Champions build on their legend


Tipperary 2-11 Cork 0-9: A final gilded by the sport's centenary celebrations didn't quite live up to its exalted billing but Tipperary, annexing the O'Duffy Cup for the fifth time in six years, will hardly care. Slowly, steadily, they crushed a game Cork side, establishing themselves in the process as not just the pre-eminent side of the era but one of the greatest the game has seen.

For periods early on it looked as if Cork might contrive a way of winning. Gemma O'Connor's striking from midfield was at once superb and perceptive but Cork foundered again and again on Tipp's full-back line.

The cold statistics tell the story. Cork scored just four times from play, and only one of those points was contributed by the full-forward line. By the end, two-thirds of that line had been replaced.

Tipperary had heroes right across the back but through the hour Una O'Dwyer in the number three shirt glinted like granite.

She pulled down high balls, blocked, hooked and flicked, stuck like velcro to her marker and gave an exhibition of defensive skills. O'Dwyer alone was enough to break Cork hearts.

Tipp of course had more in their quiver. Their vaunted full-forward line carried sufficient threat for Cork to switch Stephanie Dunlea to duty on the edge of the square. It almost worked but Deirdre Hughes still plundered a goal and Rosarie Holland in the left corner looked uncomfortable throughout.

Cork had the better of the early business with Emer Dillon stealing the first of two scores from Ciara Gaynor but on 10 minutes with Cork leading by the odd point in three Tipp flexed themselves for the first time.

Hughes had the ball in her hand in the square and was moving at pace when a hand on her back from Holland tipped her to the ground. Eimear McDonnell's penalty was saved by Aoife Murray in the Cork goal but already there was a sense that the reprieve would be brief.

Claire Grogan equalised some minutes later with a point from a free, to complement what was a flawless first-half exhibition of free-taking.

Then the game heated up a little. Noelle Kennedy drew another good save from Murray while at the other end Una O'Donoghue had an opportunistic snap shot blocked by Joviate Delaney. Something was going to give.

Dillon enjoyed the last bit of latitude permitted her by Gaynor to put Cork back ahead but then disaster struck. As a high Tipp ball dropped in on Murray in the Cork goal she came out confidently but collided with Holland. On hand was the vulture-like Hughes. A lift, a look and bang!

That Tipp goal established a pattern which would last till the end of the game. Grogan added a couple more frees and McDonnell scored the first of a couple of fine points. Cork had a point in reply.

Tipp led by five points going in for the tea and Cork didn't look to have enough strength to do anything about it.

They tried though. They tried. Two O'Leary frees gave them hope before Grogan swatted them away with perhaps the point of the game from a breaking ball wide on the right.

Tipp's second goal arrived in the 47th minute and ended all arguments as quickly as a judge's gavel. McDonnell contested a ground ball in the square with Holland. McDonnell's pull squirted out into the path of Joanne Ryan, who burst down the right side and drove home low and confidently.

From there on it was processional. Grogan's free-taking radar, momentarily on the blink earlier in the half, was restored to full power and McDonnell gave us a quick reminder of why she was player of the year last year when she scooped her hand down to take a ball flying fast at ankle height and then turned, skinned her marker and popped the point on the run.

For Cork it was a frustrating afternoon. They won parity in the middle third of the field only to find themselves blunted at one end and cut open by razor slashes at the other.

Tipp roll on. The closing pack will have watched and wondered if this isn't a never-ending story.

TIPPERARY: J Delaney; S Kelly, U O'Dwyer, J Kirwan; S Nealon, C Gaynor, T Brophy; A McDermott, P Fogarty; N Kennedy, J Ryan (1-0), C Grogan (0-9, 7 frees); E McDonnell (0-2), D Hughes (1-0), J Horan. Subs: P Bulfin for P Fogarty (55 mins), G Kinane for J Horan (59 mins), E Hayden for D Hughes (59 mins).

CORK: A Murray; J O'Callaghan, S Dunlea, R Holland; P O'Connor, M O'Connor, R Buckley; V Harris, G O'Connor (0-2, one free); R Moloney, E Dillon (0-2), J O'Leary (0-4 all frees); U O'Donoghue (0-1), E Watson, C Desmond. Subs: E Burke for Emer Watson (36 mins), A Geary for C Desmond (41 mins).

Referee: U Ní Chearnaigh (Armagh).