Cork 4-9 Tipperary 1-9
By Diarmuid O'Flynn
FOUR years ago, an exceptionally-talented Cork side won the All-Ireland final, and looked set to dominate the camogie landscape for some years to come.
Nobody figured that Tipperary's tyros, bursting at the seams with hurling skills and with a ferocious appetite, would finally put the Premier county on the camogie map.
For the last three years, Cork's players were like the rest of the camogie world, mere witnesses to greatness, as Tipperary first broke their duck at this level, then went on to triple success. Three years during which the frustration, the hunger, welled up, dammed on the double over the last two years, when first they lost a final to Tipperary, then last year, a replayed semi-final.
Yesterday, at Croke Park, that dam finally burst. The flood that so mercilessly swept away the Tipperary crown started with Cork's eagle-eyed and fleet-footed keeper Ger Casey, continued with a suffocating full-back line of Joanne O'Callaghan, Eithne Duggan and Stephanie Dunlea, had become a raging torrent by the time the brilliant half-back line of Paula, Mary and Gemma O'Connor (not related) came into play, and with the magnificent Vivienne Harris and Rachel Moloney controlling midfield, all that remained was for the Cork forwards to finish the job.
How they responded. Three minutes into that second half, Tipp led by 1-8 to 1-6; fifteen minutes later, it was 4-7 to 1-8. Floodgates open, 3-4 without reply, game over. Four different players, Emer Dillon, Jennifer O'Leary, team captain Una O'Donoghue and Fiona O'Driscoll, involved in the scores, the other two, Linda Mellerick and Caoimhe Harrington, working beaverishly and selflessly, Orla O'Sullivan doing her bit when introduced, this was a team performance par excellence.
Through the first half, it had been nip and tuck, with the champions looking marginally the better side. That scenario was reflected too in the half-time scoreline, Tipp with a slight lead, 1-6 to 1-5.
Most of the Tipp scoring was done in the opening quarter with Emer McDonnell taking 1-1 in that opening half, while Claire Grogan looked dangerous every time she came near the ball.
Gradually however, Cork settled down and with their large following, in the incredibly noisy 13,387 crowd urging them on, pegged back the Tipp's lead. The crucial score was O'Driscoll's first goal, Tipperary keeper Jovita Delaney was forced to bat out a dangerous Mellerick shot, the nifty corner-forward pounced on the break. That score came in the 19th minute, left Cork just a point behind, 1-3 to 1-4, but also signalled that on this day, the breaks would be with the Rebels.
Tipperary actually started the second period looking the more likely winners, two fine points from Philly Fogarty and Grogan putting them a goal to the good. Then it happened. At one end, the Cork defence closed up shop, at the other, the scores started to come. Points from Dillon and O'Leary, goal O'Donoghue after a Dillon centre, another goal, O'Driscoll this time storming forward and hand-passing to the net after some outstanding defensive work at the other end, then O'Driscoll again, and a goal would have graced any stage.
A dropping ball, in the midst of a number of players, Fiona used her great strength to grab the ball and, still under great pressure, managed to fire off the shot. Keeper Delaney almost made the save, but the ball broke behind, trickled over the line.
That was it. Tipperary continued to fight the good fight, but it was Cork, through O'Donoghue and O'Leary, who closed out the scoring.
Good game, despite the lop-sided look at the end which didn't do justice to Tipperary, but the real pity was that so few were there to witness such a compelling team and individual performance.
Scorers - Cork: F. O'Driscoll 3-2; U. O'Donoghue 1-1; E. Dillon 0-3; J. O'Leary 0-3 (0-2 frees).
Tipperary: E. McDonnell 1-1; C. Grogan 0-4 (0-3 frees); P. Fogarty 0-2; D. Hughes, C. Gaynor, 0-1 each.
CORK: G. Casey; J. O'Callaghan, E. Duggan, S. Dunlea; P. O'Connor, M. O'Connor, G. O'Connor; V. Harris, E. Burke; L. Mellerick, E. Dillon, J. O'Leary; U. O'Donoghue, C. Harrington, F. O'Driscoll.
Subs: R. Moloney (Burke 30); O. O'Sullivan (Harrington 49).
TIPPERARY: J. Delaney; P. Bulfin, U. O'Dwyer, C. Madden; S. Nealon, C. Gaynor, T. Brophy; S. Kelly, A. McDermott; D. Hughes, E. Hayden, N. Kennedy; E. McDonnell, P. Fogarty, C. Grogan.
Subs: L. Young (Nealon 43); E. Hayden (McDermott 60).
Referee: E. Lawlor (Westmeath) - good job.