by Daragh Ó Conchúir
The Kilkenny juggernaut got its bid for a fourth consecutive national title off to the perfect start with a comfortable win in a south east derby against Waterford at Walsh Park.
The Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie champions went into the Group 1 opener in good heart, having come off another League triumph, and exhibited their well-being with three points in the opening three minutes from Katie Power, Denise Gaule and Julieann Malone.
Beth Carton stemmed the tide from a free but it was a momentary respite as Kilkenny struck for a goal and four points without reply.
Shelly Farrell provided the major while Malone added another couple of points to help put nine between them. Carton steadied the ship for Waterford though and it was 1-9 to 0-4 at the interval.
Carton reduced the margin to seven soon after the resumption but crucially, while the hosts kept their neighbours scoreless until the final quarter, they failed to make any further inroads themselves and were dispensed with in ruthless fashion in that closing period.
The Noresiders hit five consecutive points, including three from frees by Danielle Morrissey before Power provided a late goal to make it 2-16 to 0-6 at the final whistle.
In the group’s other game Dublin got the better of Clare in a cracker at the Parnell’s grounds in Coolock by 3-11 to 1-14.
It took a very good second-half effort from David Herity’s charges to register the win as they trailed by 1-7 to 1-3 at the interval. Siobhan Kehoe’s goal after eight minutes gave them an early four-point lead but Clare responded well, Niamh O’Dea’s goal setting them up for a strong second quarter.
Clare moved six points clear with just over 20 minutes remaining but goals from Aisling Maher and Zoe O’Donoghue edged Dublin ahead and points from Ali Twomey and Faye McCarthy (free) confirmed the victory.
In Group 2, Cork used a strong wind to pull away from Tipperary in the second half and record a 1-16 to 1-7 win at The Ragg. The home team had a mountain to climb at the interval as they trailed 0-6 to 0-4 despite having the advantage of the elements, and Cork pulled away after the break.
And there was a mild surprise in the other game as Offaly, who have proved doughty championship competitors in recent years, came away from the Gaelic Grounds with a 2-18 to 3-14 success over Limerick.
The Shannonsiders had followed up an appearance in the last four of the League with an historic defeat of Cork in the Munster Final but were always playing catch-up once Offaly hit eight points in a row in the first half.
Goals from Dearbhla Egan, Aisling Scanlon and Mairead Fitzgerald gave them hope but Siobhán Flannery, who finished with 1-8, and Rachel Brennan raised green flags for Offaly, and Paddy Kirwan’s outfit kept their noses in front to claim an invaluable victory.