by Daragh Ó Conchúir
It may only be the end of February and Galway manager Cathal Murray acknowledged the calendar realities but that did not prevent the two-time manager of the year recognising the importance of his side’s strong last-quarter showing, nor dilute the considerable satisfaction he derived from that.
After all, the Maroons had entered the lion’s den in taking on All-Ireland champions Kilkenny at UPMC Nowlan Park and with both sides having had first-round defeats inflicted on them the previous weekend, there was plenty at stake in terms of standards as well as results with the Very Camogie League Division 1A in mind.
The visitors are the titleholders and remain in contention thanks to ten points from Very player of the match Carrie Dolan and a goal and three from Ailish O’Reilly.
Dolan had five on the board as Galway led by 0-10 to 0-7 at half-time but a couple of points from Asha McHardy drew Kilkenny closer and when Julianne Malone goaled, it was the Noresiders who led by one.
The riposte was significant however, as Dolan levelled quickly and added another brace. O’Reilly also split the posts and the Corrib crew prevailed by 1-17 to 1-13.
“We’re really happy, especially with the last 10, 15 minutes I suppose,” said Murray.
“When you go a point down here and Kilkenny were well on top when they got that goal, you want a reaction from that off the team and it was great. We went up the field again and got the equaliser straight away nearly and the last 10 minutes we were excellent in fairness.
“It’s early in the League but today was important for us to get a reaction after last weekend and I’m really happy with it.
“Carrie was super. The frees were a big thing and she nailed every one of them. That’s really important to have a freetaker getting eight or nine out of ten all the time.
“But we’re really happy all around. The workrate was really good. We took our chances which I didn’t think we took down in Tipperary, though we had a couple of goal chances in the first half that we butchered and we need to look at that, but overall we’re really happy.
“We’re not getting carried away either but any day you come down to Nowlan Park and win is a really good day.”
Dolan emphasised the desire within the Galway ranks to raise their levels from the three-goal defeat to Tipperary at The Ragg.
“The victory is the most important thing here and it was a great team performance overall,” noted Dolan.
“We were disappointed in last week and just wanted to come out today and get a performance. The team put in a good performance in the first half. Kilkenny, they’re All-Ireland champions, they came back but our team showed great character to shove on after that.
“Our focus was Kilkenny today, as it was Tipp last week and it will switch to Clare next weekend.”
New captain, Shauna Healy concurred.
“We really wanted to just come down here and get the performance and get the two points on the board,” declared the teak-tough defender. “Overall, I couldn’t be prouder of the girls but now we need to shove on.
“We don’t panic and that’s what we’ve learned throughout the years. A couple of years ago we probably would have crumbled and thrown in the towel but the girls up front kept popping in the scores, which was what we needed, and we settled in the backs and we shoved on from there.”
Cork and Tipperary are two from two as a result of victories over Clare and Dublin respectively, with the Dubs joining Kilkenny as the only sides that are pointless in the extremely competitive top division, the Metropolitans propping up the table by virtue of an inferior score difference.
Second-half goals from Caoimhe Maher and the excellent Casey Hennessy enabled Tipp to pull away for a 2-13 to 1-6 success against Dublin at Parnell Park.
A Muireann Kelleher goal just before the interval left it delicately poised 0-7 to 1-3 but Tipp pulled away to maintain their unblemished record ahead of Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash with Cork, who lead by virtue of a 14-point better score difference.
The Rebels brought Clare crashing down to earth after the Bannerwomen’s opening defeat of Kilkenny, Amy O’Connor shooting 1-8 in a 2-19 to 1-0 victory at Páirc Uí Rinn.
Skipper Amy O’Connor brought her tally in two games to 2-15 after notching up a goal and eight points in Cork’s 2-19 to 1-10 win against Clare at Páirc Uí Rinn.
Sorcha McCartan was also in good shooting form and after establishing a seven-point half-time advantage, Matthew Twomey’s outfit pulled further clear with a goal from O’Connor.
Áine O’Loughlin nabbed her second goal in a week for Clare but an unfortunate own goal by goalie Doireann Murphy followed almost immediately, leaving a final margin that was probably a little unreflective of John Carmody’s efforts but illustrated the good order Cork are in right now.
In Division 1B, Waterford and Antrim maintained their strong early form, as they defeated Wexford and Limerick respectively. The Déise were 0-19 to 0-7 winners in their local derby, while Antrim made their long trip to Rathkeale’s Mick Neville Park worthwhile to the tune of a 2-17 to 1-11 result. In the division’s other tie, Down got off the mark for the campaign by chiseling out a 0-13 to 0-9 success over Offaly.
In Division 2A, Cavan beat Laois 2-16 to 0-10, Kerry got the better of Meath by 1-12 to 0-12 and Derry accounted for Westmeath, 1-9 to 0-7.