‘Keeper Mairead O’Sullivan the hero as Cork book minor final spot

Holders Cork emerged from a game for the ages to book their place in a third successive All-Ireland minor A ladies football final.

The Leesiders saw off Galway by 3-14 to 3-12 in Nenagh, in what was a repeat of the last two finals.

Grace Culloty’s two goals proved crucial and captain Laura Cleary led by example with a haul of 1-2 as Cork prevailed in a classic.

Saoirse Noonan was another player to excel for Cork as the Nemo Rangers star collected seven points for the winners.

This was a fixture that ebbed and flowed from start to finish and while Galway went in at half-time 3-7 to 2-6 in front, Cork prevailed to set up a final clash with Dublin.

Galway had excellent contributions from Leanne Coen (1-5) and Chelsea Blade (1-4) but a strong third quarter from Cork saw them gain the upper hand.

Missed chances cost Galway in the second half but Cork goalkeeper Mairead O’Sullivan was in brilliant form, denying Coen and Blade with superb saves.

Right at the death, Blade collected a pass from Siobhan Divilly and found herself one on one with the Cork netminder, who performed heroics to seal victory.

An early Cleary goal was the game’s first significant contribution and Culloty also netted in the first half for Cork.

But Galway struck three first half goals from Blade, Ailbhe Davoren and Coen.

Galway, even with the breeze advantage, retreated into a more defensive mode in the second half and that allowed Cork to mount a fightback.

Captain Cleary was exceptional as they completed a remarkable turnaround and Culloty’s second goal was a crucial score, as Cork moved into a 3-12 to 3-9 lead.

There was still time for O’Sullivan to save Cork and this group of players remain on course to repeat their All-Ireland successes at U14 and U16 level in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Remarkably, Galway had a 2-12 haul from inside forwards Coen, Blade and Eimear O’Kane but still ended up on the wrong side of the result.

Cork’s final opponents are Dublin, who steamed past Armagh by 4-21 to 1-9 in Inniskeen.

Dearbhla Coleman got Armagh off to an ideal start with a goal inside 60 seconds and Dublin, playing against a strong wind in the opening half, were slow to settle.

Inspired by Julia Buckley, Dublin were a team transformed approaching the break and Buckley’s first goal helped to establish a 1-10 to 1-1 interval lead.

Buckley, who finished with 2-4, netted again in the second half and Dublin also had goals from Hannah O’Neill and Aoife McGrath.

Rachel Douglas was also in good scoring form for the young Jackies, finishing with haul of 0-7, including five pointed frees. Maria Murphy was Armagh’s leading scorer with 0-7, a tally that included four frees, as Coleman added a point to her early goal.


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