Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald pointed to Dublin’s physicality, experience, and collective know-how as the key ingredients in a second-half shutout from the now four-in-a-row All-Ireland champions.
Ahead by 1-3 to 0-3 at the break, Fitzgerald’s Cork were outscored 1-7 to 0-2 upon the change of ends to complete an eight-point swing in Dublin's favour.
Cork went the first 14 minutes of the second period without adding to their tally, Ciara O’Sullivan’s point just before the three-quarter hour mark their sole score from play in the second period.
But despite Cork’s inability to mine scores, Fitzgerald felt it was Dublin’s decade-long conditioning, rather than any regression from his own team, that contributed to such a seismic second-half shift.
“Most of those Dublin girls are together for the bones of 10, 12 years. They have so much conditioning and so much know-how. They know how to finish matches,” remarked Fitzgerald.
“They put massive pressure on [in the third quarter]. They showed that level of experience and physicality that they have, they are definitely the strongest team in the country. That was a huge factor.
“Orla Finn's free at the start of the second-half that hit the post would have put us four up. The penalty then [in the 35th minute] gave them a lot of oxygen and a lot of energy.
“We felt if we didn't concede a goal in the first 10 or 12 minutes of the second-half that it would have been tit for tat. But they got 1-3 without reply in the third quarter which meant we were under pressure and we lost our shape a little bit. That’s understandable. We are still a work in progress. They are a seasoned, hardened, fantastic football team.”
In total contrast to the experience tabled by seasoned Dublin campaigners such as Lyndsey Davey and Siobhán McGrath - both of whom made their debuts in 2004 - was Cork’s 18-year-old half-back Erika O’Shea who was appearing in her first All-Ireland final in her first season at senior inter-county level, and yet she was the one Cork player Fitzgerald picked out.
“I cannot fault my players and I don't like singling out any players, but I thought Erika O'Shea out there today was just immaculate for a girl who is only 18 years of age.”
Dublin were left frustrated throughout the first-half by their failure to convert any of the three goal opportunities they engineered. Fitzgerald, though, reckoned Cork also left green flags after them in the opening half.
“We had a couple of chances where the ball ran away and stuff like that. Orla's pass to Doireann was intercepted. There were a few things.
“But all in all, we asked the girls for honesty of effort and they gave us that. Nobody likes losing, but at the end of the day, you have to be proud of the effort that they made, particularly in the year that's in it. It is very hard to put into words the amount of effort the girls have put in to even make it here today.
"They are gutted, of course, they are. I just said to them that my main concern is that they'll get home safe to their families and try and enjoy Christmas and we'll look at next year next year.”