O’Connor led the scoring charge at Cashel’s Leahy Park as Rovers finally put one over on Mayo kingpins Carnacon in the third All-Ireland final meeting between the two teams in just four seasons.
Noel O’ Connor (no relation), a selector on the Cork Ladies football team has been involved with the team since 2007 and admitted those two defeats were part of the build-up for yesterday’s historic triumph.
“Yeah I suppose we reminded the girls all week of what those defeats felt like and we vowed that we wouldn’t feel like that again.”
“We knew what Carnacon were capable of, they’ve an exceptional team and the best player in the country in Cora Staunton but I think Jenny Duffy and Angela Walsh did unbelievably well in blanking her out and that was crucial.
“This is a massive day for our club. To lose three finals in four years would have been heartbreaking and very difficult to come back from but these players have unbelievable heart and they pulled it out of the fire.”
O’Connor praised the display of his namesake; “I think Mary O’Connor’s performance, not only yesterday but throughout the entire campaign with Inch and with Cork deserve massive praise.
“She’s a leader in her own right and yesterday she was absolutely outstanding, but they were all outstanding, every one of them, and I’m absolutely thrilled to have finally got that monkey off our back,” he added.
Rovers had suffered big-day heartbreak against Carnacon in 2007 and 2008 but the team operating out of Killeagh GAA club would not be denied on this occasion.
Aided by the breeze, Rovers established a 0-6 to 0-3 half-time lead with one of the features of the half being the battle between Cork defender Angela Walsh and Mayo county star Cora Staunton.
Staunton hit 0-5 points, including three frees, over the course of the game but Walsh can look back on her display with a considerable degree of satisfaction.
This was Carnacon’s fourth final appearance in five years and while the Westerners had some real class in their team — Staunton chief among them, Inch Rovers displayed the greater hunger from the first whistle.
Two O’Connor frees sandwiched a fine Jessica O’Shea point from play to fire Rovers into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after 17 minutes.
Michelle McGing landed the first Carnacon point in the 19th minute but O’Connor responded with two superb points from play, as Rovers surged 0-5 to 0-1 clear before Staunton kicked two frees to keep her side in touch.
That brace brought Carnacon back to within two points of a wasteful Inch Rovers, who racked up six of their 14 wides in the first half.
Anne-Marie Walsh was in superb form at left half back for Rovers, bombing forward from defence on a few occasions to assist a hard-working Rovers midfield and attack.
Annie Walsh kicked the opening point of the second half, three minutes after the restart, as Rovers moved 0-7 to 0-3 in front but Staunton responded with a point for Carnacon before Tipperary native Jill Horan kicked arguably the score of the game in the 38th minute.
Now four points down, Carnacon were in big trouble and their attempts to get back into the game became increasingly desperate.
Staunton landed a free before registering her team’s very first wide of the day, with eight minutes of normal time remaining.
At the other end, Inch Rovers wasted a few good chances and Staunton could have made them pay in the 52nd minute, but she shot straight at Rovers captain and goalkeeper Gearóidín Kearney.
O’Connor (free) and Staunton traded points as Rovers held a 0-9 to 0-6 advantage, which was almost wiped out by Michelle McGing in the 60th minute only for Kearney to deny her again. Martha Carter was then shown a second yellow for the Mayo Ladies and their hopes of a revival were all but finished.
Aoife Brennan did kick a late point but the Cork Ladies held on to celebrate a famous win.
Meanwhile, Galway outfit Caltra Cuans and Tyrone’s St Enda’s (Omagh) will replay their Tesco All-Ireland ladies junior club football championship final next weekend after finishing level at 0-7 apiece in Mullahoran last Saturday.
Scorers for Carnacon: C Staunton 0-5 (3f), M McGing & A Brennan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Inch Rovers: M O’Connor 0-5 (3f), J O’Shea, Annie Walsh, J Horan & A O’Shea 0-1 each.
CARNACON: M Higgins; N Hurst, C McGing, S McGing; M Corbett, A Loftus, N Tierney; C Egan, M McGing; N Beegan, C Staunton, M Carter; A Brennan, F McHale, D Hughes.
Sub: E Flannery for Beegan (47).
INCH ROVERS: G Kearney; M Kennedy, Angela Walsh, J Duffy; D O’Shea, S Smiddy, A.M. Walsh; O Cotter, Annie Walsh; J O’Shea, C Keohane, S Harrington; A O’Shea, M O’Connor, J Horan.
Subs: C Walsh for Kennedy (56), F Neville for Harrington (63).