AN important win for Matthew Twomey's Cork on Sunday morning, securing their place in the Very Camogie League final, with their work-rate around the field and sharpshooting, as 10 players shared 23 points, the key factors.
With 10 of the starting line-up and 11 of the finishing team that pipped Cork in the All-Ireland final last August, the Cats were tuned in for this league clash at UPMC Nowland Park. The hosts were however without key figures Player of the Year Miriam Walsh and All-Ireland hero Denise Gaule.
Cork were in a similar situation, including 12 starters from the final last September, with Katrina Mackey, Ciara O’Sullivan, and Ashling Thompson marked absent.
It was a perfect day for hurling, a slight wind favouring Kilkenny in the opening half. Kellyann Doyle started and finished a move to give the home side their first score of the game in the opening minute. It was refreshing to see no sweeper on display, a tactic used by many teams that Cork face. Both sides operated a two-player full forward line.
Cork’s remaining four forwards bunched the 40 and sprinted to the wings for fast deliveries. It worked well on occasion, Fiona Keating’s point on 11 minutes a product of such a move from Amy Lee’s puck-out. Kilkenny operated a two, one, three forward division from full-forward out.
Kelly Ann Doyle was prominent in those opening minutes from midfield, but Cork got to grips with her early on with Laura Hayes running up the flanks from both wings causing Kilkenny big problems.
Cork’s work-rate was once again impressive, defensively they swarmed, blocking well and forcing Kilkenny into errors. Up front, particularly on Kilkenny’s short puck-outs, Cork applied good pressure and overturned a few.
Sophie O’Dwyer, a late change to the match programme, was strong up front as Kilkenny led 0-3 to 0-1 after five minutes. Hayes made Cork’s second point after a strong run up the right before hitting the spot herself to level the game eight minutes in.
O’Dwyer hit two either side of Fiona Keating’s second before four on the bounce from Cork, three Amy O’Connor frees and a Cliona Healy point gave Cork a little headway. Two again from Katie Power and O’Dwyer before Cork finished the last six minutes strongly, hitting four, Orlaith Cahalane (2), O’Connor and Hannah Looney providing.
Two points inside a minute by Cork after the restart were more than cancelled out after a humdinger of a goal from Julianne Malone after she came in from the right wing. How she got through to get her strike in is something Cork’s management will want to address. Power added a good point and suddenly just three points in it after Cork had led by seven.
A fine save by Aoife Norris from Cahalane’s shot was pointed by Looney. And from there Cork took over. Six points in a row, nine in total in the final twenty-two minutes. Amy Lee pulled off a magnificent point-blank save with time almost up.
Cork will be happy with scoring 23 points from 10 different scorers with the league final spot now guaranteed.
S O’Dwyer 0-5 (0-3 f), J Malone 1-0, K Power 0-2, S Fitzgerald (f), K A Doyle, A Prendergast (f) 0-1 each.
A O’Connor 0-5 (0-3 f), F Keating 0-4, C Healy 0-3, S McCarthy, O Cahalane, S McCartan, H looney 0-2 each, L Hayes, E Murphy and A Smith 0-1 each.
A Norris; M Teehan, G Walsh, M Bambrick; S Fitzgerald, C Phelan, L Murphy, K Doyle; J Malone, N Deely, M Kenneally; A McHardy, K Power, J Clifford.
T Fitzgerald for M Bambrick (25), J Clifford for M Kenneally (40), E Manogue for K A Doyle (43), A O’Connor for M Teehan (51), A Curtis for A McHardy (52), A Prendergast for N Phelan and C Phelan for L Murphy (43).
A Lee; M Murphy, L Coppinger, M Cahalane; P Mackey, L Treacy, L Hayes; S McCarthy, F Keating; I O’Regan, C Sigerson, C Healy; A O’Connor, O Cahalane, S McCartan.
E Murphy for O Cahalane (44), A O’Neill for C Sigerson (47), C Finn for A O’Connor (53), K Wall for H Looney (55), A Egan for C Healy and A Smith for S McCartan (56), H Ryan and A Barrett for S McCarthy and M Murphy (59).
John Dermody (Westmeath).