Kilkenny have maintained their 100% record in this year’s All-Ireland Camogie Championship as they followed up last weekend’s victory away to Clare with another win on the road, this time at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar.
However, this round 2 victory had far more to it than the final score suggested as Westmeath were the better side for large portions of a game that Kilkenny grew into late on as they set up a mouth-watering top of the table clash with Galway.
It was a similar start to last weekend’s encounter with Clare as corner forward Katie Nolan opened the scoring before a Megan Dowdell point and a Hannah Core goal gave the home side an early three-point lead.
Westmeath took advantage of four missed frees from the usually reliable Denise Gaule as they pointed their first placed ball of the day Muireann Scally. Gaule finally opened her account at the fifth attempt with a free and Katie Nolan’s second point after a low ball into the forward line from Miriam Bambrick left two between the sides after 15 minutes, Westmeath 1-02 to 0-03 Kilkenny.
Clonkill sharp-shooter Megan Dowdell added to her personal tally with another two frees prior to the water break as Westmeath took a four-point advantage into a much-needed water break on a warm day in Mullingar.
A Gaule free was the first score after the quick stoppage in play, but Kilkenny could not find any form whatsoever as Sheila McGrath replied almost immediately after Gaule’s free. The Windgap forward scored her first from play 5 minutes from half time but once again it was only a solitary score that was not built upon by the All-Ireland champions as Dowdell got her fifth point of the game.
Gaule pointed a ’45 after Fiona Keating turned a well-struck Aoife Doyle shot around the post. Steffi Fitzgerald and Meabh Scally exchanged late first half scores before Sheila McGrath got the final score of the half to give the hosts a 1-08 to 0-07 lead at the interval.
Half-forward Gaule started the scoring in the second half with a free from just inside the Westmeath ’45. The Kilkenny forwards began to get into the game right from the throw-in in the second period as Clara’s Mary O’Connell reduced the gap to two points. Muireann Scally and Dowdell replied as the scoreboard read Westmeath 1-10 to 0-09 Kilkenny 10 minutes into the second half.
Substitute Michaela Kenneally and a Gaule free once again added two consecutive points for the away side before another substitute Katie Power reduced the deficit to a single point, 1-10 to 0-12. The key moment in the game came with the last play before the water break as Steffi Fitzgerald found Miriam Walsh who scored a crucial goal that gave the All-Ireland champions the lead for the first time in an enthralling encounter.
Two points from Gaule, one from play and one from a free, gave Brian Dowling’s side a two-score lead as the tide had finally turned in favour of the Division 1 League champions. Kilkenny’s player of the year-to-date Katie Nolan scored her third point as the Cats took control of the game, moving into a 1-10 to 1-15 lead.
Westmeath were out on their feet as the impressive Steffi Fitzgerald split the posts with a long-range effort. Sheila McGrath done her best to keep Westmeath in the game as she pointed but a Katie Nolan goal soon after spelt the end of a strong challenge from a valiant Westmeath side, Kilkenny eventually running out winners on a scoreline of Westmeath 1-11 to 2-17 Kilkenny.
Next up for the All-Ireland champions is a home tie with Galway. The venue and time are yet to be confirmed for that clash at the time of writing