Cork will never tire of winning All-Irelands, that’s for sure. This must be the sweetest of all because this is a Rebel team that lost so many quality players from last season. But here they never flinched. Not once. They led from pillar to post. They dominated, coming away with their 26th title, equalling Dublin’s record at the top of the roll of honour.
A week ago, all the talk was of the Kilkenny hurlers and how they coped minus the likes of JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell, and Henry Shefflin. A lot of people feared this Cork camogie side would come up short, forced to regroup with so many All-Ireland-winners gone from the setup; five of the starting 15 to be precise. But the players who came in made it clear from the outset they were able deputies.
The impact of Gemma O’Connor cannot be underestimated — such a lion-hearted centre-back. Granted, Galway played into her hands, allowing her oceans of space in which she revelled. But she is an incredible player that never fails to deliver.
That Galway came up short — only scoring two points from play — has to be down to the supremacy of the Cork backs. A defence that saw Meabh Cahalane and Leanne O’Sullivan cope magnificently in their first All-Ireland senior decider.
Cork started brilliantly and it was 0-8 to 0-4 at the break. In the second half, Galway skipper Niamh Kilkenny and Lorraine Ryan worked unbelievably hard as they got within a point, but one marvels at the manner in which Cork responded. Orla Cotter, not for the first time this year, pushed them three points clear around the three-quarter mark.
Next up was the unbelievable Briege Corkery. Breaking on to a sloppy clearance, she executed the only goal of the match when one-on-one with Susan Earner.
The game was up as Cork coasted six points clear. The dual star collected her sixth All Ireland camogie medal — add that to the nine football wins — and the mind boggles as to how she keeps coming back for more. Rena Buckley is another with nine and six — and the All-Ireland football final is yet to come!
A second title for manager Paudie Murray as well, and an incredible seventh medal for his sister Aoife who will go down as one of the finest custodians in the game. She says she has played her final hour for the red and white and what a high it would be to go out on. Another clean sheet for the Cloughduv lady, and, like her compatriots out on the field, she got better as time went on.
Another player who excelled was full-back Laura Treacy. Making the step up from underage is not easy and filling such a vital position so calmly is a credit to her. She kept Galway danger lady Molly Dunne scoreless, which is no mean feat. In fact, none of Galway’s starting full-forward line registered a flag, which is incredible.
Galway were expected to put up a serious challenge to Cork, having defeated them twice this year. I was surprised with their lack of intensity. OK, they had injuries that robbed them of key attackers but they lacked bite.
The O’Duffy Cup will be brought Leeside this evening by Ashling Thompson. There was something very touching to see the captain place her hand on each of her players’ shoulders as she introduced the team to the President before throw-in. A simple gesture but delivered with such strong body language.
A great Munster double was achieved following Waterford’s outstanding victory in the Intermediate decider. Twenty-one out of the panel of 26 are students, so a bright future awaits Sean Fleming’s charges at senior level.
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