Gilligan's goals give Galway All Ireland win
THE Galway team sang all the way to Croke Park for yesterday's All Ireland camogie final, sponsored by Bord Na Gaeilge, so, having finally lifted the ultimate prize after their long drought, it is almost impossible to imagine how they celebrated on their way home.
This was a tension filled game on a beautiful afternoon which attracted an attendance of 10,235. There was more than a fair share of skill, with two goals in as many minutes just after the break turning the match firmly in the westerners' favour. Martina Harkin and Denise Gilligan got those vital scores.
Eighteen year old Gilligan had also beaten Cork goalkeeper Kathleen Costine just before the break to give her side the confidence to face the second half. All the strikes were worthy of the occasion.
But Cork, as ever, displayed their never say die attitude and had the opportunity to save the day. However, wides in the final 10 minutes by the normally reliable Fiona O'Driscoll and Lynn Dunlea proved costly. Indeed Cork were left to rue the lack of the advantage rule in camogie as on several occasions frees were awarded when the Leesiders were bearing down on goal. Referee Aine Derham of Dublin had no option but to stop play. Sadly for Cork they failed to take full advantage and finally went down by two points.
But there was no denying Galway their victory. "I knew that if we were below six points behind them at the break that we would win the All Ireland," the delighted Galway captain Imedla Hobbins said from beneath a posse of autograph hunters from her home club of Mullagh. "Those goals just after the break were an almighty boost for us."
Hero of the hour. Gilligan was surprisingly low key about the whole affair but remarked: "I can't believe it. I thought the final whistle would never go. When Cork were ahead we knew we had it all to play for. But in the second half we got in front of the backs and that was the difference. We were also playing the ball in low to the forwards."
Galway started off as if they meant business, with midfielder Sharon Glynn pointing from a free within a minute. For some reason the score was not recorded, but coach Tony Ward had clarified with referee Derham that the point stood. However, the players were unaware that the score was actually closer that displayed.
Shortly after scoring, Glynn took a blow to the head which affected her for long periods, particularly in the opening half, with her accuracy deserting her. Her long pucks from midfield frequently went wide, and Galway hag five wides in the opening 30 minutes.
Cork, on the other hand, were taking their frees with deadly accuracy. They edged ahead 0-5 to 0-4 by the 20th minute, with all their scores coming from frees as Dunlea and O'Driscoll displayed their accuracy have thought that the game was theirs for the taking when Dunlea displayed remarkable persistence in shaking off the attentions of Olive Costello to put her side ahead 1-7 to 0-4.
Indeed it looked desperate for Galway as Cork stretched away to lead by seven points, 1-9 to 0-5, and Costine twice denied Veronica Curtin with the half time whistle beckoning. But Cork had reckoned without Gilligan.
A long ball from Glynn found Gilligan and while Costine did save the first effort the left forward was not to be denied and Galway went in three points in arrears, 1-9 to 1-6.
An early score in the second half was vital if Galway were to become the sixth county to put their name on to the O'Duffy Cup and Gilligan again came up trumps with Glynn again the provider. Two minutes later Gilligan was also involved in the move that saw the winners edge in front when she found Harkin. Costine again saved but Harkin retained her composure to find the net. Galway now led by 3-6 to 1-9.
They set about consolidating their position, and Glynn pointed from a 30. A further goal from Dympna Maher, who was another to display remarkable coolness under pressure, made the Cork task that much more difficult, although they still had 18 minutes to retrieve their title.
O'Driscoll and Dunlea did reduce the margin to four points, 4-8 to 1-13. Glynn added the extra Galway point with 12 minutes on the clock. Cork then went in search of those vital scores and forced the necessary frees but the unerring accuracy which was a feature of their early display was sadly lacking as they amassed wides.
Dunlea did give the winners moments of anxiety right at the end when she pointed twice one from a placed ball to leave the victory margin only two points.
Afterwards Cork captain Therese O'Callaghan, who played with heavy strapping due to an Achilles tendon injury which saw her substituted after 55 minutes, said: "We did not take the breaks and they controlled the game in the second half, with those early goals after the break vital."
Cork centre back Sandie Fitzgibbon, who held the Cork defence together in the opening period was magnanimous in her praise of the victors. "Fair play to them, they took their goals well. We had opportunities and did not take them," she said.