That’s nine in 10 years, in case you’ve lost count.
Indeed, since Eamonn Ryan “fell” into the job back in 2004, this group of footballers have delivered eight national league titles, 10 Munster championships and nine All-Irelands. Truly incredible.
Bleed dry the dictionary and still you’ll struggle to find an adjective that accurately conveys the dizzying heights to which this team have gone.
Deirdre O’Reilly, Nollaig Cleary, Valerie Mulcahy, Angela Walsh, Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley and Bríd Stack celebrated their ninth All-Ireland win yesterday — the latter quartet still a good few years shy of 30. As Mulcahy joked deep after the final whistle: “It’ll be some craic trying to hit 10.” And while the likes of Nollaig Cleary has probably played her last game in the red and white, due service given, the production factory couldn’t be stronger. 17-year-old Eimear Scally played her first All-Ireland yesterday, her goal the score that revived Cork’s glory bid.
“It was phenomenal,” reflected the Éire Óg teen. “No matter how many points we went down I knew we had the fight to come back.”
Scally may have held a candle of hope, but the majority of the 27,374 crowd believed it was lights out for the reigning champions. In truth though, the outlook was grim for Cork at half-time. They trailed 1-7 to 0-4, having kicked 11 wides.
On several occasions they breached Dublin’s rearguard, only to blaze wide. Not one player escaped blame here — Mulcahy, Stack, Ciara O’Sullivan, Annie Walsh, Orla Finn and Angela Walsh all guilty.
Dublin weren’t a picture of efficiency, but their conversion rate was far higher. Sinéad Aherne was giving Róisín Phelan a torrid time, Lindsay Peat was destructive in the other inside corner.
Peat pounced for the opening goal 12 minutes in, capitalising on a mistake by Angela Walsh to finish beyond Martina O’Brien. Points subsequently from Sinéad Goldrick, Aherne and the lively Carla Rowe, and Dublin were moving out of sight.
Peat struck goal number two, clinically finishing Rowe’s incisive pass. The score followed three Cork wides within two minutes of the turnaround — surely now the game was Dublin’s?
Lyndsey Davey and Noelle Healy sandwiched a Mulcahy free thereafter and the gap stood at 10, 2-10 to 0-6.
Could Cork achieve the impossible, would Dublin again falter? On 44 minutes, substitute Rhona Ní Bhuachalla tapered the fuse on Cork’s final quarter surge with a superb goal. Five of the next six scores arrived at the Hill 16 end — Finn, Mulcahy, Geraldine O’Flynn and Bhuachalla on target. Noelle Healy’s 48th minute effort Dublin’s sole response.
Gregory McGonigle’s charges were rattled, overrun at midfield, their half-forward line now almost non-existent as the marauding Flynn, Corkery and Stack tore forward at every opportunity.
Ryan’s substitutions proved inspired — Nollaig Cleary, Bhuachalla and Doireann O’Sullivan bringing physicality, composure and purpose. On 54 minutes, the final Cork sub introduced would leave the greatest mark. Ciara O’Sullivan flicked a long delivery away from Rachel Ruddy and Leah McCaffrey to the unmarked Eimear Scally. The finish top-drawer. 2-11 apiece.
Again, the radar would prove a source of deep frustration as Mulcahy, Doireann O’Sullivan and Cleary swelled their wide count.
Siobhan Woods edged Dublin back in front, Ciara O’Sullivan providing an instant Cork response. Three minutes left.
The ensuing kick-out was fielded by Deirdre O’Reilly, possession moved to Cleary, Dorieann O’Sullivan and O’Flynn. The wing-back found herself 30 yards from goal, where she kicked three wides in the second period. Had she the character to try again? Right boot employed, the posts split. Victory Cork, devastation again for Dublin. Another chapter signed off, another All-Ireland. Onto the magic 10 they march.
Scorers for Cork: V Mulcahy (0-6, 0-1 free), R Ni Bhuachalla (1-1), G O’Flynn (0-3), E Scally (1-0), O Finn (0-2), C O’Sullivan (0-1).
Scorers for Dublin: L Peat (2-0), S Aherne (0-4, 0-1 free), L Davey, N Healy, C Rowe (0-2 each), S Woods, S Goldrick (0-1 each).
Cork: M O’Brien; R Phelan, Angela Walsh, B Stack; V Foley, D O’Reilly, G O’Flynn; R Buckley, B Corkery; Annie Walsh, O Farmer, C O’Sullivan; G Kearney, V Mulcahy, O Finn. Subs for Cork: N Cleary for Annie Walsh (ht), R Ní Bhuachalla for Kearney (42), D O’Sullivan for O Farmer (44), E Scally for Finn (50).
Dublin: C O’Connor; S Furlong, R Ruddy, L Caffrey; S Finnegan, S Goldrick, S McGrath; D Masterson, M Lamb; N Healy, L Davey, C Rowe; L Peat, N Hyland, S Aherne. Subs for Dublin: S Woods for Hyland (44) S McCaffrey for Lamb (53), L Collins for Furlong (54) N McEvoy for Healy (57).
Referee: M Farrelly (Cavan).