That’s more or less how things stand between the footballers of Cork and Dublin. At last count, Williams enjoyed a 19-2 record over the Russian. And this, we’re told, has been the preeminent rivalry in women’s tennis since a 17-year old Sharapova edged out the American in the 2004 Wimbledon final.
The Cork ladies also rose to prominence that year. Charlie McLaughlin was forced out. Eamonn Ryan is coaxed in. A second ever Division 1 League final is reached. A first ever Munster championship is secured.
The new kids on the block are eventually halted by Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final, the season ending with Dublin on their knees for a second successive October at Croke Park. Among the grieving party is 15-year old Lyndsey Davey.
The two counties don’t cross paths in 2004. They’re ships in the night. And heading in very different directions. In mid-July of that summer, the Cork minors defend their All- Ireland crown with a 4-17 to 0-8 annihilation of Laois. Bríd Stack is full-back, Rena Buckley lining out in front of her and Geraldine O’Flynn in front of her. At left half- forward is team captain Briege Corkery.
“We never thought starting out that we would reach the All-Ireland final in 2005, let alone still be defending it 11 years on,” said Bríd Stack earlier this week. “We’ve just been so privileged.”
This All-Ireland quarter-final at Wexford Park represents a first meeting of the two counties in the Eamonn Ryan era. Valerie Mulcahy goals 10 minutes in and the favourites are on their way. By half-time, three-in-a-row chasing Cork are 1-11 to 0-2 clear. By full-time, they’re 3-17 to 1-4 clear.
The Dublin team contains just four survivors – Clíodhna O’Connor, Mary Nevin, Maria Kavanagh and Fiona Corcoran - from the side which contested the All- Ireland final against Galway three years previous. The production line, mind you, is moving. The county’s latest batch of minors, led by Davey, Sinéad Goldrick and Noelle Healy, bridge a 17-year gap to Dublin’s last All-Ireland final appearance at this grade. They’re beaten by 10 points in the decider.
By who? Who’d ya think? Rhona Ní Bhuachalla is somehow overlooked for player of the match despite putting the ball in the Dublin net on four occasions before half-time. The Jackies are the sole team to defeat Cork the following year, that a 2-11 to 2-8 round four league win at Mallow. 2008 also sees the Dubs annex a first minor All-Ireland.
Renowned athletics coach Jim Kilty and Waterford’s five-time All-Ireland winning manager Michael Ryan have been enlisted by Dublin boss Gerry McGill. They mean business.
A mistake in defence allows Nollaig Cleary steal through for a fifth-minute goal. It is to prove Cork’s sole score from play in the first-half. They stuck into us from the first whistle,” recalls Rena Buckley. “They ran and they ran and they didn’t stop running until the hooter went. By that stage, they were coming at us in waves in search of an equaliser.”
A flowing move eight minutes from time ends with Sinead Aherne sending Dublin 0-10 to 1-5 clear.
Valerie Mulcahy free. Mairéad Kelly point. Level.
Mulcahy point. Cleary point. Cork ahead by two.
Ahern free. Back to the minimum. Backs to the wall.
“The last 10 minutes are a blur,” says Corkery. “We just seemed to get the breaks for the first time in the game and, thankfully, the ball went over the bar enough times to put us ahead.”
Survivors? Not a whole pile. For Cork: Rena Buckley, Bríd Stack, Briege Corkery, Deirdre O’Reilly, Ciara O’Sullivan and Rhona Ní Bhuachalla. Only Lyndsey Davey, Sinead Ahern, Niamh McEvoy and Sorcha Furlong remain on board for the Dubs.
Cork’s second championship defeat of the Eamonn Ryan era arrives at the hands of Tyrone on August 21, 2010. Dublin capitalise to claim the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time.
The clock ticks into the 44th minute at Birr. Dublin lead 3-10 to 2-7.
It is at this point Geraldine O’Flynn, Nollaig Cleary Mairéad Kelly and Bríd Stack are called ashore. Drastic times. Drastic measures. Orla Finn, having travelled from an athletics meet in Tullamore where she competed in the triple jump and came second in the 400m hurdles, is thrown into the fray and hers is the third of Cork’s seven unanswered points which sees them breast the tape to dethrone the champions.
“It was an amazing victory,” says Eamonn Ryan. “We had one like that against Mayo in the semi-final the first year we won the All- Ireland when we got three late points, but today, I honestly thought we were gone.”
“I remember being absolutely skinned for a goal by Lyndsey Davey, looking at the scoreboard which read 2-12 to 0-9 to Dublin, and thinking, ‘this is it’,” recalls Angela Walsh. “It kept going through my head this could all be over in the next quarter of an hour.”
Eamonn Ryan had been going through a similar train of thought on the line: “In fairness, it did look like a lost cause. It was almost like someone gave a signal and they all buckled down.”
According to Geraldine O’Flynn, that signal came from Briege Corkery.
“I remember Briege turning to me and telling me to get the message across there was still time and not to be going for goals.”
Points from Mulcahy, Cleary and Juliet Murphy get the ball rolling before sub Rhona Ní Bhuachalla bangs home a 44th minute goal.
Ryan’s troops score 1-10 without reply during the closing 20 minutes to extend their championship dominance over the Jackies.
With 16 minutes remaining, Dublin have, on this occasion, managed to take their advantage into double-digit territory. 2-10 to 0-6 they lead.
Enter Ní Bhuachalla and 17-year old Eimear Scally. Dublin again implode. Having served as Monaghan manager in 2011 and ’13, it is a third final defeat at the hands of Cork for Gregory McGonigle.
“You never figure Cork out, they keep coming and coming,” remarks the northerner. “I asked Eamonn Ryan when he came down the steps if there is any chance of himself and Brian Cody retiring at the same time so we could all maybe get a go.”
Said Lyndsey Davey in an interview in this paper last year: “Maybe some players got a bit complacent and thought we had the game won.”
Carla Rowe lofts a 20-metre free into the Cork danger area. Sinéad Goldrick takes down possession and bores a path towards Martina O’Brien’s goal. Shot. Blocked. Bríd Stack the hero.
The hooter sounds 10 seconds later and Stack, Buckley, O’Flynn, Corkery, Mulcahy and O’Reilly celebrate a 10th All-Ireland.
McGonigle must again try and make sense of it all: “If you look at 2014, it was more throwing caution to the wind and unleashing. This year was more hanging on, getting people behind the ball. Cork are obviously well capable of adapting to any situation.”
McGonigle doesn’t like how Cork adapt on this occasion. Deirdre O’Reilly’s tackle on Davey, which forces the Dublin forward out of the game late on, has him fuming. “I’m not saying Deirdre O’Reilly meant it but are Cork players able to be sin-binned? I think somewhere there have to be rules in ladies football where consistent fouling…there’s no cynicism? I saw loads of cynicism.”
Tomorrow represents a seventh championship meeting between the two counties since 2007. It’s currently 6-0 to Cork. There was the 2014 league final. Cork won that. There were also two league semi-finals. Cork won them too. It’s all very well being part of a rivalry but occasionally it helps if you win a game or two. Or so said some member of the Dublin camp at some stage this week.