Corkery’s class fires Rebelettes to final

NOT WITH STANDING the magnificent Briege Corkery, the other key reason why holders Cork won through to meet Kilkenny in the Gala All-Ireland senior camogie decider was simply that as a unit, they responded so effectively to a below par first-half display.

At half-time in Saturday’s semi-final in Nowlan Park, their prospects of making it to the final looked decidedly shaky when they trailed by two points after having enjoyed the advantage of the wind. But, drawing inspiration from a 40th minute goal from midfielder Corkery – and further boosted minutes later by a second from Emer O’Farrell which was made by outstanding substitute Julia White – they outplayed a Wexford side which had beaten them in the 2007 final.

“I don’t think we played well in the first half and we knew that ourselves in the dressing room,” said Cork manager Denise Cronin – the winning captain 14 years ago when Cork last met Kilkenny in a final. “We spoke about what we needed to do in each position and the players all worked harder in the second half.”

Scores were level three times in the opening quarter before Ursula Jacob (daughter of former great Mick Jacob) goaled for Wexford in the 19th minute. On balance, they looked stronger in attack – with Katrina Parrock very impressive – and comfortable at the back against a Cork attack dependent on the free-taking of Rachel Moloney. Dual star Corkery was a dynamo and contributed two points from play.

At the break, it was 1-5 to 0-6 and while Cork showed a steady improvement in the early stages of the second half, Wexford’s confident play enabled them to stay in front. But, then came Corkery’s goal. It levelled the scores and changed the course of the game.

“It maybe went away from us in the second half,” said a devastated Wexford manager Stella Sinnott. “Cork are hugely experienced and when the going got tough, their big players came up to the mark. The first goal probably killed the game and when they got the next one very quickly after that, heads maybe dropped.”

Corkery’s recall of her goal was characteristically humorous. “Gemma (O’Connor) gave me a ball through the centre and it was normally a ball that I’d miss – and when I get near the goals I normally miss as well. One night at training (goalkeeper) Aoife Murray gave out to me because I’d be laughing every time I’d go in for a goal.

“She told me to ‘cop’ myself on, that if I put my mind to it, I could do it. And that’s exactly what I was thinking about as I was going in!”

Wexford competed gamely all the way to the finish but they were fighting a losing battle from the time O’Farrell’s goal went in. Cork’s full-back line was heroic, Murray was inspirational in goal and Mary O’Connor was every bit as strong at centre-back as was Cathríona Foley at the edge of the square.

Additionally, Orla Connor, Gemma O’Connor and an improved Rachel Moloney made important contributions, as did substitutes Linda O’Connell and Julia White in particular. Cronin acknowledged the greater return from the forwards as a group once they opened up the play, saying: “I knew once we got the lead we weren’t going to let it behind.”

Meanwhile, the Wexford boss Sinnott gives Kilkenny a good chance in the final: “I don’t think they will have any fear – they showed that against Galway. It will need a huge performance, but I’d still fancy their chances. Cork won’t like playing them. They’re a young fast team.”

Scorers for Cork: R. Moloney 0-8 (0-6 frees); B. Corkery 1-2; E. O’Farrell 1-0; S. Burns, U. O’Donoghue and G. O’Connor 0-1 each.

Wexford: U. Jacob 1-2; K. Kelly 0-4 (0-3 frees); K. Parrock 0-2; C. Murphy and R.M. Breen 0-1 each.

CORK: A. Murray; J. O’Callaghan, C. Foley, R. Buckley; J. Duffy, M. O’Connor, S. Hayes; B. Corkery, O. Cotter; E. Dillon, G. O’Connor, U. O’Donoghue; S. Burns, E. O’Farrell, R. Moloney.

Subs: L. O’Connell for Duffy (23rd minute); J. White for Dillon (28); K. Mackey for O’Farrell (54); E. O’Sullivan for O’Donoghue (52).

WEXFORD: M. Darcy; D. Codd, C. O’Loughlin, C. O’Connor; A. Codd, M. Leacy, A. O’Connor (capt.); C. Murphy, K. Kelly; M. O’Leary, R.M. Breen, K. Parrock; U. Leacy, U. Jacob, J. Dwyer.

Subs: L. Holohan for Murphy (47); M. Hearne for U. Leacy (59).

Referee: Una Kearney (Armagh).

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