TG4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Final – Cork v Dublin

TG4 ALL-IRELAND LADIES SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

CORK 1-9 DUBLIN 0-11

JACKIE CAHILL AT CROKE PARK

CORK had to dig deep against luckless Dublin before clinching a fifth successive TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football championship crown at Croke Park on Sunday.Eamon Ryan’s all-conquering Leesiders found themselves two points behind with eight minutes remaining of a low-scoring decider but called upon their vast reserves of experience to annex yet another title. Substitute Mairead Kelly made a big impact in the closing stages, scoring one point and creating another, as a run of four unanswered points saw Cork squeeze over the line with the bare minimum to spare. Dublin, back in the final for the first time since 2005, can count themselves unfortunate not to have left GAA HQ with the Brendan Martin Cup as the ultimate souvenir.

They were the better team for long spells, displaying incredible levels of hunger and intensity with their superb tackling particularly evident. The Sky Blues, inspired by Mary Nevin, got off to an ideal start with the first two points of the game but were rocked on their heels in the fifth minute. Cork, in typical fashion, absorbed the early pressure and then struck back with a vengeance as Nollaig Cleary banged home a fine goal at the Hill 16 end, after taking a pass from top scorer Valerie Mulcahy. Cork went hunting for more goals as they attempted to blitz the Leinster champions and Amy O’Shea struck the base of the post in the 10th minute, before Rhona Ní Bhuachalla blazed wide soon after.

Dublin, who had five forwards on target from play in the opening half, survived that onslaught and had chances of their own to claim an elusive goal. As early as the second minute, Sinead Aherne found herself one on one with Cork goalkeeper Elaine Harte but the Rockbán shotstopper blocked Aherne’s shot with her legs. With 17 minutes on the watch, Dublin were presented with a penalty chance after Aherne was hauled down by Ciara O’Sullivan but Aherne’s poorly-struck shot was easily saved by Harte. O’Sullivan spent ten minutes in the sin-bin for that indiscretion but Dublin failed to make their numerical superiority count on the scoreboard. However, they did lead by 0-6 to 1-2 at half-time and some harsh words were spoken in the Cork dressing room during the interval as they charged out of the blocks in the second period.

The first of five second half points for Mulcahy hauled Cork level and the teams would find themselves deadlocked on three further occasions before the finish. It was real tit-for-tat fare, with Dublin looking the more likely team, but the pattern of the game was similar to the All-Ireland senior hurling final and the Dubs couldn’t land the knockout punch. Cork were on the ropes and there for the taking but displaying the steel of champions, they refused to yield and hung in there in the face of stiff Dublin pressure. Dublin’s strong running game, mixed with ferocious and hard-hitting tackling, caused Cork plenty of problems and Aherne finished a flowing move which involved five pairs of hands to send her side 0-10 to 1-5 clear in the final quarter.

It was time for cool and experienced heads in the Cork camp and it was Mulcahy, Juliet Murphy and Nollaig Cleary who stood tall as the Rebelettes clawed their way back. Scores from Mulcahy and sub Kelly tied the game for the sixth time before Cleary and Mulcahy fired Cork two points clear with just minutes to go. Aherne’s third point cut the gap back to just a single point again with two minutes remaining but Cork played keep ball with possession and ran the clock down effectively as Dublin chased red-clad shadows.

Scorers for Cork: V Mulcahy 0-5 (3f), N Cleary 1-1, J Murphy 0-2f, M Kelly 0-1.

Scorers for Dublin: S Aherne 0-3 (1f), M Nevin & A McGuinness 0-2 each, S McGrath, E Kelly, L Davey and L Peat 0-1 each.

CORK: E Harte; R Buckley, A Walsh, G O’Flynn; C O’Sullivan, B Stack, B Corkery; J Murphy, N Kelly; N Cleary, D O’Reilly, A O’Shea; M O’Connor, V Mulcahy, R Ní Bhuachalla.

Subs: L McMahon for O’Shea (39), L Barrett for Ní Bhuachalla (42), M Kelly for O’Connor (50).

DUBLIN: C O’Connor; A Cluxton, N Comyn, M Kavanagh; C Barrett, S Furlong, S McGrath; D Masterson, N McEvoy; M Nevin, A McGuinness, E Kelly; L Davey, S Aherne, L Peat.

Subs: L Kidd for Cluxton (26), N Hurley for Kelly (39), E Travers for Barrett (54), K Flood for McEvoy (56), R Byrne for Nevin (57).

Referee: D Corcoran (Mayo)

Match Reaction

Mary O’Connor

By Jackie Cahill

“SEE your four and raise you one!” The triumphant cry and good-natured dig at Kilkenny’s four-in-a-row hurlers from Cork captain Mary O’Connor following her side’s victory in Sunday’s TG4 All-Ireland Ladies senior football final. Cork claimed a fifth successive title at Croke Park, a remarkable feat in the modern era but still behind Kerry’s nine-in-a-row of 1981-1990. O’Connor also hinted at her disappointment with the Cork county board’s decision not to reschedule Sunday’s county senior football final, a game which clashed directly with the showpiece ladies decider at GAA HQ. During the course of a lengthy and emotional acceptance speech, long-serving O’Connor said: “For some people, in the greater scheme of things, ladies football is not important. “But for us, this is the greater scheme of things.”

Dual star O’Connor, playing in a 17th All-Ireland final yesterday, added at an official press conference: “They (Cork county board) have their job to do and the Cork Ladies board have their job. “I was just saying earlier in the week that I was disappointed and I got burned, the headlines didn’t do me any justice. “We’ve won five in-a-row and the Cork county board have supported us in terms of pitch facilities and so on.” When asked if a sixth successive title is possible next year, O’Connor replied: “Talent and underage success is there but as seen today, it’s very difficult to win five. “It takes nine months and these players have given a lot to football. “We’re going to celebrate this, we’re going to try and fund-raise for a big holiday, if you could put it out there that we’re looking for some help in that department, I think we deserve it!

“If the men had won five All-Irelands in-a-row I think they’d be in free cars, free junkets and be made Freemen of the City but we’re going to enjoy this because it’s the 27 players and management that have been with us the last five years that have made it.” After finding themselves behind at half-time, O’Connor admitted that some strong words were exchanged in the Cork dressing room during the interval. She revealed: “We know there’s only a certain life cycle in every team, we know it’s going to come to an end but it wasn’t going to be today. “We had harsh words at half-time, we were being outworked for the ball and weren’t supporting the person on the ball. “We said we were going to put our heads down for the second-half and that the scoreboard only mattered when the hooter went.”

Eamon Ryan

By Jackie Cahill

TEAM manager Eamon Ryan admitted that Cork were fortunate to claim a fifth TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football championship crown at Croke Park on Sunday but paid huge tribute to the character of his players. Ryan revealed: “Dublin would consider themselves very unlucky but on the other side of it, we had players playing with antibiotics. “Juliet (Murphy) was very sick, Briege Corkery was very sick. They were with Doctor Con (Murphy) on Wednesday night.” Ryan looked at the scoreboard with eight minutes remaining and revealed that he uttered an expletive at that point, believing that the game was gone from the Leesiders as they found themselves two points behind. He added: “It wasn’t the management that got us through. It was the players because I honestly thought, looking at the clock with eight minutes left, that it was gone.

“All credit to the players, I don’t know where they got it from. I shifted Juliet back to centre back and she came out roaring at me, she wanted to go back to centre field. And she made two or three great forays. The last eight minutes was down to the players.” Five second half points from Valerie Mulcahy proved crucial as the Leesiders edged a tight final and Ryan reflected: “Valerie would be the first to admit that her first half wasn’t great. There were exchanges at half time but that’s Valerie. She is one of the best footballers. With the ball she’s superb.” Attempting to pinpoint the secret of Cork’s remarkable success, Ryan mused: “I’ve no secret anyway. Trying to analyse it, we were lucky enough to get eight or nine girls who had never won anything at underage and then we got eight or nine that had won a lot. The gelling of those two worked. The older group were keeping the younger group in check. The younger ones then abided by the guidelines that the older girls laid down. Our role in that wouldn’t be hectic. It was the two groups gelling and having mutual respect for each other. “We know that the last game, every morning we get up, is getting nearer. So the drive is within the team to push that last game. That would be what is going through their heads. Let’s push it back, we have to push it back, rather than thinking five in a row.”

Gerry McGill

By Jackie Cahill

DISAPPOINTED Dublin manager Gerry McGill admitted that missed chances cost his team dearly in Sunday’s TG4 All-Ireland Ladies senior football championship final. Dublin missed a glorious early goal chance and a tenth minute penalty, key moments which came back to haunt the Sky Blues as they lost out by just a single point. McGill reflected: “The best team never loses I suppose. “I think it comes down to taking your chances and unfortunately and at this point we’d have to say we missed a few chances at the end and were left to rue them.

“We were within six minutes of winning an All-Ireland and we had them on the rack for long periods in the game but that’s sport, that’s the way it goes.” Nonetheless, McGill was hugely proud of the performance of his Leinster champions as they handed Cork their toughest championship test in recent times. He said: “A lot of people didn’t think we’d have any chance at all. We always believed we were a good enough set of players and that we were good enough to go all the way. “Penalties, you see fellas in England getting 50 grand a week and they’re missing penalties. “We wouldn’t be here today without Sinead Aherne’s talent all year. “It’s neither here nor there.

“I don’t think it decided the game. We were two points up but over a five or six minute period Cork got a bit of dominance and we conceded one or two sloppy scores. If you make mistakes Cork will punish you whereas other teams mightn’t. “The work rate was tremendous. We maybe could have made one or two changes earlier. “When you’re one or two points up and it’s very tight one or two changes can change the course of the game. “Fatigue came into it at the end but we gave it our best and you can’t ask for any more.”

Team News

CORK (Ladies SF v Dublin): E Harte; Rena Buckley, A Walsh, G O’Flynn; B Corkery, B Stack, C O’Sullivan; J Murphy, N Kelly; N Cleary, D O’Reilly, A O’Shea; M O’Connor (capt), V Mulcahy, Rhona Buckley.

Paths to the Final

CORK: Munster Final: Cork 6-15 Kerry 0-9; Championship Quarter-final: Cork 4-23 Kildare 0-6; Championship Semi-final: Cork 3-10 Mayo 1-9

DUBLIN: Leinster Final: Dublin 5-6 Meath 1-8; Championship Quarter-final: Dublin 1-13 Kerry 2-6; Championship Semi-final: Dublin 2-14 Monaghan 1-15

Senior Championship

· There are 16 counties competing in the Senior Championship

· A Qualifier System was introduced into the Senior Championship in 2008

· Teams knocked out of the provincial championships enter the first round of qualifiers while provincial runners-up enter the second round of qualifiers

· Provincial winners enter the All Ireland Championship at the quarter-final stage

· One team is relegated from the Senior Championship

· Senior Championship Teams: Armagh, Cork, Donegal, Down, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Kerry, Laois, Leitrim, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Sligo, Tipperary, Tyrone