While it isn't a mathematical certainty, Cork more or less booked their place in the Division 1A final of the Very Camogie League for the second consecutive season with a 0-23 to 1-10 victory over Kilkenny at UPMC Nowlan Park.
The Rebels made it four from four against the team that defeated them in last year’s All-Ireland final and while next weekend’s opposition Galway, who denied them in the League decider 12 months ago, and Tipperary can join them on 12 points at the top of the table, they would need to suffer a 19-point reverse to miss out.
Kilkenny are not yet mathematically out of relegation danger either with one win, the same as Clare and just ahead of a Dublin team that has yet to pick up a point.
The Cats, without Denise Gaule for the first time this season, were certainly competitive for considerable periods of proceedings, particularly in the first half when they had a strong wind.
Cork have been racking up big tallies however and while Amy O’Connor has been leading the way in scoring terms, the skipper was one of ten that contributed to the final total, hitting five points. Fiona Keating, Laura Treacy and Hannah Looney were others to stand out in a tremendous squad performance.
A four-point scoring burst into the elements before half-time was probably the most significant period in the game, enabling last year’s League and Championship runners-up to go in at the break leading 0-12 to 0-07.
Kellyann Doyle, making her first start of the season after recovering from a third cruciate ligament injury that ruled her out of last summer’s campaign, opened the scoring at the end of a trademark run.
With the free-taking duties being taken over by Sophie O’Dwyer, who broke Cork hearts with late goal in the All-Ireland decider, Brian Dowling’s team led by 0-03 to 0-01 after five minutes.
Keating and Laura Hayes brought the visitors level and in all, the sides were deadlocked four times before the Leesiders took the lead for the first time courtesy of O’Connor, 16 minutes in.
It was still a one-point game with eight minutes remaining in scores from teenager Orlaith Cahalane, O’Connor, Looney and Cahalane again provided separation for the first time.
After conceding the first two points of the second half, Kilkenny were given a considerable boost by a sensational 35th minute goal from Julianne Malone, who gathered possession tight to the sideline and beat three Cork defenders before unleashing a bullet to the roof of the net.
A Katie Power point reduced the margin to three but Cork gradually edged away after the resumption, Matthew Twomey’s subs adding to the energy on the pitch and Cliona Healy, Emma Murphy, Sorcha McCartan and Saoirse McCarthy among the scorers
Galway and Tipperary kept their hopes alive yesterday as they recorded comfortable victories over Dublin and Clare.