Rebel girls surge to sweet success

Eaine Burke lifts O Duffy Cup

Cork1-17 Tipperary1-13
By Jim O'Sullivan
INTERVAL switches proved crucial, as did the lucky break of an 'own-goal' 10 minutes from the end.

But ultimately it was true grit and an absolute determination to avoid a third consecutive defeat which won Cork the Foras na Gaeilge All-Ireland senior camogie championship title in Croke Park yesterday.

The re-arrangement which brought star performer Gemma O'Connor and outstanding dual star Briege Corkery together at midfield helped inspire Cork.

The opening stage of the game was noteworthy for the fact that the sides were very evenly balanced, with scores level twice up to the 9th minute.

However, Tipperary were to gain a gradual advantage around midfield which was reflected in an increasing threat from their forwards, and Cork struggled to make real headway in attack.

After 16 minutes, Tipperary were 0-6 to 0-2 clear and looking good. Converted Cork full-forward Stephanie Dunlea was seeing little of the ball and it was much the same at the other end for Tipperary captain Deirdre Hughes.

On balance, however, Tipperary's backs were stronger, with Ciara Gaynor and Therese Brophy impressing, while Claire Grogan made an important contribution on the left flank.

Cork, four points in arrears in the 19th minute, recovered to be only one behind seven minutes later. Briege Corkery was prominent at left half-back, and again on the other side when she switched with the consistent Anna Geary, while Gemma O'Connor (who was to emerge as their star performer in the second half) did a lot of good work at centre-forward. Additionally, Emer Dillon improved her first touch to do some very good work on both flanks and winning 2002 captain Una O'Donoghue was seen to good effect on the wing outside her.

Out of the blue, Tipperary produced a goal when goalkeeper Aoife Murray allowed a dipping shot to go through her legs and they racked up three quick scores just afterwards. Yet Cork hung on for two late points which were to prove invaluable in assisting their recovery later, with the scores 1-10 to 0-8 at half-time.

Tipperary never managed to get back to the same high pitch in their hurling on the resumption, and it took them 21 minutes to get their next score. Cork produced a new midfield pairing of Corkery and Jennifer O'Connor, which was to be a masterstroke, brought in a substitute at right corner-back, moved Rena Buckley to right half and Rachel Moloney to centre-forward. The net effect of the changes was that eight minutes in, the margin was two points.

However, Cork then ran into a stone wall in terms of being able to further their recovery and translate their superiority into scores.

They wasted chances, twice hitting shots into goalkeeper Jovita Delaney's hands, while they were unlucky to see a pass across the goalmouth from Dunlea being intercepted by the alert Sinead Nealon.

Finally, twelve minutes in, Cork scored through Jennifer O'Leary, and after a foul on Deirdre Hughes led to Claire Grogan getting Tipp's first score, the game exploded into life when Cork goaled.

It came from a powerfully hit free hit by Amanda O'Regan in the 52nd minute - one of six first-time medal winners on the day - which full-back O'Dwyer unfortunately dropped over the line. That put Cork a point ahead, but in another three minutes Hughes levelled (with her only score of the game) and Grogan put Tipp back in front in the 58th minute.

Their character tested once more, Cork responded magnificently, grabbing the initiative with two quick scores from the influential Emer Dillon. And, showing extra reserves of fitness - a tribute to the preparation of trainer Fiona O'Driscoll, three-goal hero of their 2002 victory - they drove home their advantage with three more scores. Two of those came from late substitute Angela Walsh and Briege Corkery - both members of the Cork ladies football team which contests their first All-Ireland final in two weeks time. Free-taker Jennifer O'Leary's pointed free brought the curtain down on a gutsy second-half showing which was justly rewarded.

*Referee Sean Pender was very strict in the first half but was more willing to allow the game flow in the second half. Overall, he did a good job.

Scorers: Cork: E. Dillon 0-4; J. O'Leary 0-4 (0-2 frees); A. O'Regan 1-0; G. O'Connor 0-3; S. Dunlea, R. Moloney, E. Burke, U. O'Donoghue, A. Walsh and B. Corkery 0-1 each. Tipperary: C. Grogan 1-5 (0-3 frees, 0-1 '45); J. Horan 0-2; E. McDonnell 0-2; J. Ryan, P. Fogarty, N. Kennedy and D. Hughes 0-1 each.

CORK: A. Murray; R. Buckley, R. Holland, A. O'Regan; A. Geary, M. O'Connor, B. Corkery; V. Harris, R. Moloney; U. O'Donoghue, G. O'Connor, J. O'Leary; E. Dillon, S. Dunlea, E. Burke (capt.).

Subs: J. O'Callaghan for Harris (second half); S. Donovan for Burke (51st); A. Walsh for O'Donoghue (55th).

TIPPERARY: J. Delaney; S. Kelly, U. O'Dwyer, J. Kirwan; S. Nealon, C. Gaynor, T. Brophy; P. Fogarty, A. McDermott; J. Ryan, N. Kennedy, C. Grogan; J. Horan, D. Hughes (capt.), E. McDonnell. Subs: E. Hayden for Kennedy (37th minute); M. Shortt for Gaynor (54th).

Referee: S. Pender (Kildare).

Attendance: 14,350.