A LAST GASP goal from Jenny Clifford helped the Kilkenny under-16 camogie team live to fight another day.
Clifford saved her best until injury-time of a breath-taking contest, grabbing the score that kept the Cats’ All-Ireland dream alive.
In a see-saw tussle Kilkenny seemed on track for the final when they led Dublin by eight points (2-7 to 1-2) approaching half-time, but a Dublin goal blitz left them facing the exit door with the end of normal time approaching.
Closing the gap to three as the game moved into injury-time, Kilkenny knew nothing but a goal would do.
Awarded a free 50 metres from goal following a crowded scramble for possession, Mary O’Connell lobbed the sliotar towards the posts. Although surrounded by a cluster of Dubs, Jenny Clifford gathered possession and somehow palmed the sliotar over her head and into the roof of the net.
Sunday’s encounter was a pulsating contest, with first class spirit and determination on show from both teams.
Edel Coonan opened the scoring with a point from play after just 55 seconds, before Dublin drew first blood with a well taken third minute goal from Orla Beegan.
Kilkenny responded, regaining the lead by the 18th minute thanks to points from Michaela Kenneally, Katie Nolan and Jenny Clifford. Ailish O’Neill equalised right from the puck-out, before Edel Coonan struck home Kilkenny’s first goal after her initial shot was saved (1-5 to 1-2).
Kilkenny were motoring now. Clifford and Coonan added further points, each one coming either side of Coonan’s second goal in the 25th minute.
Kilkenny were now leading 2-7 to 1-2 and seemed to be cruising. However they eased off the gas before half-time, allowing Orla Beegan and the ever-dangerous Martha O’Donoghue to grab points that made the gap a more manageable five points by the break (2-7 to 1-5).
It didn’t take Dublin long to wipe out the deficit. Eve Keogh narrowed the gap with 33rd minute point, then Aisling O’Leary slotted the sliotar home after Kilkenny failed to deal with a Doireann Mullany delivery.
Kilkenny took action, introducing Laura Murphy and Rachel Phelan, but a Mullany point meant the sides were level (2-7 to 2-7).
Sarah Whelan restored Kilkenny’s lead before she and Eimear Donnelly were replaced by Megan Walsh and Ciara Byrne, but disaster struck when Aoife Molloy pounced to finish for Dublin after Martha O’Donoghue’s shot was blocked.
Kilkenny switched Mary O’Connell to centre-forward, with Katie Nolan moving to centre-back. O’Connell was a leading lights during the second half, converting a brace of frees to restore parity as the game ticked into the final 10 minutes.
The stage was set for a thrilling finale. Orla Beegan pushed Dublin ahead with a 51st minute free to restore Dublin’s lead. They seemed to seal victory a minuter later, Tara O’Flaherty reacting quickest to poke the sliotar home after Martha O’Donoghue hit the post.
At that stage the game looked to be drifting from Kilkenny, but the Cats weren’t done. O’Connell (free) left three between the sides, with Clifford completing the Houdini act to give her side another chance in the replay.
SCORERS: Kilkenny - Edel Coonan (2-2); Jenny Clifford (1-2); Mary O’Connell (0-3, frees); Katie Nolan (0-2, frees); Michaela Kenneally, Katie Nolan (0-1 each). Dublin - (Orla Beegan 1-4, 0-2 frees); Aoife Molloy, Aisling O’Leary, Tara O’Flaherty (1-0 each); Doireann Mullany, Eve Keogh, Martha O’Donoghue, Ailish O’Neill (0-1 each).
Kilkenny - K. Maher, S. Walsh, D. Walsh, M. Bambrick, A. Gannon, M. O’Connell, R. Breen, M. Corcoran, A. Talbot, K. Nolan, M. Kennealy, J. Clifford, E. Donnelly, S. Whelan, E. Coonan. Subs: L. Murphy for Bambrick, R. Phelan for Breen both 35 mins; M. Walsh for Donnelly, C. Byrne for Whelan, both 39 mins.
Dublin - F. McCarthy, M. Cronin, N. Byrne, B. McQuillan, A. Woods, A.M. Courtney, H. Geraghty, L. Mullins, D. Mullany, O. Beegan, A. Molloy, E. Keogh, M. O’Donoghue, A. O’Leary, A. O’Neill. Sub: T. O’Flaherty for O’Neill, 45 mins.
Referee - Aidan O’Brien (Wexford).