THE KILKENNY under-14 girls’ Gaelic football team made a rousing start to their inter-county careers when they scored a solid win over Longford in the Leinster championship.
Eoin Hennessy’s charges made a little bit of history on Saturday, as they beat their hosts for the first time at this grade. The feat was all the more incredible as the majority of the panel were playing in their first inter-county game.
Longford have proved to be a bogey team for the Cats since Kilkenny first entered the under-14 championship six years ago and that trend looked to continue when the home side netted two early goals on Saturday.
While the Abbeylara pitch was in immaculate condition the strong swirling breeze proved to be a major factor, never more so than when Longford’s Rachel O’Reilly sent a high ball to the Kilkenny square. It looked like the ball would skim the crossbar but dropped inches underneath and into the corner of the net.
Kilkenny regrouped, but another long ball to the square from midfielder Avril Kelly caught the Cats defence off-guard. The delivery dropped to the net - Longford were two goals up by the fifth minute.
Despite such a setback the Kilkenny girls remained calm and settled into a good pattern of play, with Lauren Valentine and Blathnaid Galwey sending a good supply of ball to the forward line. Kilkenny were creating plenty of chances and got their reward when Ally O’Keeffe hit the net twice in quick succession to level matters by the 10th minute.
Jennifer O’Keeffe and Aoife Cantwell added two points to give the Cats the lead but Longford hit back with a Lauren Burke goal to edge in front again. Aoife Cantwell levelled matters with a fine long range point, but Burke replied to put Longford ahead by the narrowest of margins (3-1 to 2-3) at the break.
Odds against Cats
Playing into the wind in the second half the odds were stacked against Kilkenny, but they took the game to Longford from the outset. Michelle Teehan, Emily McCarthy and Rachel Walsh were solid in defence, while Ciara Phelan, Hannah Scott and Ria Lawson had shots on goal well saved by the Longford ’keeper. Sophie O’Dwyer was introduced into attack and immediately made her presence felt, grabbing a superb point to level the game (3-1 to 2-4) five minutes into the new half.
The Kilkenny forwards had the bulk of possession but were too focused on working the ball through to goal, allowing Longford to defend in numbers and keep them at bay. Substitutes Eadaoin Murphy, Ciara Delaney and Ava Comerford added a new lease of life to Kilkenny and when the Cats wisely opted to take their points the victory was sealed. Points from Ally O’Keeffe, Niamh Deely and a free by Aoife Cantwell gave Kilkenny a three point lead.
Longford needed a goal and had their opportunities, but Niamh Sheehy blocked two attempts while Emily McCarthy and Blathnaid Galwey were superb in defence as the visitors held Longford scoreless for the half. Sophie O’Dwyer added her second point to put four between the sides with ten minutes left, while the sharp-thinking Aobha O’Gorman took a quick free to set up Ally O’Keeffe for the point that gave Kilkenny a well-deserved 2-9 to 3-1 win.
Kilkenny - Laura Tynan, Lauren Valentine, Emily McCarthy, Rachel Walsh, Blathnaid Galwey, Michelle Teehan, Aobha O’Gorman, Aoife Cantwell, Jenny O’Keeffe, Ciara Phelan, Niamh Deely, Danielle Morrissey, Hannah Scott, Ally O’Keeffe, Ria Lawson, Niamh Sheehy, Sophie Dwyer, Ava Comerford, Eadaoin Murphy, Ciara Delaney, Denise Byrne, Tara Clifford, Saoirse Comerford-Liston, Ciara Deely, Aoife Doyle, Kate Drennan, Sinead Fitzpatrick, Shannon Holohan, Clare Kelly, Eimear Keoghan, Brianna Mallon, Caitlin Moore, Hannah Moran, Aine Murphy, Aoife Naddy, Rebecca Nevin, Grace O’Donnell, Ailis O’Shea, Sinead Tuohy, Shauna Valentine.
The Kilkenny under-16s were due to play Wicklow in the opening game of the Leinster championship, but their match was postponed owing to a number of Wicklow players’ involvement in the All-Ireland schools semi-finals. The match has been rescheduled for Friday, March 16 and will be played under lights, with Carlow the likely venue.
After a resounding victory over Carlow in the minor C’ championship, Kilkenny have home venue against Longford next Saturday, where a win will guarantee the Cats a place in the Leinster final. Defeat to Longford will see Kilkenny face a rematch with Carlow in the semi-final in April.