Cats already eyeing glory in September

Kilkenny 1-15 Clare 0-04

Cats already eyeing glory in September

Joint-manager Graham Dillon made no bones about the prominence that loss to Galway has in their thoughts this term, and its role in giving the county their first national title since winning this competition six years ago.

“There’s a lot of hurt among that group of players; the same group of players that lost on All-Ireland final day last year” said Dillon.

“They know themselves they didn’t perform that day and have a lot to make up for that this year. So it’s just another step along the road to hopefully getting back to an All-Ireland final and hopefully taking that extra step then.”

They couldn’t wait for the league to get back on the horse.

“It was important to us after the bad ending to last year, to brush that to the side and push on. We approached each game as it came and ended up in a semi-final. We had a tough game against Wexford and knew today we’d have a job to do. We did that job and we’re happy with that.

“We knew that it was going to go one of two ways. It was either going to be an open hurling match or it was going to be a dogfight, and luckily enough we kind of dictated it and it turned into an open hurling match.

“We knew if it went that way we definitely had the hurlers to kick on so we’re happy enough.”

The Noresiders certainly handled the occasion much better, as a sizeable crowd turned up in Thurles for the curtain-raiser to the hurling final. Last year’s experience was an obvious help in that regard, while this was Clare’s first ever appearance in a senior national decider.

Colm Honan’s crew looked nervous early on, particularly in failing to convert a couple of good, early opportunities from frees. And as Kilkenny edged ahead, they began to chase goals in the first half, when they needed points to remain in touch.

In fairness to the Banner women, who defeated the champions of the past two years, Cork in the semi-final, they were not helped at all by the loss of wing-back, Eimear Considine to a knee injury in the seventh minute. That definitely unsettled them and their defensive unit was definitely weaker for the reshuffle.

The opening quarter was cagey, with the wind and pre-match rain making playing conditions difficult. They opened up though, with player of the match Denise Gaule and the excellent Miriam Walsh shooting points to make it 0-5 to 0-1 after 20 minutes.

It was no coincidence that Clare’s longest-serving operator, Deirdre Murphy presented their chief threat and she scored a lovely point to make it 0-5 to 0-2.

Kilkenny finished strongly though, and points from Gaule (free), Leann Fennelly, Áine Connery and Walsh gave them a seven-point interval lead.

Chloe Morey landed a trademark long distance free immediately after the restart but that would be Clare’s last score until Murphy’s injury-time point.

Instead, with Mairéad Power and Jacqui Frisby completely on top in their full-back line, and Ann Dalton, Gaule and Walsh dominant, Kilkenny exerted themselves further Gaule brought her tally to six points with four well-taken scores, including three from play, while Walsh and Fennelly also found the target.

Aoife Neary goaled from close range in the 41st minute to cement their superiority and Emma Kavanagh made a good block, with Frisby completing a goal-line clearance, to deny Ellen Horgan a consolation goal.

And though the likes of Murphy, Kate Lynch and Máire McGrath put up a brave resistance, Clare were never going to deny Kilkenny.

“We have an extremely strong squad. They work very hard and push one another on in training. We were just saying the other night, there’s no easy options in training. Everyone who picks you up is going to give you a hard time.

“We are working hard in training and luckily we were rewarded.”

Scorers for Kilkenny: D Gaule (0-6, 3fs), M Walsh (0-4), A Neary (1-0), L Fennelly, A Connery (0-2 each), A Dalton (0-1).

Scorers for Clare: D Murphy (0-3, 1f), C Morey (0-1f).

KILKENNY: E Kavanagh, M Power, K McDonald, J Frisby, C Dormer, E Keane, E Aylward, A Dalton, a Dunphy, A Connery, M Walsh, D Gaule, M Quilty, L Fennelly, A Neary.

Subs: C Phelan for Connery (51), M Dargan for Walsh (54), A Kinsella for Aylward (59).

CLARE: D Lynch, R McMahon, M McGrath, C O’Leary, N O’Dea, C Morey, E Considine, K Lynch, O Duggan, D Murphy, F Lafferty, C Hennessy, N Kaiser, L McMahon, E Horgan.

Subs: K Horgan for Considine inj (7), C McMahon for Hennessy (19), H McMahon for K Horgan (45), V Loughnane for E Horgan (46), K Cahill for Duggan (50), A Griffin for O’Leary (59).

Referee: G O’Dowd (Limerick).

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