Injury-time agony leaves Cats pipped at the death
by PRO on the 1st of September 2021
by Trevor Spillane, Kilkenny People Newspaper
True to the form of champions, Kilkenny fought to the end – but a last gasp point saw their reign come to an agonising end.
Cork captain Linda Collins inflicted the final blow, striking a stoppage time score that saw Kilkenny’s dreams of making it successive O’Duffy Cups for the first time in 30 years bite the dust.
It was a cruel way to bow out but, as manager Brian Dowling said afterwards, his players ‘died with their boots on’. The Cats battled and fought their way through 60-plus minutes of a tense and, at times, thrilling semi-final in Croke Park, but were left feeling their pockets had been picked right at the death.
A year after going to Cork and beating their old foes in a tight semi-final, Kilkenny came out the wrong side of similar joust this time around.
At one stage the Rebels enjoyed a five-point lead, then were four to the good close to three-quarter stage, but they could so easily have found themselves on the losing side as Kilkenny showed their claws.
The turnaround came at a stage when Cork held a four-point lead and spurned the chance to make it five, Chloe Sigerson uncharacteristically missing a 43rd minute free.
ON THE CHARGE
Sensing their opportunity, Kilkenny went on the charge. Having struggled to find some real form in attack, the forward unit clicked with one move which tore Cork apart.
Miriam Walsh did a lot of damage, picking off Claire Phelan’s measured ball forward, popping the sliotar off to the free-running Mary O’Connell.
The Clara player barely broke her stride as she bore down on goal and gave keeper Amy Lee no chance with a 45th minute shot that rocketed to the net.
Kilkenny had the bit between their teeth after that, and when Denise Gaule punished Cork with a pointed free following a foul on Grace Walsh the sides were all square (1-8 to 0-11). Suddenly, it was all to play for.
The Cats could only have hoped for similar form as they took to the field for throw-in, but they couldn’t replicate the devastating start that saw them breeze past Wexford in the quarter-finals.
While Cork opened the scoring with a solid point from Saoirse McCarthy, they could have found themselves behind inside two minutes. All three members of Kilkenny’s full-forward line were involved in the early move, Katie Power skipping past Libby Coppinger and working the ball to Steffi Fitzgerald, who picked out Aoife Doyle with a pass, but Amy Lee raced from her line to make a vital block.
It was as close as Kilkenny would come to a goal in a first half where they struggled to find form up front. Instead it was Cork who showed a greater threat – while that didn’t produce goal chances, their pace and quick passing helped them work the sliotar around into space which ended with points for the impressive Sigerson and Cronin.
After a tense opening quarter, Cork found better form before the interval. Sigerson was the star of the show, picking off scores from frees and play (including one from close to halfway). With Cronin an able support act – between them the pair contributed eight points to Cork’s first half tally.
Denise Gaule led Kilkenny’s charge, hitting 0-3, but there was no denying that Cork looked good for their five-point cushion at the interval (0-10 to 0-5).
Kilkenny knew a different approach would be required if they were to turn the game their way in the second half, and they duly delivered. The defensive work and tireless blocking that had helped Cork fashion their lead became Kilkenny’s form after the restart, as they shut their opponents out of the fray.
With the O’Connell goal and subsequent Gaule free drawing their side level, Kilkenny looked good to go on and make the game theirs, but they could never get too far ahead of their rivals.
While a Gaule free, followed by a lightning-fast Katie Power point seconds later, gave them a two-point advantage by the 52nd minute (1-11 to 0-12) a third point – or better yet, second goal that would have put real distance between the sides – never materialised.
Instead, Cork showed their composure as they clawed their way back to parity. Orla Cronin’s close range free was followed by a point from Fiona Keating, a score that levelled the game, but came with a twist; in the build-up Cronin received a straight red card for an off the ball tussle with Grace Walsh, where the forward made contact with the Tullaroan player’s faceguard.
Despite the advantage of the extra player, Kilkenny couldn’t make it count. As both sides battled for the score that could swing the tie their way, the intensity ratcheted up to nailbiting levels. Cork thought they had won it when Katrina Mackey found room to aim for the Hill 16 end posts in the first minute of injury-time – her shot tailed wide – while Kilkenny sub Laura Murphy saw her effort tail away.
Then, just when it looked like extra-time was looming, Cork struck. With one last move Hannah Looney and Fiona Keating worked the sliotar around until Linda Collins ran into shooting space.
One last shot, and victory was theirs – the exit door beckoned for Kilkenny. Sheer heartbreak.
Cork – Orla Cronin (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 45); Chloe Sigerson (0-5, 0-1 free); Katrina Mackey, Fiona Keating, Saoirse McCarthy, Linda Collins (0-1 each).
Kilkenny – Denise Gaule (0-7, frees); Mary O’Connell (1-0); Katie Power (0-2); Kellyann Doyle, Katie Nolan (0-1 each).
Kilkenny – Aoife Norris (Piltown); Michelle Teehan (James Stephens), Davina Tobin (Emeralds), Colette Dormer (Barrow Rangers); Claire Phelan (Lisdowney), Meighan Farrell (Thomastown), Kellyann Doyle (Piltown); Denise Gaule (Windgap), Grace Walsh (Tullaroan); Mary O’Connell (Clara), Katie Nolan (St Martin’s), Miriam Walsh (Tullaroan); Steffi Fitzgerald (Young Irelands), Katie Power (Piltown), Aoife Doyle (Piltown). Subs: Laura Murphy (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Fitzgerald, 38 mins; Niamh Deely (James Stephens) for Teehan, 48 mins; Michaela Kenneally (Windgap) for A Doyle, 55 mins.
Cork – Amy Lee; Pamela Mackey, Libby Coppinger, Meabh Cahalane; Laura Hayes, Laura Hayes, Saoirse McCarthy; Hannah Looney, Ashling Thompson; Chloe Sigerson, Orla Cronin, Ciara O’Sullivan; Fiona Keating, Amy O’Connor, Katrina Mackey. Sub: Linda Collins for O’Sullivan, 50 mins.
Referee – John Dermody (Westmeath).
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