Kilkenny’s goal scoring ability was once again the difference as they fought off the challenge of Cork to capture their second division 1 league title in a row. Played before the senior hurling league final on Sunday in the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick Kilkenny got off to a great start when Miriam Walsh passed to Denise Gaule and she cleverly hand passed the ball over the onrushing Aoife Murray in the Cork goal. With Cork struggling to find form, Kilkenny scored 3 of the next 4 points to build up a lead that they never lost.
At the interval they led 1-6 to 4 points. Cork were a much improved side in the second half with the introduction of Orla Cotter making a big difference as she registered 3 points. The Munster side outscored Kilkenny in the second half 6 points to 1-1 but once again Kilkenny’s goal was the crucial difference.
With the game poised at 1-6 to 0-6 in a strange but decisive moment referee Owen Elliott awarded a free to Kilkenny however the Cork players proceeded to move up the field believing the decision had gone their way. As Gemma O’Connor stepped up to take the free the referee explained it was a Kilkenny free.
Denise Gaule then spotting an opportunity took it quickly to find Danielle Morrissey on her own and the Cork defence out of sorts. Credit to Gemma O’Connor she managed to get back quickly and win possession again but in her haste she was disposed by Miriam Walsh who powered along the end line and hand passed to the back of the net despite the best efforts of Aoife Murray and Rena Buckley. Suddenly Kilkenny had a 6 point lead. Cork didn’t give up though and rallied again with 2 late points from Libby Coppinger and Hannah Looney but it wasn’t enough to deter the Cats and they ran out 3 point winners. Overall it was a hard working tactical display from the All-Ireland champions.
Proceeding to deploy lots of players deep in midfield and defence, at times there were only 1 Kilkenny forward inside her own 45m. This made life very difficult for the Cork attack and time and again space was at a minimum and as a result Emma Kavanagh was never troubled in the Kilkenny goal. Kilkenny had 7 players in their starting line-up who didn’t start aginst Cork in the All-Ireland final last September including a whole new full back line. All 7 have made a real impression in 2017 so far especially Aisling Dunphy and Danielle Morrissey. This all bodes well for Ann Downey’s charges and will surely create some selection headaches come championship.
For Cork attention now turns to championship. Paudie Murray will have been pleased with Orla Cotter’s display when introduced as a second half sub after an injury lay off. He will no doubt be disappointed at losing to Kilkenny in another big game but has plenty of positives to work with and can look forward to the summer with confidence.
KILKENNY: E Kavanagh, M Teehan, C Foley, G Walsh, A Nolan, A Dalton, C Phelan, A Dunphy (0-01), M Farrell, D Gaule (1-02), K Power (0-02), J Reddy, J A Malone (0-01), M Walsh (1-00), D Morrissey (0-01).
Subs: E Keane for Dunphy (59), J Clifford for Morrissey (59)
CORK: A Murray, L Treacy, P Mackey, R Buckley, E O’Sullivan, A Thompson, C Sigerson, G O’Connor (0-01), J Barry, A O’Connor, O Cotter (0-03( J White, K Mackey (0-04), N McCarthy, L Collins.
Subs: L Coppinger (0-01) for P Mackey (21), O Cotter for Collins (33), H Looney (0-01) for White (50), L O’Sullivan for Barry (55)