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Powerful Cork put up the shutters

CONSISTENT with what the scoreline suggests, powerful defensive play was key to Cork retaining their title in style in yesterday’s Gala All-Ireland senior camogie championship final in Croke Park.

But, as important as this was, it was just one of the elements which combined to deny Tipperary. The one-sided nature of the contest was primarily down to Cork’s superiority as a team — reflecting the confidence gained in victory 12 months ago and the determination to prove that it was no fluke.

In winning for the 22nd time, they did just that. They led all the way from the fifth minute and held Tipp scoreless in the second half until two minutes into injury time.

Starting without five of the team which looked destined to win last year’s final until Cork produced five late points, Tipperary’s inexperience in attack was to undermine their challenge. Admittedly Cork found it difficult to get scores in the early stages, but there was to be a gradual improvement after dual star Briege Corkery hit a fine point on the run and Jennifer O’Leary quickly followed with an excellent strike from 50 yards.

By then, the Cork half-back line, strongly anchored by Mary O’Connor in the centre and given great stability on the wings by Anna Geary and Rena Buckley (like O’Connor, another member of the Ladies Football team). Corkery was getting through a lot of work at midfield (before her partner, Gemma O’Connor found her best form). On the other hand, former captain Joanne Ryan was quite influential there for Tipperary, finishing up one of their best players on the day, along with team captain Philly Fogarty at centre-back.

As the game developed, it was clear to see that Cork had more to offer in attack whereas it was proving a bit of a struggle for Tipperary to make openings or to seriously trouble goalkeeper Aoife Murray, whose handling of the ball under pressure was superb.

Eimear McDonnell never managed to make space for herself and this was not only a tribute to the consistency of Cork captain Joanne O’Callaghan, but an indication of how the backs as a group covered for each other.

In this context, full-back Catriona Foley was to make a very important contribution in her first final, especially since she was only passed fit to play earlier in the week. The only Tipp forward to win ball regularly and make progress was Emily Hayden in the centre.

McDonnell, (a niece of Billy Morgan) got one of the best scores of the game in the 27th minute to leave them three points in arrears at the break (0-6 to 0-3).

But that was as good as it got for her and for the attack as a group.

On the resumption, the Tipp management brought in Lorraine Bourke at midfield and rearranged their half-forward line in a bid to break Cork’s dominance in this area (as well as moving McDonnell to full-forward). However, it didn’t achieve anything of note, other than goal chances on several occasions, denied by outstanding play from Murray in goal and individual Cork backs including Amanda O’Regan in the left corner. An added feature of their admirable defensive play was the amount of hooking and blocking they did to further frustrate the opposition.

Impressive wing-forward Jennifer O’Leary, who finished top scorer, might have got a goal for Cork in the 45th minute except that she failed to get in a proper shot. Shortly afterwards Tipp saw a low shot from substitute Trish O’Halloran stopped by Joanne O’Callaghan and, in the same move, an Emily Hayden strike blocked by Catriona Foley. Later, at a stage when they were more intent on trying for goals instead of putting the ball over the bar, Hayden was again out of luck when Aoife Murray made the best save of the game.

By now, Cork were well in control, with Gemma O’Connor dominant at midfield and winning 2002 captain Una O’Donoghue making good progress (along with substitute Orla Cotter on the wing) when she moved out from her full-forward position. Further in, she found it hard to make openings against Una O’Dwyer, whose solid play helped the confident Jovita Delaney to keep a clean sheet too.

Jennifer O’Leary got the only score from a free in the 59th minute and after another good attempt at a goal from Joanne Ryan (stopped by O’Regan), Tipperary’s efforts were finally rewarded with a point from Emily Hayden in injury time.

Scorers: Cork: J. O’Leary 0-4 (0-1 free); E. Dillon, G. O’Connor and U. O’Donoghue 0-1 each; B. Corkery and R. Moloney 0-1 each. Tipperary: E. Hayden 0-2; J. Ryan and E. McDonnell 0-1 each.

CORK: A. Murray; J. O’Callaghan (capt.), C. Foley, A. O’Regan; R. Buckley, M. O’Connor, A. Geary; G. O’Connor, B. Corkery; R. Moloney, A. Walsh, J. O’Leary; E. Dillon, U. O’Donoghue, E. Burke.

Subs: S. O’Donovan for Burke (36th minute); O. Cotter for Walsh (48th).

TIPPERARY: J. Delaney; S. Kelly, U. O’Dwyer, J. Kirwan; M. Shortt, P. Fogarty (capt.), S. Nealon; C. Grogan, J. Ryan; J. Horan, E. Hayden, C. Hennessy; M. Kinane, L. Young, E. McDonnell.

Subs: L. Bourke for Young (second half); T. O’Halloran for Hennessy (45th); M. Ryan for Horan (48th).

Referee: F. McNamara (Clare). *Fintan McNamara did a good job of refereeing.

*Attendance: 20,685.