Galway got their defence of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship under way with a swashbuckling performance against a gritty Wexford to prevail in their Group 1 tie at Bellefield.
It was a good weekend too for the semi-finalists of the past two campaigns Tipperary, who shrugged off the second-half dismissal of Aishling Moloney to triumph over Clare at The Ragg.
Galway 5-17 Wexford 3-9
Galway were sent on their way by a fourth-minute goal from Catherine Finnerty following good defensive work by Shauna Healy. Finnerty caught Aoife Donohue’s delivery on the 45, turned sharply, and, after making rapid headway, drilled an unstoppable shot beyond Laura Brennan.
Wexford hit back quickly with a smart finish to the net by Mag Byrne after Linda Bolger had done remarkably well to keep the sliotar alive.
Donohoe was on fire, however, and she provided the ammunition for Ailish O’Reilly, who rounded her marker before providing a cute finish for her first major in the 10th minute.
Wexford displayed impressive spirit and work-rate, though, and had the margin down to four, with just a minute of normal time remaining in the first half, but a point by Caitriona Cormican and a second goal for O’Reilly left them trailing by 3-9 to 1-7 at the interval.
Chloe Foxe landed a free early in the second half and one of the best team goals you are ever likely to see followed from the puckout to give the home team real hope.
It began with centre-back Sarah O’Connor gathering Sarah Healy’s lengthy drive inside her own 45 and bursting through a flurry of bodies before offloading to the supporting Bolger. The diminutive midfielder accelerated forward before hand-passing to Shelly Kehoe, who transferred quickly to Joanne Dillon and the Rathgarogue/Cushinstown attacker made no mistake from 13m.
Galway needed a response and it came, via the stick of Niamh Hanniffy, who pounced on a loose pass to grab a fourth goal for the visitors.
Cathal Murray was able to introduce the likes of Rebecca Hennelly, Orlaith McGrath and Niamh McGrath and Donohue followed up with another brilliant goal after latching onto a breaking ball.
Wexford continued to battle, O’Connor grabbing a fabulous goal following another lung-bursting run down the centre of the Galway defence that included a one-two with Roisin Kelly before the centre-back provided the immaculate finish.
Kilkenny 0-15 Waterford 0-8
Kilkenny pulled away in the second half to claim the spoils in the south-east derby with Waterford on Saturday.
Denise Gaule and Beth Carton shot three points each as the sides went in deadlocked on 0-6 apiece at half-time.
Interestingly, former player of the year Anne Dalton began as part of a two-player full-forward line and got the scoring under way. With Lydia Fitzpatrick industrious around the middle, Gaule capitalised on finding space with a couple of lovely scores.
Abby Flynn, Annie Fitzgerald and Carton were threatening, though, leading to a number of frees that Carton converted, while Lorraine Bray was also on the mark. Waterford will rue not registering a goal from a couple of chances, however.
Kilkenny had the wind in the second half and found another gear, while Waterford carried none of the threat of the opening period.
Katie Nolan, Miriam Walsh and her cousin Grace were among the scorers as Brian Dowling’s charges pulled away from Fergal O’Brien’s unit for a deserved triumph.
Tipperary 0-20 Clare 1-8
The new-look midfield pairing Karen Kennedy and Moloney were among the early scorers, while Grace O’Brien, Orla O’Dwyer and the prolific Cait Devane also got in on the act as Tipp used a very strong wind to their advantage in the first half of their victory over Clare.
Clare had begun well with points from Aine O’Loughlin – after a brilliant block, run and delivery by Emer Kelly – Greta Hickey and O’Loughlin again, and the tall full-forward also had a shot at goal well saved by Caoimhe Bourke.
Precision in attack was significant, however, given the elements, and at half-time, Bill Mullaney’s outfit led by 0-13 to 0-4, though Clare sub Chloe Morey reminded observers of her gifts with a brilliant score into the elements just before the short whistle.
Devane stretched the gap soon after the restart but Laura McMahon and Susan Vaughan responded, with the Bannerwomen getting more possession with the wind though not capitalising on some of their opportunities.
Championship debutant Moloney was shown a red card in the 20th minute after referee Ray Kelly consulted his officials following an off-the-ball altercation with Vaughan.
Tipp’s reaction was impressively professional, as Devane slotted a 45 and Kennedy, revelling at midfield after securing All-Star nominations at centre-back the past two years, also split the posts to take the wind out of the Clare sails.
The Premiers moved 12 clear to ensure that Kelly’s stunning 64th-minute green flag was too little too late for Ger O’Connell’s hard-working unit.
Westmeath 1-12 Limerick 0-12
On Saturday, Westmeath marked their debut in the senior championship with a famous victory over Limerick.
Both ties were in Group 2 and Westmeath have given themselves an opportunity of making the knockout stages at the first attempt as a result of a stunning first half in Bruff.
Limerick showed plenty of determination to get it back to a goal at the final whistle, having trailed by eight points after 24 minutes and they almost rescued a draw but Westmeath netminder Fiona Keating saved in the fourth minute of injury time from Judith Mulcahy.
It would have been rough justice on the visitors, though, as they excelled for the majority of proceedings.
Points from Keating, Pamela Greville, Megan Dowdall and Ava Balfe got them off to a tremendous start and when Denise McGrath goaled, they were in dreamland, Limerick relying solely on two Caoimhe Costelloe points from frees to have it 1-7 to 0-2.
Paul Sexton’s side finished with four points, including their first score from play by Orlaith Kelleher, to hint at improved fortunes, but Westmeath showed plenty of resilience, although Costelloe did bring her tally to nine in the second half.
Aoife Doherty helped increase the margin to seven and that enabled Johnny Greville’s crew to hold off a determined rally by Limerick.
Fiona Keating with a fine save!
38 mins gone- the game is over!!!!!
What a historic day for westmeath camogie 👏👏👏😊😊😊😊😊😊
1:12 to 12 to Westmeath!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/0ZTU8kLe7V
In Group 1, Offaly awarded Cork a walkover.
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