Kilkenny ladies ended Wexford’s decade long reign as South East cup champions with Susan Shirley getting the all-important goal in a 1-0 victory in Enniscorthy last Sunday.
The women from model county gave been dominant in regional action for the past ten seasons, winning the league and cup double on each occasion with the cats so often the side to miss out in the decider.
But Kilkenny have been in rude form this season, emulating the feat of their men by reaching the Irish Hockey Challenge final –both of which will be played on March 31.
It was a real tussle throughout, fought out on all areas of the pitch, with quick interplay throughout seeing both Wexford and Kilkenny forming notable attacks.
Wexford applied plenty of pressure and the backline of Lucy Dooley, Jenny Wallace, Averil Atkinson and Lynn Darling were worked hard but they kept chances to a premium.
When they did make it through, goalkeeper Pamela Farragher made some fantastic saves and showed no nerves when faced one-on-one. Eight corners were repelled while, at the far end, Kilkenny went close to breaking the deadlock in the 20th minute when Shirley hit the upright.
It was not long, however, until she got her reward. Her straight shot into the bottom right hand corner came from a free at the top-left hand of the circle.
The second half was as intense and produced some excellent hockey from both sides, with shots on target from both sides. However, Wexford were beginning to show signs of panic and saw two of their players being green carded for minor offences.
Kilkenny kept their focus and lovely inter-passing from midfielders Clair Phelan, Niamh Spratt, Ciara Lawlor and Shirley kept the ball moving up to forwards Alice McGarry, Emma Ryan and Aine Buggy.
It helped them hold on for a 1-0 victory, one gratefully celebrated by coach Danny Mulligan, assistant coach Emmet Hughes, manager Searlait Doyle and all the travelling band of supporters.
Earlier that day Kilkenny ladies seconds narrowly lost to Portlaoise 2-1 in the final of the South East Plate while, on Saturday, the Kilkenny men’s firsts won 5-4 at home to Navan, putting them top of Leinster division four.
In the South East Schoolgirl’s Senior Cup final, meanwhile, Kilkenny College ended a 16-year wait for the title as they ran up a stunning 7-3 win over Loreto, Wexford on Wednesday afternoon.
Kilkenny: Pamela Farragher (GK), Lucy Dooley, Jenny Wallace, Averil Atkinson, Lynn Darling (Capt), Niamh Spratt, Clair Phelan, Susan Shirley, Alice McGarry, Emma Ryan, Ciara Lawlor, Aine Buggy
** Details with thanks to Sealait Doyle