Cork defeated Kerry by 0-16 to 0-7 in the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies SFC Final on Sunday at Croke Park.
TG4 All-Ireland Ladies senior football championship final
Cork 0-16 Kerry 0-7
By Jackie Cahill at Croke Park
CORK were crowned TG4 All-Ireland Ladies senior football champions for the seventh time in eight seasons at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon. A dominant display from the Rebelettes crushed Munster rivals Kerry in the showpiece decider at GAA HQ. 16,998 spectators watched Cork collect the Brendan Martin Cup for the second successive year and since 2005, Eamonn Ryan’s all-conquering players have lost just one championship match, against Tyrone in 2010. That Banagher defeat was described by Ryan as a “pebble in the shoe” and it’s ensured that the Leesiders have bounced back to claim back-to-back All-Ireland titles.
Kerry, contesting a first All-Ireland senior decider since 1993, suffered a first-ever defeat in the showpiece fixture, as Cork maintained their unbeaten record in senior finals. Kerry set out to contain Cork as boss William O’Sullivan made a number of positional switches. The Kingdom packed their defence but as a result, they struggled desperately for scores at the other end. Sarah Houlihan carried the fight to Cork in attack and goalkeeper Edel Murphy kept a clean sheet but overall, this was a chastening experience for Kerry. Lorraine Scanlon, named at midfield but deployed at full-forward, enjoyed some good moments but Cork generally dealt well with the aerial bombardment.
For Cork, wing backs Briege Corkery and Geraldine O’Flynn were in magnificent form, surging forward from defence and putting their opponents on the back foot. Three of Cork’s six starting forwards failed to register a point from play but the scoreboard kept ticking over with regularity nonetheless. Doireann O’Sullivan was a revelation at centre forward, notching four points from play, while Valerie Mulcahy collected six of her seven points from placed balls.
The free count heavily favoured Cork – 32-11 – and O’Sullivan admitted his displeasure with some decisions against Kerry after the game. But O’Sullivan acknowledged that Kerry, who lost the Munster final by six points to Cork, could have no complaints with this latest defeat. They went fourteen minutes without a score in the first half and trailed at half-time by 0-3 to 0-10.
Cork stormed into an early 0-3 to 0-0 lead before Kerry scored their opening point in the tenth minute, courtesy of Houlihan. To their credit, Kerry denied Cork any real goalscoring opportunities but the champions were happy to take their points when the chances presented themselves. On the stroke of half-time, Orlagh Farmer kicked a majestic point and the half-time hooter sounded as the ball sailed over the bar.
Kerry did land two successive points for the first and only time early in the second half but they never looked like launching a revival. And their misery was complete in the final minute when star forward Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh went to the sin bin after picking up a yellow card. It later emerged that Kingdom skipper Bernie Breen sustained a serious shoulder injury early in the game but the Laune Rangers star played the entire hour nonetheless. This latest success for Cork means that eleven of their starting line-up have now collected seven All-Ireland medals, while sub Angela Walsh has also featured in each of those All-Ireland successes since 2005.
Scorers for Cork: V Mulcahy 0-7 (6f), D O’Sullivan 0-4, G O’Flynn 0-2, B Corkery, O Farmer & N Cleary (f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kerry: S Houlihan 0-3 (2f), L Scanlon 0-2, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh (f) & P Dennehy 0-1 each.
CORK: E Harte; A.M. Walsh, B Stack, D O’Reilly; B Corkery, R Buckley, G O’Flynn; J Murphy, N Kelly; O Farmer, D O’Sullivan, C O’Sullivan; N Cleary, V Mulcahy, R Ní Bhuachalla.
Subs: Angela Walsh for A.M. Walsh (38), O Finn for Ní Bhuachalla (38), L McMahon for Farmer (46), A Hutchings for Kelly (53), Annie Walsh for C O’Sullivan (57).
KERRY: E Murphy; C Lynch, A Desmond, A Lyons; J Brosnan, A Leonard, L Galvin; E Sherwood, B Breen; C Kelly, D Corridan, S Houlihan; M O’Connell, L Scanlon, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.
Subs: P Dennehy for Corridan (24), M Fitzgerald for Galvin (44), D Corridan for O’Connell (58), S.J. Joy for Sherwood (58).
Referee: G Corrigan (Down)
The team going for a seventh All-Ireland title in the last eight years against a side who have not even been in a final since 1993?
It should be a no-brainer, and the odds-on status that Cork have indicate how strongly favoured they are to further cement their status as one of the best ladies football teams of all-time.
And yet, on a given day, anything can happen – as Cork discovered when losing to Tyrone in a 2010 quarter-final, the Ulster side winning by even points and then almost being tripped up by Kerry in the semi-final. Likewise Kilkenny losing by 10 points against Galway in the Leinster final only to triumph by 11 last Sunday after a draw in between.
For an upset to materialise, however, Cork must have an off-day while this Kerry side must find their best display of recent years. That Tyrone blip aside, Cork don’t do under-performing – they beat Donegal by 8-27 to 0-2 in the All-Ireland quarter-final and then, when that win saw them being classed as under-prepared against Monaghan, they had nine points to spare against the side who beat them in the league decider.
In Juliet Murphy, Valerie Mulcahy and Nollaig Cleary, Cork have three of the game’s best proponents while the return of Angela Walsh has provided further options in an already-strong defence where Bríd Stack, Deirdre O’Reilly and Briege Corkery, among others, are always reliable.
They will have their hands full in limiting Sarah Houlihan and Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh, who shone for Kerry in the semi-final win against Galway, and in midfield inspirational captain Bernie Breen and Lorraine Scanlon will need to stand toe-to-toe with Murphy and Norita Kelly.
In the counties’ last meeting in the Munster final, Cork’s good first-half showing, allied with Kerry starting slowly, meant that the game was over as a contest before the Kingdom got going in the second period. They cannot afford to give their rivals a headstart again.
Bernie Breen (Kerry) – Profile
While it has often been the opposite in the men’s game, Kerry have lived in the shadow of Cork in the TG4 Ladies Football All-Ireland Senior Championship for almost a decade.
While the Kingdom have won 11 All-Irelands, including nine in a row from 1982-90, their last win in 1993. In contrast, Cork, who had now won a Munster title before 2004, have won the Brendan Martin Cup in six of the last seven years and are hoping to retain their title on Sunday against the Kingdom in Croke Park.
Bernie Breen played on the first-ever Kerry side beaten by Cork in the senior championship back in 1999. She points out that things are not exactly bleak from their point of view, however.
“We’ve been there or thereabouts for the past few years,” she says.
“Tyrone beat us in the semi-final in 2010 after they had beaten Cork, we lost by a point, and then last year Monaghan beat us by nine in the semi as well.
“We’ve stuck together, though, we knew that there was something in us that we could get to a final and hopefully win it.”
The Munster final between the sides in July saw Cork triumph by 3-12 to 2-9 in Páirc Uí Rinn. At half-time the reigning champions led by 2-6 to 0-1, however, so Breen is aware that there is room for improvement.
“In Munster I suppose we didn’t really do ourselves any justice, it’s like a Munster final again on Sunday. It’s nice to see one Kerry team up here in September or October!
“It’s a great achievement for ladies football in Kerry, even to encourage underage activity.
“I think so, it’s basically the same thing! Nobody likes to lose a game, especially to your rivals.”
Kerry can be had at 13/2 with the bookmakers for Sunday, with Cork at 1/10. Such a state of affairs only suits them, in Breen’s view.
“I think it’s great to be the underdogs going into it, there is less focus on you,” she says.
“I think that there is more pressure on Cork really. We’ve been underdogs in most games, it probably suits us and puts less pressure on us.
“We need a good start. We have a bit of a reputation for starting slow and then the game might be gone away from you by the time you get into it. Hopefully we can put that right on Sunday.”
Briege Corkery (Cork)
Corkery, and Cork ladies football captain Rena Buckley, were part of the Rebel camogie side which lost to Wexford three weeks ago, and they will bid to avoid an unwanted double against Kerry in Sunday’s TG4 Ladies Football All-Ireland Senior Championship decider.
“We were disappointed with the camogie final,” she says, “we just didn’t really perform and that’s the most gutting thing about it.
“It is a consolation that we’re back again, but you’ll always have the regrets of not winning the camogie.
“You have to think positive really, but I was only saying to my sister recently that the worst place to lose is in Croke Park.
“Hopefully, it won’t happen again and that we come out with guns blazing and see what we can do.”
On the plus side for Corkery, the Cork ladies have never lost in Croke Park, victorious in All-Ireland finals from 2005-09 inclusive and then regaining the Brendan Martin Cup last year.
“There’s always a day that comes when that changes,” she points out.
“I’d never be thinking that way anyway, that we have never lost a game in Croke Park.
“We were close enough to it a few years but managed to squeeze by. We just need to plough on and make sure that we don’t make it difficult for ourselves.”
When the Munster sides met in the provincial final in July, Cork won by 3-12 to 2-9. Kerry impressed in the second half that day, however, so Corkery is wary of the Kingdom’s threat.
“I’ve great regard for Kerry, I think they’re a fantastic side,” she says.
“We played them in the Munster final and only beat them by six points and they were missing players on the day, which is a scary factor for us.
“They have absolutely nothing to lose against us, the pressure is on us, they can just give it their all.
“We have Brendan Martin, I suppose that’s the difference, but I do think that they are a great side and people telling us that we are going to win easily isn’t a good thing for us, we don’t want to be complacent.”
Despite having beaten Donegal by 8-27 to 0-2 in the All-Ireland quarter-final, complacency was not an issue against Monaghan in the last four.
“It came down to workrate, we did work really, really hard against Monaghan,” Corkery says.
“That’s what it’ll come down to against Kerry too, Monaghan are a fantastic side and it just didn’t happen for them against us.
“Monaghan are probably on a par with ourselves and I think Kerry are close to that too, so it’s a matter of doing all we can to win.”