THE Kilkenny under-16 ladies Gaelic footballers made it two wins from two when they beat Carlow in the second round of the Leinster football championship at a dry but chilly Askea on Saturday.
Kilkenny had beaten Longford in round one but were minus a number of regulars for the trip to Carlow. However, the Cats made their intentions known from the start against their neighbours when Aoife Cantwell started a long solo from midfield before off-loading to Ria Lawson. The Thomastown girl tapped over for the opening score, adding a second point in the fifth minute to double Kilkenny’s lead.
Carlow were caught by this early burst from their local rivals, leaking another point when Becky Walsh went on a fine solo run through the home defence.
Carlow came more into the game in the second quarter and had their opening point from St Mullins’ Mairead O’Shea. The home side started piling on the pressure but some solid defending from Kilkenny’s Francis Farrell, Enya Foley and Caitlin Skehan kept chances to a minimum. Orla Maher and Chloe Nolan had shots on goal but Kilkenny goalkeeper Niamh Sheehy was equal to the task.
Back on the attack, Kilkenny stretched their lead again when Ruby Harvey charged down a Carlow clearance in the 20th minute. The ball fell to Aoife Cantwell, who grabbed the rebound and scored a superb point from 30 metres to put Kilkenny 0-4 to 0-1 ahead.
The Kilkenny half-back line was the starting point for two crucial scores in a five minute spell. Wing-back Brianna Mallon dispossessed her marker and sent a long ball down the left wing, where Becky Walsh took possession 30 metres from goal.
The Kilkenny starlet ghosted past three Carlow defenders, pausing only to plant the ball low to the ’keeper’s left. With five minutes to the break Carlow went on the attack but were again stopped short by Ciara Cody and Michelle Teehan.
Teehan drove out of defence in a powerful run to midfield before sending a long probing ball to the edge of the Carlow square. The ball broke to Megan Walsh, who sent a rasping shot off the ground into the corner of the net, giving Kilkenny a 2-4 to 0-1 lead at half-time.
Carlow came out in determined fashion after the break and dominated the opening minutes of the new half. Chloe Nolan and Aoibheann Byrne grabbed a point each, Mairead O’Shea adding a third to reduce Kilkenny’s lead to six (2-4 to 0-4).
Kilkenny were caught napping when Carlow won a 20-metre free. With the defence reorganising Mairead O’Shea drove the ball through a crowed square but Niamh Sheehy pulled off a remarkable save, reaching to her left when a goal looked certain.
This proved to be a wake-up call for Kilkenny, who replied in quick style. Sheehy’s clearance found Aoife Naddy, who sent over a fine long range point to put Kilkenny seven points ahead.
The Cats turned the screw with Jane Walker and Lucy Teehan dominant at midfield, the duo working hard to keep a good supply of ball moving to their forward lines.
Any hopes of a Carlow comeback were dashed when Michelle Teehan powered out of defence and the James Stephens player pulled the trigger from 20 metres, driving home Kilkenny’s third goal with 10 minutes remaining.
Carlow came back with a point from Aoibheann Byrne but Teehan grabbed a like score almost immediately. Kilkenny pushed hard for more scores, determined to finish on a high. Megan Walsh and Aoife Naddy both saw shots come off the post while Carlow goalkeeper Anna Breen pulled off three great saves. Substitutes Laura Walsh and Lauren Dermody combined to set up Ria Lawson for the final score of the game and Kilkenny had earned a well-deserved win.
With two wins from two outings the Cats are level with Westmeath and Wicklow at the top of Division 2 but face three tough away trips in the coming weeks.
Louth will be stern opponents on Saturday while Westmeath and Wicklow have recorded big scores in their opening games. They will make the Cats work hard in the final two rounds in April.
Kilkenny - Niamh Sheehy (Thomastown), Frances Farrell (Castlecomer), Enya Foley (Thomastown), Caitlin Skehan (Thomastown), Ciara Cody (Castlecomer), Michelle Teehan (Kilkenny City), Brianna Mallon (Kilkenny City), Lucy Teehan (Kilkenny City), Jane Walker (Mullinahone), Ruby Harvey (Thomastown), Aoife Naddy (Thomastown), Aoife Cantwell (Kilkenny City), Ria Lawson (Thomastown), Megan Walsh (Railyard), Becky Walsh (Thomastown), Lauren Dermody (Castlecomer), Laura Walsh (Castlecomer).
Carlow - Anna Breen (Mt Leinster Rangers), Hannah O’Toole (O’Hanrahan’s), Kate Mooney (Clonmore), Niamh Roche (Old Leighlin), Kate Murphy (St Mullins), Aoibheann Byrne (St Forcherns), Louise Kearns (Ballinkillen), Mairead O’Shea (St Mullins), Chloe Nolan (Baile Ceatharlach), Grainne Mullins (Barrow Rangers), Caoimhe Redmond (St Anne’s), Orla Maher (Ballinkillen), Shannon Foley (Old Leighlin), Kiera Purser (Bennkerry/Tinryland), Ann Roche (Old Leighlin).
Referee - Liam Maher (Laois).
Kilkenny and Louth will do battle not once, not twice but three times this weekend!
While the county under-16s travel to the Wee County on Saturday the under-14s will make the same trip on Easter Monday looking for the third win of their campaign.
The final leg of the triple header between the two counties will see the Louth minors travel to Kilkenny on Easter Monday. Kilkenny will have plenty of preparation for that game, as they must first play Carlow this evening (Wednesday). A win on either outing will guarantee a Leinster semi-final spot.