CAMOGIE: Dublin vs Kilkenny (Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Quarter-Final Preview)
Saturday, July 16, Semple Stadium
Dublin v Kilkenny, 5.30pm (Justin Heffernan, Wexford), Live on RTÉ 2 (Pictured is Dublin’s Hannah Hegarty and Aoife Prendergast of Kilkenny ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)
There were many murmurings about Kilkenny at the beginning of the championship, with two all-time great talents of the game having retired in Davina Tobin and Collette Dormer and another defender and totemic figure, Meighan Farrell taking the year out to go travelling. This remember, not long after Kilkenny had seen Anne Dalton and Anna Farrell walk into the sunset. Meanwhile, the Doyle sisters Aoife and Kellyann and Niamh Deely have been ruled out with injury, Kellyann Doyle falling foul of the dreaded cruciate curse a third time.
With that in mind, their performance in forcing Galway to need an injury-time equaliser to snatch a draw and top spot in the group on score difference spoke volumes for the spirit in the camp, the leadership of Denise Gaule, Grace Walsh, Miriam Walsh and Claire Phelan, the impact of newbies Tiffany Fitzgerald, Michaela Kenneally and Aoife Prendergast and the management/coaching prowess of Brian Dowling, Tommy Shefflin and co. The return to the fray of Julieanne Malone after a few years out of the scene has been influential too.
Prior to the humdinger in Kenny Park, the Cats had totted up 6-76 in accounting for Down, Limerick, Antrim and Offaly. They got very close to that average in shooting 2-14 against the All-Ireland champions. The Stripeywomen remain major contenders for overall honours.
Dublin have been the great puzzle of camogie with huge potential in terms of the club game and a booming population but an inability to find consistency. Even in the context of the normal challenges that exist when it comes to player retention, they have struggled in that regard. Like a few teams, they weren’t helped by the constant chopping and changing of managements after David Herity moved on. The former Kilkenny All-Ireland winner steered Dublin to the All-Ireland semi-final in 2017 and was in charge when they last reached this stage of proceedings 12 months later.
Adrian O’Sullivan has had time to erect building blocks since taking over as boss with incremental improvements visible throughout his term. With stars of the 2017 campaign such as captain Hannah Hegarty, Aisling Maher, Emma Flanagan and Ali Twomey on-field generals, and enthusiastic operators of the calibre of Niamh Gannon, the Couch siblings Gaby and Jody, and Issy Davis around them, and a potential superstar of the code in Aisling O’Neill announcing herself in the midst of her Leaving Cert, they have returned to the top six.
They made their mark immediately when taking Waterford’s scalp at Walsh Park before being held to a draw by Tipperary. They were right on Cork’s coattails for a long way before the Rebels pulled away to win by seven but then let a five-point lead slip to finish with a share of the spoils against Clare. That left them vulnerable in an extremely tight Group 1 and trailing Wexford at the interval, their aspirations hung by a thread. O’Sullivan made some astute switches and the players responded with four goals, including two from Davis, and the subsequent nine-point victory secured them the coveted quarter-final berth due to having a better score difference than Tipperary.
This, one suspects, is just another step towards the ultimate aim for O’Sullivan and Dublin, but one imagines they will be more competitive than was the case in the Leinster Final last May. On that occasion Kilkenny hit the Blues for five goals, three in the first half and two in the first six minutes of the second and it was a 14-point margin at the final whistle. The Noresiders will be warm favourites to prevail again this time but expect Dublin to throw everything at them.
DUBLIN: E Mooney, R Baker, E O’Brien, M Kelleher, C Nicoletti, H Hegarty (capt), E O’Byrne, L Butler, G Couch, E Flanagan, N Gannon, J Couch, E Jamieson-Murphy, A O’Neill, A Maher. Subs: C Tierney, A Gannon, A Twomey, A Timothy, A Heffernan, A Walsh, A Whelan, C Shanahan, C Buchanan, C Gannon, E Young, I Davis, K Finnegan, N Heffernan, O Gray
KILKENNY: A Norris, M Teehan, G Walsh, M Bambrick, T Fitzgerald, Claire Phelan, L Murphy, S Fitzgerald, K Power, M Walsh, D Gaule, K Nolan, J Malone, M O’Connell, M Kenneally. Subs: E Kavanagh, A Prendergast (capt), Ciara Phelan, A McHardy, N Deely, S Dwyer, S Crowley, L Fennelly, S O’Keeffe, A Curtis, R Breen, C O’Keeffe, D Quigley, C Comerford, M Corcoran