THE fact that neither side needed the win last Saturday to advance to the Division 1 semi-finals of the Littlewoods Ireland National League didn’t diminish the rivalry and bite that exists when Cork and Kilkenny meet.
That rivalry is going back 40 years. It evaporated during the late nineties and noughties as Kilkenny slipped in the rankings but it’s back with a bang, particularly after last September’s All-Ireland final.
Just a point separated the sides in Dunmore after a tough, physical encounter. Cork were only itching for another game against the Cats. It didn’t matter that the outcome was meaningless in the table rankings, Cork were motivated and worked their socks off. Kilkenny likewise, hence the low scoring game in a right battle.
We could well have the same pairing in league final action in three weeks’ time as Cork face Limerick and Kilkenny take on Galway next Sunday.
There were brief moments of very good play with some precision tackling, interceptions from Laura Treacy, Aoife Murray and Gemma O’Connor spring to mind.
While Cork had strong performances all over the field, Katrina Mackey must be singled out for what was a top-class display. Finishing with eight points, three from play, from both placed balls and free play she was unerring.
Cork played with wind advantage for the first period. Sixteen minutes in they led 0-3 to 0-1. By the 22nd it was four points apiece.
Ann Dalton and Ashling Dunphy were doing well for Kilkenny in the middle of the part yet so too was Gemma O’Connor. The Cats looked fresh, full of running and confident (an All-Ireland win will do that to you). They at times again showed flashes of brilliance with Miriam Walsh unlucky not to finish a cohesive move to the net, but Cork’s defence were excellent, covering each other well. Cork weren’t letting Kilkenny out of their own defence too easily either and despite the strong work of Meighan Farrell, Kelly Ann Doyle and Dalton Cork were coping admirably.
Kilkenny had eleven wides in total, six in the opening half. Many of them however were forced errors due to strong Cork pressure.
It was score for score. Cork pushed two ahead on two occasions in the first half and with Mackey scoring her sixth point on the stroke of half time, that was the margin at the break.
The latter started the second as she finished the first, giving Cork their biggest lead throughout the game in three points. Julianne Malone made two dashing runs from the right corner and bore down on goal but for the first Aoife Murray was composed and forced Malone to foul, winning a free out. For the second Cork swarmed and cleared. Ashling Dunphy struck over with Julianne adding another on fifty minutes. Just three points scored in twenty minutes doesn’t make for exciting reading but such was the intensity in the game it was enthralling.
Julia White pointed before two Michelle Quilty frees made it 0-10 to 0-9.
Finola Neville, on the pitch just three minutes, confidently pointed with Mackey adding her eighth to give Cork that three-point advantage again entering the final minute. A few stoppages however led to five minutes’ additional time. Miriam Walsh pointed twice and Kilkenny then chased the equaliser. But Cork held firm to record an important win, regardless of what the table already said.
K Mackey 0-8 (0-5 f), C Sigerson 0-1, A O’Connor 0-1, J White, F Neville 0-1 each.
D Gaule 0-2 (0-1 f), M Quilty 0-2 (f), M Walsh 0-2, J Malone 0-2, A Dalton 0-1, K A Doyle, A Dunphy 0-1 each.
A Murray; L O’Sullivan, R Buckley, L Treacy; P Mackey, A Thompson, C Sigerson; G O’Connor, J Barry; A O’Connor, O Cronin, J White; K Mackey, N McCarthy, L Collins.
L Coppinger for L O’Sullivan (44), F Neville for L Collins (55), R O’Shea for P Mackey (inj 57).
E Kavanagh; A Nolan, C Foley, G Walsh; C Phelan, M Farrell, M Teehan; A Dalton, A Dunphy; J Reddy, M Walsh, M Quilty; J Malone, K A Doyle, D Gaule.
L Murphy for G Walsh (43), G O’Donnell for K A Doyle (inj, 47), J Clifford for M Quilty (55).
Ray Kelly (Kildare).