Cork 3-17 Cavan 1-3: As impressive as a second-half tally of 3-10 was in seeing off Cavan in the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies SFC quarter-final in Birr on Saturday, Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald was just as impressed with the defending which held their opponents scoreless after the break.
Having toiled at times against the wind in the opening half, the six-in-a-row-seeking Rebels still managed to lead by a point at half-time and then went into overdrive on the resumption. Having fallen behind to a goal from Caitríona Smith inside 13 seconds, it took time for Cork to assert themselves, but Fitzgerald cited the lack of panic as a key factor.
“We stressed that, and they pride themselves on not conceding,” he said “they’ll be disgusted that they conceded a goal, especially so early.
“We were overwhelming favourites, that’s a banana-skin in itself maybe at times. With the start Cavan got, they had plenty of encouragement. We have a strong panel and a very experienced bunch of girls, they don’t panic, it was a case of staying in the game and picking off points.
“We ran out easy winners in the end but we had to work for the right to do that.”
Having not seen action since beating Kerry in the Munster final on July 10, Cork found life difficult against a dogged Cavan team at times, but points from Bríd Stack, Orla Finn, Briege Corkery and Áine O’Sullivan brought them to life.
“I think the long lay-off affected us more than anything,” Fitzgerald said. They scored the goal from the throw-in, which probably set us back a bit but it kind of sharpened the minds a little bit too.
“They defended well, they were very committed and supporting each other. I felt they could probably have been a point or two more ahead but I wasn’t ever that worried either. I know that the team were full of character but we were just that bit rusty, I think it was a six-week lay-off.
“No matter how many training sessions you have, you can’t beat a championship match.”
Finn’s third point made it 0-7 to 1-3 on the buzzer, and with the elements behind them Cork kicked on in the second period, with sub Rhona Ní Bhuachalla having an immediate impact as she goaled, while captain Ciara O’Sullivan and Finn also netted.
“We needed to do a lot of things,” Fitzgerald said, “we had to push up on their kick-outs and contest the breaks a bit more, we needed to move the ball quicker and I think we did all of those. There was a huge wind there and that was a big factor, I was happy enough to go in a point up at half-time.”
Hannah Looney, Orlagh Farmer and Eimear Scally all pointed after coming off the bench too, leaving Fitzgerald plenty of options ahead of the semi-final against Monaghan on September 3.
“There’s great competition for places. Rhona came on there and got a goal with nearly her first ball, the keeper made a great save initially and she got the rebound. I think that that game will bring us on a good bit in terms of our sharpness.”
Scorers for Cork:
O Finn (1-4, 4 frees), R Ní Bhuachalla (1-2), C O’Sullivan (1-1), O Farmer, A Walsh, B Stack (0-2 each), B Corkery, H Looney, E Scally, Á O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cavan:
C Smith (1-1), A Doonan (free), N Byrd (0-1 each).
M O’Brien; R Phelan, B Stack, M Ambrose; S Kelly, D O’Reilly, V Foley; B Corkery, A Walsh; R Buckley, C O’Sullivan, J O’Shea; L Coppinger, Á O’Sullivan, O Finn.
R Ní Bhuachalla for Á O’Sullivan (half-time), O Farmer for O’Shea (34), H Looney for Coppinger (41), E Meaney for Ambrose (45), E Scally for Finn (52).
C Doonan; S Lynch, R Jordan, J Moore; S Greene, L Fitzpatrick, S Reilly; D English, R Crowe; N Byrd, S O’Sullivan, R O’Keeffe; N Halton, A Doonan, C Smith.
A Kiernan for Lynch (35) R Doonan for Byrd, R Talbot for Smith (injured) (both 43).
S Mulvihill (Kerry).
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