Kilkenny have begun their quest to regain the O’Duffy Cup in perfect fashion as they comfortably dispatched of Clare in the opening round of the Camogie Association All-Ireland Championship on Saturday in Sixmilebridge.
Kilkenny started faster than their opponent’s when a quick ball into the forward line saw the in-form Katie Nolan gather possession and get the first score of the game after less than a minute. Nolan put Kilkenny back into the lead with her second point following a free from Clare full-forward Chloe Morey. The home side stuck with the All-Ireland champions early on and drew level when midfielder Orlaith Duggan squeezed her shot between the posts. 2020 player of the year Denise Gaule pointed her first three frees of the game to put Kilkenny into a three-point lead after ten minutes, Clare 0-02 to 0-05 Kilkenny.
Kilkenny asserted their dominance as the half progressed when O’Loughlin Gaels’ Laura Murphy scored from her own ’65. Another Gaule free saw Kilkenny five ahead at the water break, 0-02 to 0-07. The Windgap free taker got her fifth from placed balls when the game resumed but Clare responded when Clooney Quin player Orlaith Duggan got her second score of the game. Steffi Fitzgerald and Miriam Walsh linked up on the 20th minute to extend Brian Dowling’s side lead to six points. Chloe Morey sent two close-range frees over the bar as Clare attempted to eat into Kilkenny’s lead, 0-05 to 0-09.
Ger O’Connell’s charges failed to make considerable inroads, however, as St. Martins corner forward Nolan pointed for her third score of a game that lacked in intensity at times. Morey and Áine O’Loughlin reduced the deficit to three points before Gaule got her first from play. Morey and Fitzgerald exchanged late points before half-time as the scoreboard read Clare 0-08 to 0-12 Kilkenny at the interval.
Miriam Walsh and Chloe Morey exchanged early scores and Morey’s first free of the half left three between the sides, 0-10 to 0-13. Kilkenny replied with two Gaule frees and a Katie Nolan point after Miriam Bambrick found the corner forward with a well-placed pass. Gaule got her ninth point of the encounter and Katie Power scored her first as Kilkenny continued to push ahead in the game and on the scoreboard, 0-11 to 0-18 at the water break.
Power got her second after the ball fell to her in the full forward line before midfielder Orlaith Duggan cut the gap to seven points. Clara’s Mary O’Connell opened her account with a fine score followed by Aoife Prendergast’s opening point. Chloe Morey got three unanswered points to bring her personal tally to eleven points, Clare 0-14 to 0-21 Kilkenny.
Wing forwards Gaule and Rebecca Foley pointed for their respective teams as the game ended. Kilkenny eventually running out as six-point winners, Clare 0-16 to 0-22 Kilkenny.
Next up for Kilkenny is a trip to Westmeath next Saturday.