Cork 4-15 Laois 3-9
Valerie Mulcahy bagged 1-8 as Cork claimed a fourth successive Bord Gáis Energy Ladies National Football League Division 1 title in front of a bumper Parnell Park attendance this evening.
Mulcahy was in scintillating form as the Rebelettes pulled away from a spirited Laois outfit in the final quarter to secure a nine-point victory in front of over 3,000 spectators.
Cork’s sixth Division 1 success in seven seasons will fuel optimism in the Rebel County that the team can reclaim the All-Ireland senior championship, having fallen at the quarter-final stage last season while in pursuit of the six-in-a-row.
But Laois, beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists last year, showed enough to suggest that they will be a force for the remainder of the summer in what promises to be a fascinating championship campaign.
With 49 minutes on the watch, Cork led by just a single point, 3-10 to 3-9, but the Leesiders hit an unanswered 1-5 before the finish to close the game out.
Mulcahy hit the goal that ultimately killed the Laois challenge; cheekily hitting a 20m free to the net in the 56th minute with the O’Moore County defence caught napping.
Mulcahy may have led the way in the scoring stakes but this was an impressive overall attacking performance from Cork, who played with the breeze in the second half.
Centre forward Orlagh Farmer bagged a goal in each half while Ciara O’Sullivan made a huge impact after coming off the bench, hitting three points from play.
For Laois, midfielder Tracey Lawlor bagged 1-5, including four points from frees, with Martha Kirwan and Anna Moore bagging the other goals.
And it was Laois who got off to a flyer as they moved 1-2 to 0-0 clear within five minutes of the throw-in.
Moore goaled with just 45 seconds on the watch but Cork, shell-shocked in the early stages, settled and were on terms by the 12th minute, thanks in main to Rhona Ní Bhuachalla’s tenth minute goal.
Orlagh Farmer took a pass from player of the match Amy O’Shea to score Cork’s second goal on the half-hour but just as it looked like the Munster champions would lead at half-time, Tracey Lawlor finished a flowing Laois move for a brilliant goal.
A Mulcahy free, her third of the opening half, tied the scores at 2-5 apiece at the midway point before Lawlor pushed Laois a point clear with the opening score of the second half in a seesaw battle.
In the 35th minute, Farmer struck again but there was a degree of controversy surrounding her second goal as referee Eugene O’Hare appeared at first to have signalled for a free out, before allowing the effort to stand after consulting with his umpires.
Anna Moore crashed a shot off the Cork crossbar as Laois refused to yield and from the follow-up, Martha Kirwan crashed a shot to the net to tie the scores again, 3-6 to 3-6, with 38 minutes played.
Mary Kirwan pushed Laois ahead for the final time in the match before Cork hit three points in a row, including a brace from Nollaig Cleary, to establish a 3-10 to 3-7 lead.
Laois responded with two Tracey Lawlor frees but that was as good as it got for the Leinster outfit as Cork turned up the heat to land the silverware.
Scorers for Cork: V Mulcahy 1-8 (1-5f), O Farmer 2-0, R Ní Bhuachalla 1-0, C O’Sullivan 0-3, N Cleary 0-2, G Kearney & D O’Reilly 0-1 each.
Scorers for Laois: T Lawlor 1-5 (0-4f), Martha Kirwan 1-1, A Moore 1-0, Mary Kirwan 0-2f, S Doogue 0-1.
CORK: E Harte; A.M. Walsh, Angela Walsh, D O’Reilly; B Corkery, B Stack, A Sheehan; J Murphy, Annie Walsh; N Cleary, O Farmer, G Kearney; V Mulcahy, R Ní Bhuachalla, A O’Shea.
Subs: Rena Buckley for Annie Walsh (36), G O’Flynn for Sheehan (43), C O’Sullivan for Ní Bhuachalla (49), M Kelly for Kearney (53), A Barrett for Corkery (60).
LAOIS: C Dollard; A Quigley, G Dunne, E Healy; A Taylor, L Hyland, J Moore; A Casey, T Lawlor; Mary Kirwan, A Moore, D Callinan; Martha Kirwan, S Doogue, G Weston.
Subs: M Dunne for Callinan (h.t.), M McEvoy for Martha Kirwan (44), O Farrell for Hyland (47), S Quigley for Weston (47), A Kehoe for Casey (60+3).
Referee: Eugene O’Hare (Down).