A strong performance in tough conditions was not enough for Kilkenny to qualify for next month’s league final as a draw against old foes Cork saw the home side advance to the decider due to their superior scoring difference.
Despite the failure to successfully retain their league crown, Kilkenny can take a lot of positives from a league campaign where they never suffered a defeat.
Brian Dowling’s side began the game with potency and intent as Denise Gaule and Miriam Walsh gave them a 0-00 to 0-02 lead.
The league champions’ continued to dominate the early exchanges despite Cliona Healy opening Cork’s account as Walsh and Katie Power made it a three-point game midway through an attritional first half.
Cork, buoyed by the animated Davy Fitzgerald on the sideline (the former Wexford manager was eventually sent to the stands), responded with two Healy frees and a fine score from star player Aisling Thompson but a long-distance Claire Phelan free edged the Kittens one-point ahead at the interval, Cork 0-04 to 0-05 Kilkenny.
Cork were much-improved from the second half throw-in as Katrina Mackey gave the Rebels the lead for the first time thanks to a well-taken goal. Thompson and Healy added further points to make it 1-06 to 0-05 after 40 minutes.
However, Kilkenny refused to accept defeat as 2020 Player of the Year Gaule netted a penalty, and a free apiece from the Windgap forward and Katie Nolan gave the away side an unlikely lead as the full-time whistle loomed.
Chloe Sigerson and Gaule exchanged late frees, but there was to be one final twist as Sigerson pointed with the last free of the game to earn her side a draw and a place in next month’s decider.
They will now face either Tipperary or Galway in the final on April 9th.