Walsh goal crucial as Cats retain league title
Kilkenny 2-7 Cork 0-10
Kilkenny retained their Littlewoods Ireland Division 1 title with an all-round team performance that augurs well for the championship.
Just as in the All-Ireland final last September, Cork were unable to work Kilkenny out. Ann Downey and her lieutenants, Conor Phelan and Paddy Mullally, must get huge credit for the tactics that stifled the previously high-scoring Cork attack, while creating the space for two priceless goals of their own.
Kilkenny won the vast majority of the individual battles. And there were battles aplenty, with the physicality of the exchanges notable from start to finish.
Cork did improve in the second half, the introduction of Orla Cotter a welcome boost after the brilliant St Catherine's stickwoman had missed most of the spring through injury.
The nearest they got to a goal that would have put a different slant on proceedings came in the 48th minute, when Amy Connor fielded Katrina Mackey's delivery, and unleashed a shot from inside the 13-metre line. Out of nowhere, however, Catherine Foley arrived to produce a sensational block. Even in the first half, when they were a clear second best, Cork spurned some good chances but they could have few complaints.
Kilkenny often played with just one player inside their opposition 45. That had the dual consequence of cutting out the space in their own end of the field, while backing their ability to have an impact with strike runners from deep.
The set-up got them a goal by the third minute, when Denise Gaule advanced on a delivery by Miriam Walsh and handpassed over the advancing Aoife Murray.
Kilkenny were full value for their 1-6 to 0-4 lead at half-time. The Leesiders were better after the restart but the key moment arrived in the 41st minute. Owen Elliott awarded a free to Kilkenny but Cork believed the decision had gone their way. The alert Gaule ran to the mark and took a quick free to Danielle Morrissey. Gemma O'Connor did get back to gather possession but was dispossessed and Walsh handpassed to the net.
Scorers - Kilkenny: D Gaule 1-2 (1f); M Walsh 1-0; K Power 0-2; A Dunphy, J A Malone, D Morrissey (f) 0-1 each. Cork: K Mackey 0-4 (3fs); O Cotter 0-3 (1f); G O'Connor, L Coppinger, H Looney 0-1 each.
Kilkenny - E Kavanagh; M Teehan, C Foley, G Walsh; A Nolan, A Dalton, C Phelan; A Dunphy, M Farrell; D Gaule, K Power, J Reddy; J A Malone, M Walsh, D Morrissey. Subs: E Keane for Dunphy (59), J Clifford for Morrissey (59).
Cork - A Murray; L Treacy, P Mackey, R Buckley; E O'Sullivan, A Thompson, C Sigerson; G O'Connor, J Barry; A O'Connor, O Cronin, J White; K Mackey, N McCarthy, L Collins. Subs: L Coppinger for P Mackey (21), O Cotter for Collins (33), H Looney for White (50), L O'Sullivan for Barry (55).
Ref - O Elliott (Antrim)