By Daragh Ó Conchúir
KILKENNY moved well clear at the top of Group 2 of the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 with their third win in three outings, this time a 1-14 to 0-8 triumph over south east neighbours Waterford at the Conahy Shamrocks club.
Ann Downey's outfit are almost assured of a place in the last four on nine points as they pursue a third title in a row but the battle for the second spot is certain to go down to the wire with Limerick, Dublin, Waterford and Clare in a logjam all on four in behind.
Miriam Walsh and Denise Gaule struck four points each, while Grace O'Donnell's goal after 11 minutes helped the winners establish a seven-point advantage.
Waterford have shown the benefit of a couple of years at the top level this term and displayed commendable resilience to stay in the game, Beth Carton hitting three points on the trot on her way to compiling her personaly tally of seven. They got to within four early in the second half but Walsh, Gaule and Aoife Doyle hit scores as the champions eased away to the derby victory.
There was a Shannonside derby too and Clare claimed the bragging rights and their first win by 1-8 to 0-9 at Rathkeale. They burst out of the traps with a trio of points including a brace from play by Orla Devitt, but Niamh Mulcahy hit four in succession to move Limerick ahead.
The key score arrived in the 29th minute, when Clare's Regan Conway brilliantly fielded the sliotar from Eimear Kelly's free and her shot dropped to the net. Scores by Chloe Morey and Andrea O'Keeffe ensured that the Bannerwomen kept their noses ahead but Mulcahy displayed her customary leadership from play and placed balls to keep the result in doubt right to the end.
In the group's final game, Dublin also bagged their first win of the campaign, 0-15 to 0-10 against Meath. There was nothing in it at the break, with the Royals just a point in arrears 0-7 to 0-6 thanks to four points from Aoife Maguire, who finished with six, and two from Amy Gaffney.
Siobhán Kehoe struck three first-half points for last year's All-Ireland semi-finalists and added five in the second to enable David Herity's crew chisel out the hard-fought victory.
In Group 1, All-Ireland champions Cork had the weekend off and were joined at the top of the table by Wexford, who defeated Offaly by 2-11 to 0-8 at the St Rynagh's facility in Banagher. Goal machine Úna Leacy and Joanne Dillon raised the green flags, and Joanne Dillon converted five frees successfully.
Meanwhile, an inexperienced Galway line-up claimed their first triumph of the season under new manager Tony O'Donovan, building on being level at the break 0-6 apiece to pull clear after the resumption and overcome Tipperary on a 2-14 to 1-10 scoreline.