A brace of goals from Amy O’Connor allied to a power-packed performance by Chloe Sigerson enabled Cork to keep Tipperary at bay in their opening Division 1 Group 2 tie at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, on the opening day of the Littlewoods Camogie League.
All-Ireland champions Kilkenny were workmanlike in overcoming a Dublin side under new manager Adrian O’Sullivan in Group 3 in Callan, while Group 1’s Atlantic Coast derby saw Clare gave way to League titleholders Galway in Athenry.
Tipp had booked a place in the League decider last year before the competition, unfortunately, fell foul of Covid-19 and after reaching the All-Ireland semi-final once again, Bill Mullaney’s crew represented a major challenge to the hosts.
Paudie Murray named a very strong side but Tipperary possessed a significant level of experience too and started well with Cáit Devane splitting the posts a couple of times before O’Connor billowed the net in the seventh minute.
The St Vincent’s star hooked Tipp goalie, Áine Slattery and after captain Linda Collins gathered possession, was in position to take the pass and finish to the unguarded net. Three points followed but Tipp steadied the ship and trailed by just two at the water break.
Disaster struck All-Star netminder Slattery a second time just before the interval when she was unable to control a tame shot by Fiona Keating that dipped late, deflecting off the Borrisokane custodian’s hurley for a goal to make it 2-7 to 0-6 at half-time.
It was nip and tuck after the resumption, but the visitors were exposed by Hannah Looney, whose powerful run opened oceans of space for O’Connor, who gleefully finished to the net just before the final water break, after her teammate had drawn the last defender.
Tipp finished strongly with Devane bringing her tally to ten points and Cork had reason to thank goalie, Amy Lee for her alertness in coming off her line to save a ground shot at goal from Grace O’Toole in extra time before adding a couple of late points themselves to leave it 3-14 to 0-16.
Kilkenny will have been pleased to get their year off to a winning start but they were made to work very hard by a gritty Dublin in a dour affair at John Locke Park.
The hosts laid the foundation for their success in the opening seven minutes, at the end of which they led by 1-2 to 0-0 after points from Denise Gaule and Michaela Kennelly and a fortuitous goal by Aoife Doyle, after Faye McCarthy was deceived by the bouncing sliotar.
Aisling Maher and Jody Couch raised white flags to make it 1-5 to 0-3 at the interval and scores remained at a premium after the resumption, Gaule and Maher slotting placed balls for their sides, while McCarthy was forced into a smart stop by Grace Walsh in the closing minutes and the Stripeywomen prevailed by 1-8 to 0-6.
Clare offered stern resistance to Galway too, the Tribeswomen leaning on their goal threat to overcome a first half in which they were clear second best, to take the spoils by 3-11 to 0-15 against last year’s improving All-Ireland quarter-finalists.
The opening major arrived after just two minutes and it was a classy finish by Siobhán McGrath, who won possession on the end line before goaling from a very tight angle.
Clare were undeterred however and with Zi Yan Spillane very prominent, accelerated into a four-point lead, Chloe Morey landing a free from a prodigious distance. When Máire McGrath and Áine O’Loughlin also found the target, it was 0-8 to 1-1.
Once more, it was Siobhán McGrath that came up with the vital riposte, grabbing her second goal just before the water break. Ailish O’Reilly raised another green flag late in the first half but Eimear Kelly slotted her fourth point, edging Clare ahead by just one, 0-12 to 3-2 at the change of ends, when they should have had much more in hand.
Galway were much improved after the restart. Aoife Donohue and McGrath were multiple point scorers, while Ger O’Connell’s charges could only supplement their interval contribution by three as they lost 3-11 to 0-15.
In Division 2, the result of the day was undoubtedly Kerry’s 0-14 to 0-8 defeat of Galway, and there were wins too for Antrim, Cork, Wexford, Westmeath and Meath. Armagh, Limerick and Carlow claimed the points in Division 3 while Tyrone, Cavan, Kildare and Roscommon were victorious in Division 4.