FACED with a must-win game, the Kilkenny under-16s got their All-Ireland prospects back on track with a comprehensive routing of Cork.
Needing a win to keep their national title hopes alive, Kilkenny bounced back from their loss to Tipp with a convincing performance against the Rebels on Sunday. The day got even better, as Limerick’s 2-13 to 3-6 win over the Premier County means Kilkenny’s destiny is in their own hands.
Victory in Limerick next Sunday will guarantee an All-Ireland semi-final spot on July 22, regardless of the outcome between Cork and Tipperary.
Kilkenny performed magnificently last Sunday. They hit 3-12 from play, with all six forwards on the scoresheet. Jenny Clifford led the way with a wonderful display, hitting three points and playing her part in all three goals.
It was nip and tuck in the early stages as Kilkenny, who opened with the wind, trailed Cork by the bare minimum after 10 minutes (0-3 to 0-2). However, once they stepped on the gas the Cats took complete control.
Points from Edel Coonan and a Katie Nolan free restored Kilkenny’s lead, before two goals in two minutes put them in a commanding position. Michaela Kenneally combined with Jenny Clifford to set up Sarah Whelan, who made space for herself before striking home from close range in the 13th minute, before Edel Coonan’s precise shot had the net shaking again just two minutes later.
With momentum and confidence sky high, Kilkenny surged forward with greater gusto. They outscored Cork by 0-5 to 0-1 during the second quarter, with a brace of points each from Katie Nolan (frees) and Michaela Kenneally before Eimear Donnelly’s 25th minute point ensured all six forwards were on the scoresheet.
While Cork trailed by 2-9 to 0-4 at the interval, their challenge was killed off early in the second-half.
The dynamic duo of Coonan and Clifford combined for the third Kilkenny goal. While Clifford’s shot was stopped by goalkeeper Sarah O’Sullivan, Sarah Whelan reacted quickly to finish the rebound from in front of goal (3-10 to 0-5).
Kilkenny maintained their high concentration levels to the end, outscoring Cork 0-6 to 0-4 over the closing 25 minutes, while also introducing Rachel, Debbie and Ciara Phelan, Cliona Quirke and Laura Murphy to the fray.
SCORERS: Kilkenny - Sarah Whelan (2-1); Katie Nolan (0-5, 0-4 frees); Edel Coonan (1-1); Michaela Kenneally (0-4); Jenny Clifford (0-3); Eimear Donnelly, Mary O’Connell (0-1 each). Cork - Joanne O’Keeffe, Dearbhla Aherne, Linda Collins (0-2 each); Sarah Fahy, Clare Sexton, Aisling Wallace (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. Kenneally, J. Clifford, E. Donnelly, S. Whelan, E. Coonan. Subs: R. Phelan, D. Phelan, C. Quirke, C. Phelan, L. Murphy.
Cork - S. O’Sullivan, C. O’Callaghan, A. Crowley, E. O’Connor, L. McEvoy, D. Aherne, C. Murphy, H. Looney, A. Dowling, J. O’Keeffe, R. Twohill, S. Fahy, A. Cremin, L. Collins, C. Sexton. Subs: A. Wallace, J. Kiely, L. Casserly, K. Coughlan.
Referee - Donal Leahy (Tipperary).