Cork move up a gear to dazzle Tipperary
Cork - 4-9 Tipperary - 1-9Cork found a gear in the second half of the All-Ireland senior camogie final at Croke Park that may have even surprised themselves. They battled back after Tipperary's impressive first-half performance to provide the 13,287 crowd with a scintillating display of stick work and co-ordination of effort, garnished with a hunger for victory that left their four-a-row-chasing rivals virtually stuck to the ground in a final of blistering pace.
Cork manager Pa Finn sought to explain why his team were the hares on the day and Tipperary the tortoises on the vast headquarters pitch.
"We have trained hard since the beginning of the year, the size of the pitch did not matter because we were that fit," he said.
And to add to Cork's strengths they clearly produced "the woman of the match" in left-corner forward Fiona O'Driscoll, who finished up with a personal tally of 3-2.
Tipperary were generally in control of the first-half exchanges, with Ciara Gaynor's long deliveries supplying the front runners with plenty of opportunities. The scoreboard, however, said differently - a 1-6 to 1-5 Tipperary advantage concealing their dominance in the vital sectors.
The Tipperary finishing power became suspect, however, and 10 wides did not reflect their outfield form.
O'Driscoll, at the other end, was signposting her ability to turn the match on its head. She had Cork's first point and then popped up to punish a defensive error with a smashing goal after 19 minutes. Later still, in that first half, O'Driscoll brought the best out of Tipperary goalkeeper Jovita Delaney, who was fortunate to turn a blaster over the bar.
Tipperary appeared to have a right to be annoyed for having a goal disallowed just on half-time but the referee's whistle apparently had sounded to award a free instead, despite a brilliant fetch by Emer McDonnell.
Tipperary followers did not take too kindly to the decision but their manager Michael Cleary said afterwards: "I had no problems with it once the referee's whistle sounded for our free that was that."
One might have thought Gaynor should have been given more frees to take. As it was, Claire Grogan was unfortunate with three of the awards.
Tipperary seemed to be moving into the winning groove at last when stretching their lead to three points, thanks to Philly Fogarty and Deirdre Hughes, with less than two minutes of the second half played.
But Cork's potential was seen in its true light with the O'Connor-controlled half-back line repeatedly cutting off the supply to the Tipperary full-forward line. The unrelated Paula, Mary and Gemma O'Connor dominated to a remarkable extent and established the much-needed link between backs and forwards, an aspect of play that the winners found difficult to cope with in the opening half.
Una O'Donoghue hit home a 40th-minute goal that visibly drained Tipperary's confidence and the score gave Cork the lead for the first time in the match.
O'Driscoll took on Tipperary defenders Paula Bulfin and Claire Madden and outpaced them with a sizzling run before finally planting the ball in the Tipperary net.
It was game, set and match at this stage, with the Cork women driving home their advantage in style. O'Driscoll's second goal gave Cork a 3-7 to 1-8 advantage. Her third, when fending off the attentions of Bulfin and Una O'Dwyer, was pure magic.
Subsequently the Cork defence were only asked to repulse an Emer McDonnell shot, while Gaynor's 53rd-minute point was the only addition to Hughes's-32nd minute point.
It was fortunate enough for Cork that match winner O'Driscoll had not followed through with her intention to retire earlier in the year. "I was thinking of giving it up but I can tell you now I am glad I didn't, " she said. "We knew we were capable of this kind of performance but we had to go out there and prove it.
"Pa Finn told us to keep playing the way were did in the first half."
Wing forward Linda Mellerick was delighted. "We badly needed this win. I still can't believe we won it so clearly," she said.
Team captain Una O'Donoghue said: "I am just flabbergasted, I can't believe it, it's brilliant."
Tipperary manager Cleary conceded Cork were the better team.
"A few small things didn't go right for us. They (Cork) were first to the ball and seemed to be more hungry than us. When we went three points clear just after the restart it gave me encouragement but Cork's second-half display was a clear winner."
Cork manager Finn offered: "The size of the pitch didn't worry us for we had worked so hard in training that we had reached great fitness levels. From the time we got our second goal for the lead I knew it was going to be our day".
CORK: G Casey; J O'Callaghan E Duggan S Dunlea; P O'Connor M O'Connor G O'Connor; V Harris (0-2) E Burke; L Mellerick, E Dillon (0-1), J O'Leary (0-3, two frees), U O'Donoghue (1-1), C Harrington, F O'Driscoll (3-2). Subs: R Moloney for Burke at half time; O O'Sullivan for T Harrington 48 mins.
TIPPERARY: J Delaney, P Bulfin, U O'Dwyer, C Madden; S Nealon, C Gaynor (0-1), T Brophy; S Kelly A McDermott; P Fogarty (0-2), N Kennedy, J Ryan, E McDonnell (1-2), D Hughes (0-1), C Grogan (0-3 two frees). Subs: L Young for Nealon (44 mins); E Hayden for McDermott (58 mins)
Referee: E Lawlor (Westmeath).