THE Kilkenny under-14 ladies Gaelic footballers earned another Leinster title for the county at the weekend.
The Kittens followed in the footsteps of their under-16 counterparts, who recently claimed the Division 2B title, by beating Wicklow in a closely-fought provincial decider in Tinryland.
Eoin Hennessy’s side really hit the ground running, getting a dream start when a Hannah Scott goal and Ciara Delaney point left them 1-1 to 0-0 up after three minutes.
Although Wicklow recovered with two points from Roisin O’Reilly they couldn’t get the better of their rivals. The sides proved to be well matched in all quarters, Kilkenny’s Jennifer O’Keeffe added a superb point in the 14th minute, a score which was equally matched by Wicklow full-forward Marie Kealy before sharpshooter Ciara Delaney showed her free-taking skills, tapping over from a tight angle to leave Kilkenny a goal clear (1-3 to 0-3) after 20 minutes.
A tight game was the order of the day as both sets of forwards got plenty of chances but found the defences capable of marking and tackling superbly. Kate Drennan, Aoife Doyle and Nicole Carter had attempts blocked by a hard-working Wicklow full-back line while a great battle went on between Kilkenny’s Aobha O’Gorman and Wicklow forward Rioghna McGettigan.
Wicklow piled on the pressure before the break and got their reward when Marie Kealy rattled the net approaching half-time. With the scores now level (1-3 apiece) Wicklow went probing for the lead but Kilkenny launched one more attack, earning what would prove to be a crucial score.
Snuffing out a quick Wicklow free, Blaithnaid Galwey weaved her way past two tackles before hitting a high ball goalward from the 20 metre line. With the Wicklow defence off-guard the ball struck the back of the net, restoring Kilkenny’s three-point lead. Wicklow went on the counter-attack, but Laura Tynan made a great save to deny Saoirse O’Reilly and maintain her side’s advantage at the interval (2-3 to 1-3).
It didn’t take Wicklow long to make their presence felt in the second half as, within seconds of the restart, the ever-sharp Marie Kealy found the net from close range to level matters again.
The Kilkenny girls were now put to the test, raising their game to gain the upper hand once more. The full-back line of Andi Snyder, Neasa Galwey and Shauna Valentine held Wicklow scoreless for 25 minutes while a storming run from midfield by captain Niamh Deely earned a twenty metre free which Ciara Delaney duly pointed to edge the Kittens ahead again (2-4 to 2-3).
An excellent Blaithnaid Galwey point doubled Kilkenny’s lead before Galwey started the move that tipped the title Kilkenny’s way. Galwey linked up with Aoife Doyle, who sent an inch-perfect pass to Kate Drennan in front of goal. Drennan turned her marker before sending an unstoppable shot to the Wicklow net giving Kilkenny a 3-05 to 2-03 lead with ten minutes left.
The Kilkenny forwards were now in top gear, Nicole Carter adding to their lead with a great point from a narrow angle. With time ticking away Wicklow did halve the deficit when a high ball from Eleanor Dunne found the corner of the Kilkenny net. They pushed for an equaliser, but Wicklow were denied by a Kilkenny defence who held firm until the final whistle.
After a great performance Niamh Deely was named Player of the Match for her performance. Deely was also presented with the Leinster Shield by Leinster secretary Cathal Friel, who congratulated the girls on their fine win and predicted a bright future in the game for this talented Kilkenny side.
Kilkenny - Laura Tynan, Andi Snyder, Neasa Galwey, Shauna Valentine, Eadaoin Murphy, Aobha O’Gorman, Emily McCarthy, Niamh Deely (captain), Bláthnaid Galway, Ciara Delaney, Jennifer O’Keeffe, Hannah Scott, Aoife Doyle, Kate Drennan, Nicole Carter, Eva Hynes, Beth Behan, Saoirse Comerford-Liston, Rebecca Nevin, Lucy Power, Jane Cass, Laoise Prendiville, Rebecca Roche, Sinead Fitzpatrick, Kate Dempsey, Hannah Kelly, Rachel Kelly, Lizzie Buckley, Emma Nolan, Holly Smith, Roisin Allen, Danielle Morrissey.
Determined to follow in the footsteps of the under-14s and under-16s the Kilkenny under-12 squad will continue preparations for the Leinster blitz on June 15 in Carlow. The panel will have training in James’s Park on Sunday with an earlier start of 10am due to the Kilkenny v Offaly hurling decider.
Two panels will be selected to take part in the provincial blitz. Players will be given all information for blitz day next week.