Fate was against Kilkenny! They played better than they did last year. They had a right go, but they ended up being beaten in successive finals for the first time ever.
Oh how cruel! To the finish it was tough, tough going for brave Kilkenny in this All-Ireland senior camogie final against excellent Cork, who took their 26th crown in Croke Park on Sunday.
In the space of a few minutes during a frantic finish Kilkenny were denied what looked a definite penalty. The call didn’t go their way. And then in the dying seconds Cork grabbed their second goal to bury the opposition deeper than was fair on the run of play.
“It is hard to take something like that,” admitted Kilkenny manager, Niall Williams. “The girls gave so much and then at the finish everything turned against them. It was cruel, very cruel.”
The penalty incident didn’t appear to be a perhaps or maybe issue. The losers had worked the ball virtually to the Cork line at the Hill 16 end goal, but Aoife Neary was tackled rugby like and was knocked to the ground. The referee read the incident as a stumble or something, because there was no whistle.
Eventually a free out was awarded. The score was 1-11 to 1-9 at the time. There was barely a minute of normal time remaining.
Instead of getting a crack at a possible game changing penalty, Kilkenny were hit for a point from a free by the fine striking Orla Cotter and a late goal by Angela Walsh, who fairly creased the net after being put in the clear by a lovely hand-pass from the hugely effective Julia White.
That was the final chapter in a premier class final during which every crust was earned. The losers were the better team during the opening half. They wouldn’t have been flattered had they been more than the 1-6 to 0-4 clear they were at the rest.
Cork goalie, Aoife Murray, denied them a goal in spectacular style in the sixth minute when saving a tapped effort from close range by Michelle Quilty after Aine Connery and Katie Power had combined to cut the defence wide open.
Cork, however, upped the tempo after the turn. With powerful hurling by strong centre-back, Gemma O’Connor, Eimear O’Sullivan, Briege Corkery, Orla Cotter as free taker and space creator and the hard running Julie White they put the opposition under ferocious pressure.
There was inspired movement to Kilkenny’s opening play, as they swarmed around any opponent in possession. It was a high pressure game. They executed it well. Part of the plan was to drill high ball to full-forward, Katie Power, and she had a great hand when fielding high ball.
Anyway, after Power and Julia White swopped early points the Cork goal was saved by their goalie before Michelle Quilty won the lead for last year’s losing finalists (0-2 to 0-1). Kilkenny showed the way to the rest.
Their goal arrived in the 17th minute, a neat tap home by the probing Michelle Quilty after Denise Gaule and Ann Dalton drilled a hole in the winners defence (1-3 to 0-2). When Gaule added a quick point from the left wing, Kilkenny were moving well and with menace as they employed a strong pressure game.
At half-time the score was: Kilkenny 1-6, Cork 0-4. The Cats looked good, especially Ann Dalton, Collette Dormer, Jacqui Frisby, Elaine Aylward, Gaule, Power and Quilty.
The winners were hit for another point within a minute of the restart. Shelly Farrell finished smartly after a good catch and lay-off by Power following a free in by Denise Gaule.
Cork were only warming up. This time they chased down the opposition at every turn. They went on a scoring run of 1-5 without reply, with Jennifer O’Leary bagging the goal after an assist by the deadly Angela Walsh (1-8 to 1-7).
The winners added a point to that lead through Orla Cotter. Kilkenny’s next score, after a 14 minute barren spell, was landed by Denise Gaule. It was a one point game, 1-9 to 1-8 with 15 minutes remaining.
Kilkenny drove two wides as they chased the equaliser. Cork shot one at the other end before Briege Corkery claimed an invaluable point. Cotter converted a 45 next after goalie, Emma Kavanagh saved from Angela Walsh. A score from Collette Dormer, who had moved into the attack, left Kilkenny very much in it when she pointed on 58 minutes.
The penalty appeal followed. The game blew up in Kilkenny faces after that.
Scorers: Cork - Orla Cotter (0-6, three frees, one 45); Jennifer O’Leary (1-1); Angela Walsh (1-0); Briege Corkery (0-2); Eimear O’Sullivan, Julia White, Katriona Mackey (0-1 each). Kilkenny - Denise Gaule (0-5, four frees); Michelle Quilty (1-1); Colette Dormer, Katie Power, Shelly Farrell (0-1 each).
Kilkenny - Emma Kavanagh (Rower-Inistioge); Mairead Power (Carrickshock), Kate McDonald (Thomastown), Jacqui Frisby (Ballyhale Shamrocks); Claire Phelan (Lisdowney), Collette Dormer (Paulstown), Elaine Aylward (Mullinavat); Leann Fennelly, capt (Mullinavat), Ann Dalton (St Lachtain’s); Denise Gaule (Windgap), Aisling Dunphy (St Brigid’s), Aine Connery (St Lachtain’s); Shelly Farrell (Thomastown), Katie Power (Piltown), Michelle Quilty (Mullinavat). Subs - Miriam Walsh (Tullaroan) for Connery 43rd min; Aoife Neary (James Stephens) for S. Farrell 52nd min; Edwina Keane (St Martin’s) for L. Fennelly 56th min.
Cork - Aoife Murray; Joanne O’Callaghan, Anna Geary (capt), Laura Tracey; Eimear O’Sullivan, Gemma O’Connor, Pamela Mackey; Rena Buckley, Ashling Thompson; Jennifer O’Leary, Angela walsh, Briege Corkery; Julia White, Orla Cotter, Katriona Mackey. Sub - Joanne Casey for J. O’Leary 60th min.
Ref - John Dolan (Clare).
Frees - Kilkenny 9 (6 and 3); Cork 18 (10 and 8). Wides - Kilkenny 6 (4 and 2); Cork 5 (2 and 3).