No longer they stand in Cork’s shadow. After a full decade of coming up short against the Rebels, Dublin brought an end to Cork’s unbeaten final record to cement their place as the game’s new market-leaders.
From yesterday’s Dublin starting team, Siobhán McGrath, Niamh McEvoy, Lyndsey Davey and Sinéan Aherne were present inside the whitewash when Dublin fell by a single point to Cork in the 2009 All-Ireland final. We reference this particular game because it marked the beginning of the county’s miserable run when colliding with the women in red late on in summer.
There followed defeat in the 2011 and 2013 All-Ireland quarter-finals, games where the Jackies threw away leads of eight and nine points respectively. Worse it got in 2014, ‘15 and ‘16, three consecutive final losses endured. Each and every one of the Dublin players who marched behind the Artane Band yesterday had suffered All-Ireland final heartbreak against Cork. They had more than a few wrongs to right.
Cork had never before lost in September. Dublin had never managed back-to-back All-Ireland titles. All that changed here.
The result extended Dublin’s unbeaten championship run to 11 games. This, by some distance, though, was the stiffest and sternest examination they have received since Mick Bohan came on the scene following the county’s third consecutive final defeat at the hands of Cork in September of 2016.
Prior to yesterday, the closest any team had come to the Jackies over the past two summers was seven points. The gap here was five and, in truth, it was only in the closing minutes that Dublin pulled clear, with a pair of Sinéad Aherne minors sandwiching a Sinéad Goldrick point coming down the stretch.
The score which broke Cork’s resistance arrived on 49 minutes. Martha Byrne carried the ball deep into opposition territory with not a single glove laid on her.
The defender offloaded to Davey, she moved possession off the shoulder to Carla Rowe and although there was still a bit of work to do, the 24-year-old steered the ball past Martina O’Brien for her second and Dublin’s third goal.
Somewhat fitting that it should be Rowe who’d deliver the clincher after her legitimate point in the 2016 final was incorrectly waved wide.
Her second goal of the game sent Mick Bohan’s side into a 3-8 to 1-10 lead. From a position where Ephie Fitzgerald’s young charges were chasing an equaliser, successfully attempting to pull back a four-point deficit so late in the day was never on the cards, not when they had invested so much energy in hanging onto their opponents’ coat-tails throughout.
This was Dublin’s eighth championship game in a row where they engineered three goals or more and the timing of each was vital to their defence of the Brendan Martin Cup.
Their opener was a Sinéad Ahern penalty, following an Eimear Meaney foul on Davey, which sent the holders 1-3 to 0-3 in front. The move was instigated by a Noelle Healy run, the first time the 2017 final player of the match broke from the clutches of final debutant Melissa Duggan.
That Healy finished on the bench, the first time this championship where she’s been hauled ashore before the finish, tells you the job the Dohenys defender did. Nicole Owens, too, didn’t last the hour. Stepping up was Lyndsey Davey, central to so many of their scores.
Cork’s reply to the early setback was a Ciara O’Sullivan point on 18 minutes, their first from play. O’Sullivan, along with a few more of her forward colleagues, was guilty of refusing to take aim at the posts in an ensuing passage of play even though the opening was there. Possession was turned over, with a sweeping Dublin move ending with an Ahern point.
The underdogs were level on 22 minutes — the last time they were equals on the scoreboard — as Áine O’Sullivan took advantage of confusion in the Dublin defence after Sinéad Goldrick was fouled to loop the ball over Ciara Trant and into the net.
We were two minutes shy of the break when Healy and Olwen Carey set up Rowe for their second green flag. A Niamh McEvoy point thereafter had them 2-6 to 1-5 ahead at the interval.
In truth, it had taken a sizeable defensive effort, led by Róisín Phelan and Maire O’Callaghan, with the assistance of the O’Sullivan sisters working deep, to keep the Dublin tally in check.
The 11-time champions were far more urgent upon the restart. Eimear Scally was getting onto more ball, Áine O’Sullivan doing damage on the right flank.
A Nicole Owens point and Aherne’s third free was all Dublin managed in the 19 minutes before Rowe’s game-ending goal.
More pertinent, though, was Cork’s inability to get back level during this period. Doireann O’Sullivan had a poor wide, Scally’s low drive was taken off the line by Niamh Collins. Half-time sub Saoirse Noonan was hardly fed a single ball.
The Dublin rearguard was not for creaking. The concession of only 1-3 from play represented a fine day’s work.
S Aherne (1-7, 0-4 frees, 1-0 pen); C Rowe (2-0); N Owens (0-2); N McEvoy, S Goldrick (0-1 each).
O Finn (0-8, 0-8 frees); A O’Sullivan (1-2); D O’Sullivan (0-1 free), C O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
: C Trant; N Collins, L Caffrey, O Carey; M Byrne, S Goldrick, S Finnegan; L Magee, S McGrath; L Davey, N McEvoy, C Rowe; N Owens, S Aherne, N Healy.
J Dunne for Owens (51 mins); H O’Neill for McEvoy (53); A Connolly for N Healy (58).
M O’Brien; M Duggan, R Phelan, E Spillane; M O’Callaghan, E Meaney, S Kelly; A O’Sullivan, H Looney; D O’Sullivan, C O’Sullivan, A Hutchings; L Coppinger, E Scally, O Finn.
S Noonan for Coppinger (HT); O Farmer for Looney, C Collins for Spillane (54 mins).
G McMahon (Mayo).