THE Kilkenny under-16 camogie team were left heartbroken as their All-Ireland dreams came up agonisingly short against Tipperary on Saturday.
Kilkenny looked good during the opening half, building a double score (0-10 to 0-5) lead by half-time at Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds. Miriam Walsh gave an exhibition of point-taking for the Cats, scoring 0-5 from play.
However, their lead should have been greater. Kilkenny shot seven first half wides, compared to just one for Tipp, something which would prove costly come the final whistle.
Rattled by Tipp’s scoring burst of 2-3 early in the second half, Kilkenny threw everything at their rivals as time ticked by, but couldn’t make the breakthrough.
Trailing by two points Julie-Anne Malone stepped up to a 45 in the 57th minute, but rather than go for a point to halve the deficit she opted to drop the sliotar in - Kilkenny didn’t get a score out of it. Miriam Walsh webt even closer in injury-time, when she made a devastating solo run, but her shot seared the top of the Tipp crossbar.
Kilkenny were smartly out of the blocks from throw-in and pegged Tipp back with their bright play. Julie-Anne Malone (2), Michaela Kenneally, Aine Gannon and Lydia Fitzpatrick (free) all tacked on points during the opening half as Kilkenny, led by the excellent Miriam Walsh, took a stranglehold on proceedings.
Five points up at half-time, the Leinster side seemed destined for the title. However, what was to come could never have been predicted.
Early points from Tara Kennedy and Caoimhe Maher (free) saw Tipp cut the gap to three early in the second half, before the Premier youngsters drew level with a Jenny Grace goal in the 35th minute after some fine spadework from Cliodhna Ryan and Caoimhe Maher (1-7 to 0-10).
Caoimhe Maher then pointed an excellent free near the sideline to edge Tipp in front before Kilkenny suffered another sucker punch in the 40th minute.
A long delivery by Mairead Teehan appeared to take an unfortuinate deflection off a Kilkenny hurley and ended up in the net. All of a sudden, Kilkenny were four points in arrears (2-8 to 0-10).
The Cats tried to rally from that setback, and did keep Tipp scoreless for the final 20 minutes of normal time. Although they dominated possession Kilkenny couldn’t find a route to goal as Tipperary held firm. The Premier County’s defence was much tighter during the second-half; inspired by team captain and St Brigid’s College Callan student Jenny Logue, and centre-back Anne Eviston, they clung on to their lead until the end.
Kilkenny never stopped trying, even throughout injury-time, but they were unable to find that all-importanta leveller.
Meanwhile Kilkenny, despite their best efforts, lost out to Wexford by 2-7 to 1-7 in the Leinster senior semi-final in Glynn-Barntown on Sunday. An Aine Fahey goal helped Kilkenny take a 1-6 to 1-2 lead in at half-time, but they managed just one point during the second-half.
Attention now switches to the start of the championship with their first game away to Offaly on Saturday, June 11.
SCORERS: Tipperary - Jenny Grace, Mairead Teehan (1-0 each); Caoimhe Maher (0-3 frees); Tara Kennedy (0-3, 0-2 frees); Leah McKeough (0-2). Kilkenny - Miriam Walsh (0-6); Julie-Anne Malone (0-3, 0-1 free); Lydia Fitzpatrick (0-2, frees); Michaela Kenneally, Aine Gannon (0-1 each).
Kilkenny - Noelle Murphy (Lisdowney), Deirdre Walsh (Mooncoin), Catherine Foley (Windgap), Katie Doheny (St Lachtain’s), Megan Farrell (Thomastown), Mary O’Connell (Clara), Rachel Lynch (Dicksboro), Miriam Walsh (Tullaroan), Niamh Leahy (Emeralds), Lydia Fitzpatrick (St Lachtain’s), Michaela Kenneally (Windgap), Julie-Anne Malone (Mullinavat), Aine Gannon (Rower-Inistioge), Niamh Dermody (Piltown), Mary Corcoran (St Anne’s). Subs: Niamh Donnelly (Thomastown) for Dermody, 37mins; Ciara Farrell (Thomastown) for Corcoran, Ailish Butler (Thomastown) for Leahy, both 59mins.
Tipperary - Sarah Coonan, Julie-Anne Burke, Jenny Logue (captain), Alana Morris, Ciannah Walsh, Anne Eviston, Laura Loughnane, Caoimhe Maher, Mairead Teehan, Megan Ryan, Leah McKeogh, Tara Kennedy, Gillian McKenna, Jenny Grace, Cliodhna Ryan.
Referee - Karl O’Brien (Dublin).