By Jimmy Rhatigan
AT HALF time supporters would possibly have been forgiven for believing that our camogie girls had all but locked a door on Cork’s hopes of a Littlewoods League title.
Ann Downey’s warriors had played with wonderful skill and panache and were in a good place at the break, seven points in front.
But there was also the warning that Cork were not there to make up the numbers as they finished off half one by upping the ante.
The likelihood is that the players may not have had the same exuberant mindset as their fans.
But our girls too had every reason to be happy that they had the wherewithal to clinch the crown, without being over confident.
But they committed one cardinal error.
Although they had made the route to the trophy quite difficult for the Rebelettes, they mistakenly left the latch key in the door.
Cork spotted the escape route.
The second half was an entirely different kettle of fish for the talented Cats.
The opening 30 minutes brought a champagne performance.
Kilkenny’s team play was a joy to behold.
Cork had no real answer to their swagger, their work ethic, their skill and their ability to pick off points.
But in half two the bubbly ran out. Kilkenny were not left with stale beer, far from it, but their second half play could certainly not have been described as vintage.
And that was despite the fact that Cork were down a player who was red carded. And the visiting girls could have snatched a second and even third goal.
Slowly but surely, Cork had whittled down a lead that at one stage was 10 points.
In the dying minutes and right into the four minutes of injury time, Kilkenny found themselves on a contrary see-saw that could have swung either way.
The home team’s lead was three, then two, then a single point.
But in fairness, as Cork battled to get a draw, extra time, a replay or whatever was supposed to happen, Kilkenny continued to battle bravely to cling on to what they had, a lead that had got worryingly skinny.
At a final whistle that must have been as welcome as the first flowers of Spring, the Cats had made their point, won their 15th title, a hat-trick of final victories, which, in fairness they deserved, if only on their glorious opening half heroics.
Whatever about the key of the door or the champagne, the Kilkenny glass was again half full again when the fat lady sang and a marker had been put down for the championship.
The Cats had escaped to victory, licked the cream and their top class squad will now focus on another national title.
The champagne may have been missing for the second half an hour.
But there was never any shortage of bottle.