John Cleary’s Cork starlets complete three in a row

John Cleary swatted away speculation about the vacant Cork senior football team manager’s post after guiding the county’s minor lades to a third successive All-Ireland crown yesterday.
John Cleary’s Cork starlets complete three in a row

The Rebels put on a powerhouse show yesterday to complete a three in a row of titles at this level, proving far too strong for Galway.

Saoirse Noonan and Sadhbh O’Leary put Galway to the sword as Cork claimed a third successive All-Ireland ladies minor A football crown.

Ireland soccer international Noonan, who plays with Cork City, bagged 3-4 and O’Leary added 2-3 as John Cleary’s charges cruised to a 19-point victory over Galway at O’Connor Park in Tullamore.

It’s a tenth title in this grade for Cork and considering the quality of talent coming through, more good times lie in store for the county.

Whether Cleary will be there to enjoy them remains to be seen.

Cleary’s name has been linked with the post once again following Peadar Healy’s departure after two years in charge of the senior footballers. Cleary also played a key role as consultant to Conor Counihan during his successful tenure in charge, which saw Cork claim an All-Ireland senior title in 2010.

When asked about his future intentions following yesterday’s big win over Galway, Cleary replied: “I don’t know, today is about the girls. All of my focus is on that. That’s for down along the line — we’ll see what happens.

“It would be taking away from the girls’ day today if I went ranting and raving about anything that’s coming up along the line. I’d rather enjoy this day and we’ll see what comes in the future.”

Cork began with five players who started in the 2016 final — including inside trio Grace Culloty, Noonan, and O’Leary.

Captain Ciara Hughes and midfielder Ciara McCarthy were other survivors and Galway were simply outclassed by a formidable Cork outfit.

The Westerners were competitive in the early exchanges and level at 0-2 apiece before O’Leary netted in the 14th minute.

Cork would lead from there all the way to the finish — as Galway went from the ninth minute of first half until midway through the second period without a score.

Leanne Coen was denied a Galway goal in the 20th minute as back-tracking Sarah Leahy cleared the ball off the line.

And two goals in a minute from Noonan, who received the Republic of Ireland’s U17 International Player of the Year award in March, put this game to bed approaching half-time.

Both were carbon-copy strikes, as Noonan slotted the ball beneath Laura Hession in assassin-like style.

Those goals, in the 27th and 28th minute, propelled Cork into a 3-5 to 0-2 advantage — and they cruised home from there.

O’Leary collected her second goal with eight minutes left and while raising a consolation green flag for Galway in the 54th minute, there was still time for Noonan to complete her hat-trick.

It was another fine finish and fittingly, Noonan would have the last say with the final score of the game.

With the countdown clock at zero, the Nemo Rangers player sent a free over the bar with the outside of her right foot, another moment to showcase her outstanding talents.

Scorers for Cork:

S Noonan 3-4 (0-2f), S O’Leary 2-3, A Healy 0-2, J Brewdinan and G Culloty 0-1 each.

Scorers for Galway:

N Daly 1-0, L Coen 0-2 (1f), L Finnegan and A O’Donovan 0-1 each.

CORK:

S Murphy; K Horgan, C O’Shea, S Leahy; E Kiely, J Brewdinan, C Hughes; C McCarthy, N Quinn; L O’Mahony, E Cleary, R Murphy; G Culloty, S Noonan, S O’Leary.

Subs:

A Healy for Culloty (46), C Collins for Cleary (50), G Gould for O’Mahony (52), C Ryan for Murphy (53), A Kelleher for Quinn (54).

GALWAY:

L Hession; C Langan, K Screene, A Glynn; L Booth, B Quinn, A Molloy; A Coen, R Naughton; L Finnegan, N Daly, L Noone; L Coen, N Coleman, A O’Donovan.

Subs:

A Trill for Coleman (17), M Mitchell for Langan (h.t.), G Sheridan for Booth (h.t.), C McCarthy for O’Donovan (40), N Daly for Noone (51).

Referee:

S Mulvihill (Kerry).

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