Ephie Fitzgerald’s Cork squeezed into the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 semi-finals, as a three-point victory over Armagh in Abbottstown on Sunday proved good enough to secure a top-four finish.
The Rebelettes ran out 2-16 to 4-7 winners against Armagh, who were edged out of the semi-final placings.
Holders Cork will now face Dublin next weekend, with fourth-placed Kerry taking on runaway table-toppers Mayo.
Kerry made it through as a result of their superior scoring difference over Armagh, as five teams finished locked together on 12 points each after the group stages concluded, nine behind pacesetters Mayo.
— Ladies Football (@LadiesFootball) April 17, 2016
@LadiesFootball @Armaghladiesga1 what a disgrace to do that to a team, get your facts right before making them public— Jim (@JimmyFin3) April 17, 2016
Cork got off to the perfect start against Armagh as captain Ciara O’Sullivan netted with just 30 seconds on the watch after Orlagh Farmer’s effort struck the crossbar.
Cork were 1-5 to 0-0 clear before Aimee Mackin registered Armagh’s opening score of the game and the Orchard County were given another significant boost when midfield inspiration Caroline O’Hanlon netted shortly after.
Later in the first half, Armagh missed a glorious chance for a second goal when Aimee Mackin screwed a penalty off the post and wide and missed chances were punished at the other end when Cork’s dual star Briege Corkery pointed to establish a 1-9 to 1-2 lead.
Mackin made up for her missed penalty by netting Armagh’s second goal but Armagh still had plenty of work to do at half-time, trailing by 2-3 to 1-11.
Cork seemed to have put the result beyond doubt with their second goal shortly after the break, O’Sullivan on target again, but Armagh rallied with goals from Fionnuala McKenna and Mackin to make a real game of it.
But Cork held on for the vital win and can now begin preparations for another big showdown with Dublin next weekend, their All-Ireland final opponents in 2015 and 2014.
In Division 2, Sligo maintained their second tier status by seeing off Meath in a relegation playoff.
The Westerners ran out 2-14 to 2-12 winners, condemning Meath to Division 3 football in 2017.
Sligo scored two late points to get over the line, after they had trailed by three points at half-time.
Elsewhere, the Division 3 League final will be contested by Munster rivals Waterford and Tipperary, who scored semi-final victories over Leitrim and Wexford respectively on Sunday.
Waterford ran out comfortable 7-15 to 0-6 winners over Leitrim while Tipp had a much trickier assignment against Wexford, before finally emerging 5-11 to 4-7 winners.
In Division 4, Antrim and Limerick will contest the showpiece decider. Antrim beat Longford by 2-11 to 0-13 in their semi-final, as Limerick saw off Wicklow by just two points, 0-14 to 2-6.
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1
Cork 2-16 Armagh 4-7
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 2 relegation playoff
Meath 2-12 Sligo 2-14
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 3 semi-finals
Waterford 7-15 Leitrim 0-6
Tipperary 5-11 Wexford 4-7
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 4 semi-finals
Longford 0-13 Antrim 2-11
Wicklow 2-6 Limerick 0-14