Focused Cork take title back from Galway
It will not be remembered as the greatest All-Ireland camogie final ever played, but the satisfaction for Cork in winning their 18th title, before a crowd of 10,212 at Croke Park yesterday, was unmistakable.
Weathering a storm of Galway onslaughts in the closing 10 minutes had been an achievement in itself. Avenging last year's defeat by Galway was sheer joy for the team - and for the supporters it was a delight to watch the skills of goalkeeper Cora Keohane, defenders Denise Cronin and Sandie Fitzgibbon, garnished by the delicate scoring touches of Lynn Dunlea.
Dunlea, the schoolteacher from Cloughduv, gave an exhilarating performance of sharp-shooting, striking all but five points of the winning tally.
The timing of her scores in the second half was as crucial as the points themselves, as they staved off a threatened Galway storm. The best example of this came in the seventh minute of the second half after Denise Gilligan smashed home Galway's first goal, leaving only three points between the sides.
Dunlea added a second to take the good out of that Galway goal and was on the mark again inside the last five minutes when the defiant Galway women got the deficit down to four points with a goal from substitute Veronica Curtin.
It was not surprising that one of the best players on the field, Galway's Sharon Glynn, supplied the chances for both goals with well-taken long frees. Glynn struggled to find her best form in midfield following a recent bout of muscle strain which required hospitalisation. Galway's challenge suffered drastically as a result.
Afterwards, Kilkenny's 12-time medal winner, Angela Downey said she thought it had been a slow-paced match and a poor game, but Cork deserved to win.
The pace of the Cork defence had increase after Galway introduced young Theresa Maher as a replacement for her sister, Greta in the third quarter.
That pace reached boiling point in the closing minutes when Maher was denied a goal by the forever-alert Cork goalkeeper Keohane.
Denise Cronin and Sandie Fitzgibbon were also to the fore in frustrating the stubborn Galway players.
Anxiety for the Cork defence was something that did not seem likely after Dunlea stretched Cork's lead to double scores, 0-14 to 1-4, almost 20 minutes into the second half.
"We threw it away in the first half," claimed Galway manager Tony Ward. "We have no excuses, we never played as good as we can," he added.
The manager was no doubt referring to a number of factors, not least the fact that his key player, Glynn, had an untypical tally of six first half wides. Galway, playing against the wind in the first half, felt they needed a goal badly when they dropped five points into arrears. It did not help morale when a Glynn free, driven in low from an over ambitious distance, was blocked and cleared by Eithne Duggan. Another free went wide.
There was some doubt about the Galway star's fitness levels, but Ward said: "She was fit enough to play."
Cork players agreed that it was fitting for their Glen Rovers captain, Linda Mellerick to do the honours and lift the Cup in the presence of President Mary Robinson.
There was hardly a weak link in the Cork side. A point within the first 30 seconds from a free by Dunlea inspired early confidence. While Cork were putting scores on the board to build up to a 0-9 to 03 interval lead, Galway were piling up their wides and running up cul de sacs.
The last point of the first half was a classic by Mary O'Connor. The strike was off her left side as she was in full flight 50 yards out.
On the day, Galway could not quite equal that sort of panache. Vivienne Harris's contribution for Cork was also stylish and influential.
Cork: C Keohane; E Duggan; D Cronin, S Fitzgibbon, M Finn; L Mellerick, V Harris (0-4, three frees), M O'Connor (0-1); S O'Callaghan, F O'Driscoll, I O'Keeffe; L Dunlea (0-10, four frees). Subs: E Buckley for O'Callaghan, 60 mins.
Galway: L Curry; O Costelloe; O Broderick, T Laheen, P Nevin; G Maher, S Glynn (0-3, two frees), D Maher; M Harkin, I Hobbins, D Gilligan (1-0); A Forde (0-1). Subs: V Curtin (1-1), for Hobbins 26 mins; T Maher for G Maher, 40 mins; A Hillery for Harkin, 63 mins.
Referee: B Mhic Philib (Tipperary).