IT WAS tough and tense, and at times a dour struggle, but a strong-willed Kilkenny got the job done as they displayed their battling qualities to grind out a priceless two point win (1-10 to 0-11) over resolute Clare in the second round of the All-Ireland senior camogie championship.
Kilkenny would have made life easier if they had been more clinical in their shooting, writes Michael O’Leary. However, a tally of 10 wides including some easy gilt edged chances put paid to that notion. Clare registered a solitary wide throughout the hour.
A Denise Gaule goal in the 14th minute gave Kilkenny a 1-4 to 0-2 lead before Clare responded from placed balls as the highly influential Chloe Morey and full-forward Claire McMahon were both on target.
The lead changed hands on five occasions throughout the second half as experienced veteran Deirdre Murphy came to the fore for the Banner ladies, pointing twice from play.
Clare, favoured by the breeze during the second half, appeared to have the greater composure as they led by 0-11 to 1-7 in the 53rd minute.
However, Kilkenny dug deep and a third point from play by Katie Power levelled proceedings for the fifth time during the half. Michelle Quilty pointed a free in the 56th minute to restore Kilkenny’s lead, before missing a straight forward free that went wide of goal in the 58th minute.
However, an Ann Dalton point from play approaching injury-time put a bit of daylight between them, but a nervous finish was still to be endured.
Elaine Aylward was harshly penalised for over carrying the ball and Clare were awarded a free. Chloe Morey’s long distance attempt dropped in around the goalmouth, but a Clare forward was penalised for an infringement inside the square, and to Kilkenny’s relief, a free out was awarded.
However, Clare attempted to conjure one last attack when Claire McMahon soloed forward from the left-wing, but she was stopped in her tracks by Kate McDonald, who made a vital interception before Mike O’Kelly called a halt to proceedings as Kilkenny held on.
Despite being a tough battle, it was a deserved victory for Kilkenny who finished off a successful month following the Leinster final success over Wexford and an opening round championship victory away to Galway.
Defensively, they were impressive once again, conceding only 0-4 from play.
The drive, determination and expierence of Jacqui Frisby and Elaine Aylward, who were both superb, led the way forward as Clare constantly posed a threat throughout the closing half.
Kate McDonald at full-back excelled and turned in a sterling display. She has established herself as one of Kilkenny’s players of the season to date.
Mairead Power was steady and solid again at corner-back in only her second championship game, while Edwina Keane improved in stature and imposed herself the longer the second-half went on.
Claire Phelan worked industrially throughout around midfield, while Ann Dalton gave another solid display. However, there is room for improvement in attack.
Aoife Neary and Aisling Dunphy were both substituted, while none of the three replacements Leanne Fennelly, Michelle Quilty and Kelly Hamilton scored from play.
Katie Power scored 0-3 from play despite being relatively quiet, while Denise Gaule made another positive impact as she scored 1-1 for the third game running.
Credit to Clare for making life difficult for Kilkenny, and who knows, they could end meeting Kilkenny again at the semi-final stage in August.
Goalkeeper Denise Lynch was solid and assured. Sinead O’Loughlin and Maire McGrath in the full-back line were magnificent as they seldom gave the Kilkenny forwards any space.
Chloe Morey was commanding presence at centre-back, while Kate Lynch was solid alongside her. Naomi Carroll, Deirdre Murphy and Claire McMahon were also positive contributors to Clare’s performance.
Overall, Kilkenny have plenty going for them right now, it would appear.
A Leinster final victory over Wexford, followed by two championship victories that could have gone either way, has left them in good spirits. They have a match against Derry to look forward to this weekend.
An expected victory will secure, at the very least, a quarter-final spot.
Player of the match: Jacqui Frisby (Kilkenny)
The star performers were in defence. Elaine Aylward, and Kate McDonald were magnificent, while Sinead O’Loughlin, Maire McGrath and Chloe Morey were excellent for Clare
Scorers: Kilkenny - Denise Gaule (1-1); Katie Power (0-3); Ann Dalton, Michelle Quilty (0-2 each); Aisling Dunphy, Claire Phelan 0-1 each). Clare - Claire McMahon (0-5, frees); Chloe Morey (frees), Naomi Carroll, Deirdre Murphy (0-2 each).
Kilkenny - Emma Kavanagh (Rower-Inistioge), Mairead Power (Carrickshock), Kate McDonald (Thomastown), Jacqui Frisby (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Grace Walsh (Tullaroan), Edwina Keane (St. Martins), Elaine Aylward (Mullinavat), Collette Dormer (Paulstown), Ann Dalton (St. Lachtains), Claire Phelan (Lisdowney), Aisling Dunphy (St. Brigids), Katie Power (Piltown), Aoife Neary (James Stephens), Denise Gaule (Windgap), Shelly Farrell (Thomastown). Subs - Leanne Fennelly (Mullinavat) for Dormer and Michelle Quilty, capt (Mullinavat) for Neary both half-time, Kelly Hamilton (Rower-Inistioge) for Dunphy 47 minutes,
Clare - Denise Lynch (captain), Sinead O’Loughlin, Maire McGrath, Carol O’Leary, Kate Lynch, Chloe Morey, Niamh O’Dea, Eimear Considine, Naomi Carroll, Deirdre Murphy, Susan Vaughan, Lisa Loughnane, Sinead Tuohy, Claire McMahon, Ailish Considine. Subs - Vera Loughnane for Ailish Considine 23 minutes, Fiona Lafferty for Lisa Loughnane 34 minutes, Roisin McMahon for Loughnane 49 minutes
Referee - Mike O’Kelly (Cork).