THE Kilkenny minor ladies Gaelic footballer scored a big win over local rivals Carlow to open their provincial championship in style.
The sides were well matched in the opening minutes at Tullow on Monday evening, but Kilkenny slowly gained control to take a 1-2 to 0-0 lead by the 10th minute. The hosts continued to press but Railyard’s Megan Walsh was solid in goals, sending fine clearances to midfield where Ailish Butler and Marie Murphy dominated. The Thomastown-Mullinavat duo controlled the game throughout, setting up further scores for colleagues Leanne Walsh and Joanne O’Hanrahan, who tormented the Carlow defence.
A Carlow goal did leave Kilkenny under a little pressure before half-time, but a solid defence featuring the likes of Sarah Roche, Jennifer Norris and Nelle Henderson ensured the Cats held a six-point lead at the break (1-7 to 1-1).
Carlow tried to get back into the game in the second half, but were worn down by a resolute Kilkenny. Claire Nolan and Alyson Creane tested the Carlow ’keeper before goals from Sinead Whelan, Joanne O’Hanrahan, and Niamh Donnelly put the game beyond reach.
Thomastown starlet Leanne Walsh added 1-3 to her tally while Kilkenny were able to introduce several subs for the final quarter. Piltown’s Sinead McCarthy and Lorraine Long slotted in comfortably along with the Thomastown quartet of Niamh Quigley, Alice Carey, Maeve O’Connor and Ciara Nevin as Kilkenny ran out easy 5-10 to 1-3 winners.
Despite a number of players unavailable for the Carlow clash Richie Windle, Brendan Cooke and Paul Whelan had a fine panel on display. With many of the girls playing senior club football the standard at this age group has improved greatly. Kilkenny’s next outing, which is against Louth in March, will be a much stiffer test but the Cats will be out to get the result that could guarantee a Leinster final berth.
Kilkenny - Megan Walsh, Sarah Roche, Ailish O’Neill, Laura Whelan, Jennifer Norris, Nora Daly, Nelle Henderson, Ailish Butler (captain), Marie Murphy, Claire Nolan, Leanne Walsh, Alyson Creane, Niamh Donnelly, Sinead Whelan, Joanne O’Hanrahan, Sinead McCarthy, Lorraine Long, Niamh Quigley, Alice Carey, Maeve O’Connor, Ciara Nevin.
The county’s under-14 and under-16 teams will begin their Leinster championships this weekend. Eoin Hennessy takes his under-14s to Longford on Saturday with many of the girls making their debut in the black and amber.
Backboned by last year’s under-13 development squad the panel has had six weeks of consistent training and a challenge match against a strong Tipperary side under their belt. With the number of players competing at under-14 level more than doubling in the past year the Cats will present a tough test for their hosts.
The under-16s have a home game against Wicklow this Saturday also. Barry Hayes and P.J. Whelan have taken this side through from under-12 level and will be determined to add more silverware to the Leinster titles earned at under-14 and under-16 for the county in recent years.