The senior win took pride of place given the 22 years of heartache it laid waste to. Six finals had been contested since Ann Downey climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand in September, 1994. All six had ended in defeat, three of them arriving at the hands of Cork. Seven of yesterday’s starting team had been involved in the three most recent reverses – 2009, ’13 and ‘14.
A fourth final loss in eight years they couldn’t allow.
“The men are long enough doing it, it was high time that we delivered,” said Shelly Farrell after the final whistle.
And in the process of bridging the gap to their last O’Duffy Cup triumph, Kilkenny put paid to Cork’s three-in-a-row bid which would have also delivered the county a 27th All-Ireland and taken them to the top of the roll of honour. Rena Buckley and Briege Corkery landed onto Jones’s Road chasing a 17th All-Ireland medal, Gemma O’Connor and Aoife Murray after their eighth Celtic Cross respectively. That none were able to influence proceedings as they had done in previous Septembers was testament to Kilkenny’s collective work-rate.
O’Connor finished the afternoon standing on the sideline having picked up a second yellow card on 53 minutes. She’d first been disciplined four minutes earlier for an altercation with Denise Gaule. Murray also had her name taken by referee Eamon Cassidy having thrown her hurley at Julie Ann Malone’s point on 45 minutes. Captain Ashling Thompson also saw yellow during the second period as Cork’s frustration slowly got the better of them.
This, unquestionably, was an afternoon where the script was written by the women clad in black and amber and the manner in which they bossed the reigning champions off the throne will surely gnaw away at Paudie Murray’s troops during the winter months.
Tactically, too, Kilkenny were streets ahead. Denise Gaule played as a third midfielder and on top of the seven frees she nailed, the Windgap player hurled an amount of ball in front of her half-back line. Most of those deliveries were sent down either flank as Kilkenny took the game away from the central channel and away from O’Connor and Buckley. Julie Ann Malone profited most from the decision to play the wings, the Mullinavat forward clipping four points from play.
Cork, on the other hand, tried a short-passing game coming out of defence where the intention was to then run at the opposition from midfield. Orla Cotter was the sole player to enjoy any semblance of success in this regard. Moreover, the several breakdowns that occurred and clearances hit to spare Kilkenny players meant Briege Corkery, Katrina Mackey and Eimear O’Sullivan were reduced to mere bystanders for large spells. Where the Rebels were flat, their opponents were sharp, smart and purposeful.
Kilkenny were deserving of their 0-8 to 0-6 interval lead with Gaule supplying five of that tally from the dead ball. Ann Downey’s side also had the best goal chance of the half when a Malone delivery fell in behind the Cork full-back line on nine minutes where Michelle Quilty stood unmarked. The captain, though, pulled narrowly wide.
Cork too had chances of securing a green flag. Hannah Looney was dragged to the ground after superbly fielding a Gemma O’Connor free five minutes from the break. Aoife Murray came forward for the resulting penalty but her drive was tipped over by Ann Dalton.
Three points on the bounce from Cotter, Katrina Mackey and Eimear O’Sullivan had put them 0-4 to 0-3 ahead on 11 minutes. It was to prove, however, the sole occasion Cork would lead. A third quarter surge was expected from Murray’s side. Instead, Kilkenny blitzed them for 1-5 between the 35th and 45th minute to speed 1-13 to 0-7 clear. Gaule and Malone both added to their tallies before Katie Power put through Shelly Farrell on 42 minutes and the Thomastown forward rifled the sliotar to the top right corner of Aoife Murray’s goal. Power turned provider in the subsequent action and the so-often bridesmaids scented blood.
An Orla Cotter missed free followed by a Katrina Mackey wide summed up Cork’s woes and their challenge all but ended when Gemma O’Connor made the long walk to the line. Cotter did fire a 63rd minute free to the net, a rare breaching of the Kilkenny rearguard so well marshalled by Davina Tobin, Ann Dalton, Collette Dormer and Edwina Keane.
Their famine over – at long, long last.
D Gaule (0-7, 0-7 frees); JA Malone (0-4); S Farrell (1-0); K Power, M Farrell (0-1 each).
O Cotter (1-2, 1-1 free); K Mackey (0-2); A Murray (0-1 pen), A Thompson, H Looney, E O’Sullivan, L Coppinger (0-1 each).
A Murray; L O’Sullivan, R Buckley, L Treacy; M Cahalane, G O’Connor, P Mackey; O Cotter; A Thompson; E O’Sullivan, B Corkery, H Looney; A Connor, O Cronin, K Mackey.
L Coppinger for L O’Sullivan (47 mins); J Hosford for Cronin (56).
E Kavanagh; C Dormer, E Keane, J Frisby; A Dalton, D Tobin, C Phelan; M Farrell, A Farrell; JA Malone, M Walsh, S Farrell; M Quilty, K Power, D Gaule.
KA Doyle for A Farrell (58 mins); A Dunphy for Power (62).
E Cassidy (Derry).