They did all they could, but it wasn’t enough as Kilkenny were ultimately defeated by a superior Antrim side in the All-Ireland intermediate camogie final in Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.
Antrim’s Maeve Kelly got off the scoresheet within the first minute, but Kilkenny immediately replied with Thomastown’s Sarah Walsh levelling it up with a well-taken score. Kilkenny took the lead with Walsh’s Thomastown compatriot Eva Hynes making no mistake with her first attempt of the day before Leann Fennelly kicked the ball forward which allowed Sarah Walsh to grab her second point inside the first four minutes as Kilkenny went 0-03 to 0-01 ahead.
In a remarkable debut season, Young Ireland’s Ciara O’Keeffe did her confidence the world of good in her first final appearance when she put Kilkenny three points clear on the fifth minute. Soon after, Hannah Scott came agonisingly close to grabbing the first goal of the game, but her effort shaved the post as Antrim finally managed to get a foothold in the game midway through the first half.
Roisin McCormick scored three unanswered points (two from play, one free) to put Antrim on level terms. Lucia McNaughton and a second point from Maeve Kelly gave them a one-point advantage at the first half water break, Antrim 0-06 to 0-05.
A first free of the day from James Stephens Sophie O’Dwyer drew the sides level once more in a tight affair. Midfielder Nicole O’Neill and the ever-consistent Eva Hynes exchanged scores before Maeve Kelly, who was proving too hot to handle for the Kilkenny back line, ran at the Kilkenny defence and found the back of the net to move Antrim into a three-point lead.
It looked as though Antrim would build on that goal and extend their lead as the first half entered its final 10 minutes, but Kilkenny’s star forwards stood up when needed most as Sophie O’Dwyer and Hynes added to their tallies and left the scoreboard reading 1-07 to 0-09.
The story of the game seemed to be both sides inability to generate any sort of momentum as Nicole O’Neill, two points from Roisin McCormick, one from a free and one from play, and a big score from corner forward Catrine Dobbin gave Paul McKillen’s side a 1-11 to 0-09 lead at the interval.
Frees from Sophie O’Dwyer seemed to be Kilkenny’s only avenue back into the game at the start of the second half as she scored from two consecutive placed balls.
However, Antrim started to move up the gears as the half progressed with Roisin McCormick and Catrine Dobbin scoring three unanswered points between them before a Dobbin goal midway through the second period left Kilkenny trailing by nine points, 2-17 to 1-11.
Kelly and McCormick continued to cause Kilkenny all sorts of problems as they notched on a point each and despite the best efforts of O’Dwyer, who scored Kilkenny’s first goal from a free, Therese Donnelly, and Sarah Crowley, who got Kilkenny’s second goal of the game, it wasn’t to be for John Scott’s side in Croke Park as Nicole O’Neill got the last score of the game.
A valiant effort from Kilkenny but their wait for an All-Ireland intermediate title goes on as Antrim are deservedly crowned champions.