The Linda Mellerick column
CORK'S league victory over Kilkenny last weekend was obviously welcomed. Anytime you beat the All-Ireland champions it’s a good day.
Cork were without five of last season’s All-Ireland final starting fifteen but were ably covered by Chloe Sigerson, Jennifer Barry, Linda Collins, Niamh McCarthy and the return of Julia White. I’d say the first four received an awakening with regards the physical step up when you play the Cats.
I admit to being impressed by Kilkenny despite their defeat and I can see further improvement in them in the past six months. Their panel is now circa 35 deep and when one considers the performance of some new starters last weekend it shows how much strength in depth Kilkenny now has.
Kilkenny were without seven of their All-Ireland final winning side. Missing were Jacqui Frisby, Davina Tobin, Collette Dormer, Edwina Keane, Anna Farrell, Katie Power, and Shelly Farrell. In Croke Park the first three were Kilkenny’s entire full back line. Edwina Keane was centre back. Anna Farrell was midfield with Katie Power and Shelly Farrell right half and right corner forward. Those players are huge for Kilkenny and were instrumental in their success. Julianne Malone broke into the Kilkenny side for the final last year and she finished with four points and the Player of the Match accolade. Last Saturday Kelly Ann Doyle made a name for herself. Named at full forward she played deep, won a significant amount of ball, and caused Cork a lot of problems. Ashling Dunphy was number twenty-two for Kilkenny last September. She was midfield last Saturday and also impressed. The seven ‘replacements’ if you can call them that will be pushing hard for inclusion in Kilkenny’s championship side and it’s a dream headache for management.
The impressive forwards just keep coming for the Cats and it’s bred into them, as it is their hurlers, to go for the net at every opportunity. Aoife Murray was busy. Maybe Kilkenny didn’t strike raspers at her but they were getting in around the house on a number of occasions (and this without Power or Farrell).
The success of Kilkenny’s colleges and intercounty underage squads for the past ten years is paying off. The senior monkey is off their back and they are playing an aggressive form of hurling.
Cork have Orla Cotter, Emer O’Sullivan, Hannah Looney, Maeve Cahalane and Briege Corkery to come back into the setup. Big names also. We haven’t seen the last of some titanic battles between these two counties for 2017. Next up could be the league final on April 23rd if both sides come through their semi-finals tomorrow.
I’m trying hard to understand why a senior double header wasn’t played in Semple Stadium, where Galway and Kilkenny are meeting at 4pm. Cork v Limerick is in Páirc Uí Rinn after a toss for home venue. Instead Cork’s minors who were due to play their All Ireland semi-final in Cashel on Saturday against Galway have been switched to Sunday in Semple Stadium as a curtain raiser to the senior game. So not only is Cork’s support divided but our minors must play for the first time in a large stadium in front of far stronger Galway support. Sometimes I just wonder.
Dublin defeated Wexford in the final group game last weekend to take their only points of the league. Wexford are gone. They were poor against Cork and for Dublin to beat them by seven points tells its own story. In truth, Kilkenny and Cork are far ahead of all the rest. In the league, anything can happen and it’s a great stepping stone for counties like Limerick to go all out to win it. But come championship, you really are only left with Cork and Kilkenny. Tipp, Galway and now Limerick will muster ad hoc spirted challenges but when push comes to shove the gap is there and it’s not doing our game any good at all.