WITH eight minutes to play and Dublin leading by two points, Cork manager Eamon Ryan’s faith began to ebb.
This, it seemed, was the end of the line for a team chasing its fifth straight All-Ireland title.
Not so fast. Within 10 minutes Ryan was celebrating another famous victory after what was probably their toughest All-Ireland decider since Armagh went blow for blow with them three years before.
“It wasn’t the management that got us through,” said Ryan. “It was the players because I honestly thought, looking at the clock with eight minutes left, that it was gone.
“All credit to the players. I don’t know where they got it from.
“I shifted Juliet (Murphy) back to centre-back and she came out roaring at me. She wanted to go back to centre-field and she made two or three great forays. The last eight minutes was down to the players.
“They are amazing people and great footballers. Four points at a time when it seemed like the game was gone.”
Captain Mary O’Connor put their championship-winning burst down to experience, to the ability of a group of players to size things up on the spot and adapt accordingly.
“When we were two points down, we were trying to walk the ball through Dublin, which suited their game plan, because they were crowding us out. If you watch our last three points, they were all from taking the right option and we got the result.
“Dublin crowded us out of it but we’ve been around a good few years. We’ve won All-Irelands, four NFL and six Munster championships, not by a fluke, but by having the knowledge upstairs.”
But back to Ryan. His reluctance to accept any of the credit was typical of the man but his assertion that he and his management team had nothing to do with this latest success was one that could not go uncontested.
“Eamon is a very, very humble man,” said O’Connor when asked to sum up his importance to the team. “He has a way with players. He’s a very proud Cork man and he knows football inside out. He gives up so much of his time. He takes an interest in all our lives. He will take no credit. You can have the players but you need a general and he’s a general.”
It was, one way or another, an impressive surge for the line and Ryan revealed afterwards that a handful of players – Murphy and Briege Corkery among them – had been ill and were on a course of antibiotics.
“They’re on Augmentin at the moment and will be taking a few now,” he joked.
So then, what is it that allows this group of players to claim title after title? To beat five different counties in five consecutive finals, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health?
“I’ve no secret anyway,” said Ryan.
“Trying to analyse it, we were lucky enough to get eight or nine girls who had never won anything at underage and then we got eight or nine that had won a lot. The gelling of those two worked. The older group were keeping the younger group in check.
“The younger ones then abided by the guidelines that the older girls laid down. It was the two groups gelling and having mutual respect for each other.”
The five-in-a-row was on everybody’s lips afterwards.
Everyone’s except Ryan’s who, when asked about motivation, talked only of the team’s desire to grasp every last trophy and honour available to them.
“We know that the last game, every morning we get up, is getting nearer. So the drive is within the team to push that last game (back). That would be what is going through their heads.”
O’Connor was happier to talk about their run of success. She even addressed the Kilkenny hurlers from the steps of the Hogan Stand and said that they would “see your four and raise you one”.
“It’s a fantastic performance by an amazing bunch of girls that will be unique to this sport for a long time or will not be replaced very easily,” said the Inch Rovers dual player who was playing in her 17th All-Ireland final.
What odds on an 18th next year?
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