Dublin v Kilkenny
Kilkenny 2-11 Dublin 0-9
A Top 4 spot is not a bad way to finish the season but though disappointed the word coming from the players walking off the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick was “we know where we have to aim for now”. Kilkenny had the edge on Dublin from the moment Denise Gaule goaled a penalty in the first minute after Miriam Walsh was upended in the box. As outsiders Dublin could have done with a start like that with the breeze as their backs in the opening half. As it was Kilkenny would never be headed or levelled. It was an important score, the result of a brilliant passing movement.
But a further 62 minutes would be played before Kilkenny would find the net again – a score that was a little unfair on the challenge put up by a fiercely determined Dublin.
Miriam Twomey was again employed as sweeper and while this was successful from the point of view of curtailing the goal threat of the Cats, the loss of a forward at the other end meant that Dublin never threatened a goal. On top of that the “loose” player Ann Dalton has been around the block and her positional sense and use of the ball won her the player of the match. Her contribution was significant.
Dublin’s backs – each and everyone of them – were outstanding. But upfront the attack could not make the desired impact despite their best efforts. No surprise that all of Dublin’s four second half substitutions were at that end of the field.
One of the most important progressions of the year has been Dublin’s ability to take a knock and recover. After Kilkenny’s early goal, Dublin came roaring back and Siobhan Kehoe emerged from a ruck with the sliothar in her paw. The ball sailed over the black spot in the 5 th minute and Dublin were off the mark. Three minutes later Aisling Maher was on target from her first free. The scores lifted Dublin’s hearts on and off the field and the Dublin roar was heard as time and again the Dublin backs hunted down Kilkenny attacks. Eve O’Brien and her corner backs Áine Woods and Gráinne Quinn were growing in stature. In front of them the half-back line of Hannah Hegarty, Aisling Carolan and Eva-Marie Elliott were just as good. Eimear McCarthy was soldiering well in the middle third.
But Kilkenny aren’t All-Ireland champions for nothing and the slightest of errors is punished. When Dublin failed to clear in the 14 th minute Danielle Morrissey was on the spot for a point which was quickly followed by a Denise Gaule score to put Kilkenny 1-2 to 0-2 in front after 15 minutes.
Aisling Maher and Siobhan Kehoe were showing well and when Ellen McGovern placed Maher her finish was precise. Alison Maguire, Ali Twomey and Emma Flanagan had their moments too despite the fact that the numbers were often against them.
Faye McCarthy has been a major part of Dublin’s advance this year. Unfortunately the frees that came her way on this occasion were just a little too far and Kilkenny were able to deal with anything that landed near their goal.
Dublin cut the gap to two points eight minutes from the end end of normal time in the first half thanks to a perfectly hit free from from near the sideline by Aisling Maher. But in that critical closing minutes before the break, the champions gave themselves a huge lift when they hit three unanswered points from Miriam Walsh, Denise Gaule and Katie Power. Kilkenny had the edge in attack – five of Kilkenny’s starting forwards scored from play as well as two substitutes – compared to two forwards from Dublin.
While Dublin had to face the slight breeze after the break, their cause was far from forlorn. A free 30 seconds in went narrowly wide before Aisling Carolan broke upfield and from her clearance Siobhan Kehoe (having overcome a very heavy charge in the first half) showed her skill to strike this one off her left side and over the bar.
Four minutes later Faye McCarthy found the distance from 45m to reduce Kilkenny’s lead to two points.
Kilkenny however were always able to sneak a score – limiting any damage that Dublin threatened. A pair of points by Danielle Morrissey pushed them a goal in front by the 50 th minute.
Dublin rang some changes with the introduction of Claire Donnelly, Mairi Moynihan and Doireann Mullaney in a five minutes spell and Eimear O’Leary nearer the end. Aisling Maher raised another white flag from a free but again Kilkenny’s greater scoring threat revealed itself as Julieann Malone, Anna Farrell, Michelle Quilty and Meighan Farrell all pointed for the first time.
The inability of the Dublin forwards to make any real impression in the second half wasn’t helped by a tendency to bunch with the resultant deliveries landing in what was pretty congested territory – a ploy that suited the Kilkenny defenders.
Nevertheless the spirit was first class and they never threw in the towel. Two more points from Aisling Maher – one a super effort from play left just five points in the game on the hour mark. The final score in the 63 rd minute – a brilliant goal by sub Jenny Clifford – put a gloss on the scoreboard but Dublin have much to be proud of and plenty to build on for 2018.
Well done to David Herity, his entire management team, and all the players who have given the camogie family in Dublin so much to admire and cheer about in 2017. Many thanks to all the supporters especially the young players who turned out in droves. Lucan Sarsfields were part of the mini-games and no doubt lots of young players will be inspired by their new heroes. Here’s to better days in the future.