The literal game of two halves, the most tactical camogie game ever seen, a clear winner and yet some controversy at the end that may have had an impact on the final result.
It was notable too that the Kilkenny management made nothing of being denied a clear penalty in the 59th minute, however, even though they were only a goal down.
It was remarkably magnanimous but told perhaps, of their acknowledgement that once Cork got into their stride, they were by far the better team.
This was a sweet success, given that many of these players’ hunger had been questioned as they went five years without a title.
The difficult build-up adds to the notability of it but the fact is, Cork have timed their run astutely, improving all year to give their best performances in the semi-final replay against Wexford, and the final. Or the second half of it anyway.
They were pretty dismal in the opening spell, leaden-footed and confused. There was no bite to their play and Kilkenny should probably have been more than five points ahead at half time.
Cork star Jenny O’Leary admitted the team hadn’t performed at all in the opening period.
“It was just so tight, even in the last couple of minutes” said O’Leary. “It could have gone any way. Fair play to Kilkenny, they never gave up. We have waited a long time for this though.
“I don’t know if the occasion got to us or our heads were in our boots but we just said at half time that we’d worked too hard and we weren’t going to let it behind.
“It was just a puck of the ball between us and thankfully we came out on the right side of it.”
O’Leary played a big role in the turnaround with her goal and increased involvement in the second half. By that stage, Cork had already shown a newfound zeal and intensity. They ramped up the physicality noticeably in defence and as a result, speedsters Briege Corkery and Julia White, and the graceful Orla Cotter were able to exert a much greater influence at the other end of the field.
This was an extremely tactical affair, with both sides withdrawing players deep and Cork pulling Cotter back on Denise Gaule for puckouts, in a bid to nullify the Windgap forward’s aerial strength.
The Leesiders didn’t look comfortable in the first half though. They were only a point behind at the end of the opening quarter but Kilkenny had certainly settled better.
Aoife Murray made an outstanding reflex save from Michelle Quilty in the seventh minute after the excellent Katie Power had caught a long delivery and offloaded quickly but the Cork goalkeeper was unable to deny Quilty 11 minutes later. Gaule added three points but Cotter and Eimear O’Sullivan were on target for Cork to keep them in touch.
It was evident from the opening seconds of the throw-in that Paudie Murray had lit a fire under his players at the break and though Shelley Farrell stretched the margin to six soon after the resumption, Cork proceeded to score 1-5 without reply. White set up Katríona Mackey for a point in response and Cotter (free), O’Leary, Corkery (with White again the provider) had the deficit down to a goal when O’Leary struck for the defining score.
It had its genesis in some stout defensive work that forced a turnover and Cotter worked the ball out to Ashling Thompson. The Milford midfielder sent the ball down the left wing to Angela Walsh who hand-passed to O’Leary.
There was still plenty of work to do and she certainly took a lot of steps as she cut inside but John Dolan was probably giving advantage for a foul. A goal ensued and the sides were level.
Cork pushed on and Cotter launched a fantastic score. Emma Kavanagh made two excellent saves from Mackey and Walsh to keep Kilkenny in touch but points from Corkery and a Cotter ‘45 put three between them.
There was drama late on as Aoife Neary had solid claims for a penalty turned down and in the game’s final act, Walsh took another pass from Julia White to score a goal to spark wild celebrations.
Scorers for Cork: O Cotter: 0-6 (4fs); J O’Leary 1-1; A Walsh 1-0; B Corkery 0-2; E O’Sullivan, J White, K Mackey 0-1 each
Scorers for Kilkenny: D Gaule 0-5(4fs); M Quilty 1-1; C Dormer, S Farrell, K Power 0-1 each.
CORK: A Murray, J O’Callaghan, A Geary, L Tracey, E O’Sullivan, G O’Connor, P Mackey, R Buckley, A Thompson, J O’Leary, A Walsh, B Corkery, J White, O Cotter, K Mackey.
Cork sub: J Casey for O’Leary (60+2).
KILKENNY: E Kavanagh, M Power, K McDonald, J Frisby, C Phelan, C Dormer, E Aylward, L Fennelly, A Dalton, D Gaule, A Dunphy, A Connery, S Farrell, K Power, M Quilty.
Kilkenny subs: M Walsh for Connery (44), A Neary for Farrell (53), E Keane for Fennelly (56).
Ref: J Dolan (Clare).