Rebelettes on track to retain crown

PREDICTABLY, the plaudits which holders Cork earned from another top-class display in the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies SFC were lost in the after-shock surrounding Valerie Mulcahy’s sending-off and the speculation on how much more difficult it would be to beat Monaghan in her absence.

She had brought her total to date in the campaign to 4-14 before dramatically exiting the field shortly before the hooter signalled the end of yet another game in which the champions’ goal-scoring expertise proved crucial.

Mulcahy contributed one of them, 10 seconds before the end of the first half and it was a score which the Tyrone manager Michella O’Neill conceded had a significant bearing on the outcome, feeling that it ‘lifted’ the champions.

“We knew it was going to be a massive test but to end up losing the way we did wasn’t what we were hoping for,” she said. “We did well for the first 15 or 20, but after that they just showed their excellence.”

Cork coach Eamonn Ryan viewed it as an impressive response to a below-par performance in the quarter-final. “We got a bad fright against Galway. It was obvious that the girls were all out to atone for that. We expected a hard game today but we played well,” he commented.

If Mulcahy’s goal came at an opportune time, then the opening two goals were especially important in helping the team to settle quickly. Amy O’Shea’s powerful run yielded the first after only three minutes and dual star Mary O’Connor got the other four minutes later — catching out the goalkeeper with a lob which she admitted afterwards was destined for over the bar.

It was by no means one-way traffic after that, with only two goals still separating the sides in the 23rd minute, but the essential difference was that Cork were winning more possession in the key areas. Team captain Angela Walsh anchored the defence, Briege Corkery was typically energetic at wing-back and the Juliet Murphy/Norita Kelly pairing at midfield was dominant. Best of all, they produced some superb forward movements, while Tyrone were heavily dependent on the skill of centre-forward Gemma Begley who came into the game with an impressive 5-11.

At the interval, it was 3-8 to 0-7 and it was no surprise that when another goal arrived, it came via the boot of Nollaig Cleary, top scorer with 1-6 from play and deservedly won the player of the match award. To their credit, Tyrone never relaxed their effort, but on the day they were outclassed.

The Tyrone boss feels that Monaghan will make it difficult for Cork in the final, noting that they have got stronger since beating them by an eight-point margin in the Ulster final.

Eamonn Ryan agreed. “Monaghan looked very good in their quarter-final and we always have trouble with them.”

Scorers: Cork: N. Cleary 1-6; V. Mulcahy 1-5 (0-1 free); M. O’Connor 1-2; A. O’Shea 1-0; A. Murphy 0-3; D. O’Reilly and B. Corkery 0-1 each.

Tyrone scorers: G. Begley 0-6 (0-2 frees); C. Donnelly 0-3; C. McGahan and E. Gormley 0-1 each.

CORK: E. Harte; C. Walsh, A. Walsh (capt.), L. Barrett; B. Corkery, B. Stack, G. O’Flynn; J. Murphy, N. Kelly; N. Cleary, M. O’Connor, D. O’Reilly; V. Mulcahy, A. O’Shea, D. O’Reilly; Subs: S. O’Reilly for C. Walsh (51st minute); C. O’Sullivan for Kelly (52nd); Rhona Buckley for O’Shea (54th); Rena Buckley for Stack (55th); R. O’Sullivan for Murphy (57th).

TYRONE: S. McVey; S. McLaughlin, M. Kelly (capt.), S. Keenan; A. Hagan, L. Donnelly, C. Fox; N. Woods, S. Donnelly; C. McAliskey, G. Begley, C. Donnelly; C. McGahan, E. Gormley, L. Hughes. Subs: J. Donnelly for McAliskey (36th minute); S. Quinn for McLaughlin (39th); A. Dooher for McGahan (52nd).

Referee: Liam McDonagh (Sligo).

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