Ryan hoped his players would rise to the challenge in Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Monaghan, the side that beat them by three points in the Division 1 final.
Ryan reflected: “The league final was a factor. When you’re beaten, the doubts set in that you’re on the way down and Monaghan are an up and coming team. That was a huge challenge – to meet that head on, and we did. That was satisfying.”
The positives were many, with Bríd Stack outstanding at full-back and Briege Corkery magnificent in the half back line. At midfield, Juliet Murphy pulled the strings with Valerie Mulcahy and Nollaig Cleary, particularly in the second-half, scoring freely up front.
The return of the highly-decorated Angela Walsh was another major boost to Cork, but Ciara O’Sullivan’s knee injury is a concern. O’Sullivan was forced off in the second-half after crumpling in a heap. For a player that has suffered with cruciate knee ligament damage, this latest setback is an obvious blow and Ryan is keeping his fingers crossed ahead of scans.
Monaghan boss Gregory McGonigle held his hands up and admitted his side had no answers to Cork’s power play. He said: “We came down with high hopes based on the National League performance but at the same time, in too many sectors of the field they were in control. Being Cork, they’re very clinical.”
Cork’s nine-point win sets up a final with Kerry on September 30. Barring a massive performance from the Kingdom, the Brendan Martin Cup looks to be on its way back to Cork for the seventh time in eight seasons.
On Saturday, Cork led 1-9 to 0-6 at half-time and it was a devastating scoring blitz before the break that put the holders in a real comfort zone. Monaghan, with the aid of the breeze in the first half, led 0-5 to 0-4 in the 18th minute but Cork hit 1-5 without reply to cruise into a seven-point lead, with Rhona Ní Bhuachalla netting eight minutes before the break.
Monaghan opened the second half with three unanswered points to reduce the deficit to just three but in typical fashion, Cork hit back with three successive scores. And for the remainder of a tie, Cork kept Monaghan comfortably at arm’s length.
Nollaig Cleary pounced for Cork’s second goal near the end, after a long-range free struck the Monaghan upright.
Scorers for Cork: N Cleary 1-2, V Mulcahy 0-5 (3f), J Murphy 0-4 (2f), R Ní Bhuachalla 1-0, B Corkery & O Finn 0-2 each.
Scorers for Monaghan: C McConnell 0-4 (2f), N Kindlon 0-4f, C McAnespie, E McCarron, L McEnaney & C Mohan 0-1 each.
CORK: E Harte; A.M. Walsh, B Stack, D O’Reilly; B Corkery, R Buckley, G O’Flynn; J Murphy, N Kelly; O Farmer, C O’Sullivan, D O’Sullivan; N Cleary, V Mulcahy, R Ní Bhuachalla.
Subs: L McMahon for Farmer (42), O Finn for Ní Bhuachalla (50), Angela Walsh for C O’Sullivan (51), A Hutchings for Kelly (54), Annie Walsh for Cleary (58).
MONAGHAN: L Martin; G McNally, S Courtney, C Reilly; T McNally, N Fahy, A McAnespie; A Casey, E McElroy; C McAnespie, L McEnaney, C Mohan; C McConnell, N Kindlon, C Courtney.
Subs: E McCarron for McElroy (25).
Referee: J Niland (Sligo).