14 player Galway hold off Kilkenny in Senior Championship
by Pro Óg on the 17th of August 2021
Galway edged out Kilkenny in a thrilling battle in Callan, in a nail-biting contest that left spectators guessing until the final seconds.
Denise Gaule opened the scoring with a magnificent point for Kilkenny, courtesy of a Katie Nolan pass, in the second minute, before Aoife Doyle was left in acres of space only a minute later and popped a second one over.
Kilkenny’s first scorable free came in the sixth minute, as Sarah Dervan was judged to have fouled Miriam Walsh. A disorganised Galway defence meant that Gaule took a rapid one in the hopes of a goal, but it was saved by Laura Glynn. They reorganised themselves adequately, however, to finally register their first score seconds later, with an Ailish O’Reilly free from a tricky angle. O’Reilly put a second free over minutes later, levelling the teams at 0-2 apiece.
Kilkenny responded with another Walsh-won free just outside the square, but this time Gaule settled for putting it over the bar. A point up, Kilkenny looked well on their way to starting to motor, until their rhythm was disrupted by Claire Phelan receiving a yellow card for a questionable tackle on Sarah Spellman and the resulting point from O’Reilly’s free.
After an unsettled period, however, Katie Nolan got her 8th point of the Championship so far to put Kilkenny back in the lead.
Confusion followed temporarily as a stoppage was called for an off-camera incident. Following consultation with the lineswoman, there was uproar on the sideline as Galway’s Catherine Finnerty was red-carded for an off-the-ball incident with Claire Phelan on the stroke of the first water-break, leaving the sides to run in with Galway a point and a player down.
Further disarray for Galway was triggered when Kellyann Doyle sprinted down the wing to score an excellent point after the resumption of play. Doyle then received a yellow card in the 21st minute for a shoulder into the chest of Aoife Donohue, admittedly, but generally played to a remarkable standard.
Another O’Reilly free at 22 minutes brought Galway back to within a point of Kilkenny, but their absence of scores, or even shots, from play was becoming a worrying trend. This was exacerbated by the minutes of back and forth hurling that followed, until two great points from Walsh and Aoife Doyle stretched the Kilkenny lead to 3.
O’Reilly and Gaule both put frees over before the whistle was blown for half-time, leaving Kilkenny ahead by 3 with a scoreline of 0-8 to 0-5.
Scoring resumed with yet another O’Reilly free a minute into the second half. However, their first score from play came from an excellently-taken goal from Sineád McGrath, after she pulled away from Davina Tobin and left Emma Kavanagh with little chance of saving it.
Galway followed that with two more points in rapid succession from O’Reilly and Niamh Kilkenny. The Cats were unable to respond for several minutes until a Gaule free resettled them, but Galway were very much in the driving seat at this stage, as Kilkenny relied on three frees from Gaule to keep the scoreboard ticking over until the 45th minute, when Mary O’Connell appeared on the sideline to swing another one over the bar on the stroke of the water-break.
The teams re-emerged with the scoreline reading 0-12 to 1-10 in favour of Galway. Sarah Spellman kicked off the final quarter with a well-taken point, giving Galway a lead of 2, before substitute Orla McGrath made an immediate impact with another. An uncharacteristic wide for Gaule from a free was then countered when Aoife Doyle pounced on a poor puckout from Glynn and slotted it over.
The closing minutes were gripping as both teams sensed that victor was within their grasp. Unfortunately, Kilkenny simply couldn’t see it out, despite their 15-on-14 advantage, as they managed but 2 points in the final 5 minutes, while Galway’s 1 was enough to give them a 1-point victory, despite strenuous efforts from the Cats.
A visibly disappointed Kilkenny were understandably upset to have lost out on an automatic spot in the semi-finals, however they doubtless took comfort from their previously-guaranteed place in the quarter-finals.
Galway: 16. Laura Glynn; 2. Shauna Healy, 3. Sarah Dervan (Capt.), 4. Dervla Higgins; 5. Siobhán Gardiner, 6. Emma Helebert, 7. Annmarie Starr; 8. Niamh Hanniffy, 9. Niamh Kilkenny; 22.Noirín Cohen, 11. Sarah Spellman, 12. Aoife Donohue; 13. Siobhán McGrath, 14. Ailish O’Reilly, 15. Catherine Finnerty.
Kilkenny: 1. Emma Kavanagh; 21. Collette Dormer, 3. Claire Phelan, 4. Davina Tobin; 5. Kellyann Doyle, 6. Meghan Farrell (Capt.), 18. Michaele Kenneally; 8. Niamh Deely, 9. Grace Walsh; 10. Denise Gaule, 11. Mary O’Connell, 12. Steffi Fitzgerald; 13. Katie Nolan, 14. Miriam Walsh, 15. Aoife Doyle
Referee: John Dermody (Westmeath)
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