There was additional focus on Galway as they got the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Camogie Championship underway with a 1-16 to 0-9 win against Clare at Pearse Stadium on Saturday evening.
The westerners are on a fifth manager in four seasons after Tony O’Donovan was replaced by Cathal Murray at the end of the league.
His reign began well as they garnered the Gael Linn Cup (with Galway representing Connacht at interprovincial level) and he will have been delighted with this victory before a sizeable home crowd.
Galway enjoyed the ideal start with a goal from Niamh Hannify followed by points from Rebecca Hennelly and Niamh McGrath. But Clare responded with points from Clare Hehir, Chloe Morey, and Niamh O’Dea to make it 1-4 to 0-3 at the end of the opening quarter.
But Galway looked more composed and a couple of points from Carrie Dolan helped them hold a 1-8 to 0-5 lead at the break.
Clare, with the wind, started brightly thanks to a Morey point but Galway had all the answers, with Dolan, player-of-the-match Niamh Kilkenny, and Ailish O’Reilly keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Sub Caitriona Cormican was denied a goal by a brilliant Lauren Solan save, while Clare were reduced to 14 after Eimear Kelly was sent off late on.
In the other Group 1 game, Kilkenny produced a stunning second-half performance to record a resounding 2-18 to 0-11 win over Limerick in Bruff.
The Shannonsiders were another side with a new manager in Declan Nash who succeeded John Tuohy. Limerick won the league meeting and the hosts began well, opening up a 0-7 to 0-3 lead after 26 minutes, with Niamh Mulcahy hitting six points. But a run of scores from Davina Tobin had Kilkenny just two adrift (0-8 to 0-6) at the interval.
The Noresiders found another level after the resumption, keeping Limerick to three points while running riot at the other end. Michelle Quilty, Shelly Farrell, and Meighan Farrell had points before goals by Miriam Walsh and Quilty sealed an impressive Kilkenny win.
In Group 2, All-Ireland champions Cork went on the rampage, where it finished 1-19 to 0-7 against Wexford at Páirc Uí Rinn.
The Rebels, without the retired Rena Buckley and Orla Cotter, who recently got married, set the tone right from the outset, moving six points to no score clear. Five different players were on target from the time Ashling Thompson found the target from the left flank, with Orla Cronin also the fore. Linda Bolger ended Wexford’s drought but Katrina Mackey brought her tally to three with a couple of fine scores to make it 0-9 to 0-3 at half-time.
It was a procession in the second half as Amy O’Connor, Cronin, Lauren Homan, and Thompson all had points before Mackey delivered the coup de grace with a goal, finishing with customary aplomb after good build-up play involving Thompson and O’Connor.
Dublin were one of the stories of last year’s Championship when they made the last four and they will be happy to have started with a 3-14 to 3-9 triumph over Offaly on Saturday. Siobhán Kehoe (45) and Siobhán Flannery (free) exchanged points early on but when Gráinne Quinn goaled after six minutes, Dublin moved six points ahead.
Sarah Harding goaled for Offaly at the end of the first quarter but Kehoe found the net at the other end to maintain the home team’s dominance. Two points from Eimear McCarthy and another from Kehoe made it 2-11 to 1-6 at the interval in favour of Dublin, who would not be caught.
Meanwhile at The Ragg, Tipperary made light work of newcomers Meath, second-half goals from Cáit Deavane (two) and Megan Ryan helping to secure a 6-14 to 0-10 win.
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