacks. Orla Hanrick was top scorer with 1-7. As well as grabbing the vital goal she proved prolific with the frees all day, missing the target just once.
Julie-Anne Malone was a source of danger any time she was in possession, and her storming scintillating run played a key part in Hanrick’s goal.
Niamh Phelan did well also. Started at full-forward before moving to the opposite end of the field early in the second-half, she was solid throughout.
Kilkenny led 0-9 to 1-1 at half-time following a magnificent half hour’s display.
The Cork goal came against the run of play in the ninth minute, Katelynn Hickey netting when she rifled an unstoppable ground strike that gave Noelle Murphy no chance.
The second half was a very scrappy affair. The two Orlas, Cronin and Hanrick, pointed from placed balls as the Kilkenny defence dealt brilliantly with the Cork onslaught.
The crucial score came in the 50th minute.
A Cork attack was broken up when Megan Farrell launch a long diagonal clearance downfield. A slip by a Cork defender saw Julie-Ane Malone seize on her chance, tearing down the left wing. Surging forward, she elected to shoot some 40 yards out from goal.
The shot dropped short, but as the loose sliotar trickled in front of the Cork goal, Orla Hanrick stepped in to get the vital connection.
Cork protested about the possibility of a square ball, but following consultations between the referee and his two umpires, the goal stood. Kilkenny were on their way.
Cork finished with a late flurry, adding points from their lively goalscorer Katelynn Hickey, substitute Jennifer Hosford and an Orla Cronin free, but they couldn’t manufacture the all- important late goal to set up a grandstand finish.
Kilkenny held firm until the final whistle. Noelle Murphy, Laura Dunne, Miriam Walsh and Michaela Kenneally led the lines well, withstanding the Cork surge as the Cats booked their All-Ireland final spot.
SCORERS: Kilkenny - Orla Hanrick (1-7, 0-5 frees, 0-1 45); Sarah Anne Quinlan (0-3). Cork - Katelynn Hickey (1-1); Orla Cronin (0-2, frees); Aisling Moloney (0-1 free); Jennifer Hosford (0-1).
Kilkenny - Noelle Murphy, Laura Dunne, Catherine Foley, Michaela Kenneally, Megan Farrell, Miriam Walsh, Kate Holland, Aine Kinsella, Lydia Fitzpatrick, Kelly Hamilton, Sarah Anne Quinlan, Julie-Anne Malone, Lorraine Long, Niamh Phelan, Orla Hanrick. Subs: Siobhan Corcoran, Marie Doheny, Aine Gannon.
Cork - Chelsea Noonan, Alanna Barry, Leanne O’Sullivan, Aoife Walsh, Emma Kavanagh, Tessa Crowley, Laura Tracey, Aisling Moloney, Emma Crowley, Orla Cronin, Julie Mulcahy, Rebecca Murphy, Linda Collins, Rachel Sheehan. Subs: Jennifer Hosford, Emma Madigan.
Referee - Fintan McNamara (Clare).