Cork's experience and class tilt the balance

 

CAMOGIE ALL-IRELAND CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS/Cork 0-15 Kilkenny 0-7:IT WAS a grind more than a fluid performance but that was still enough for Cork as they eventually pulled away from Kilkenny to claim their 24th Gala All-Ireland senior camogie title at Croke Park.

Cork were never really firing on all cylinders but they still held too much class and experience for the youthful Cats.

Most of the game’s most effective performers were in both defences and neither side created a genuine goal opportunity until Cork goalie, Aoife Murray was called upon to stop Marie O’Connor’s close-range ground stroke four minutes from time.

Kilkenny’s full-back line of Leann Fennelly, Catherine Doherty and Jacqui Frisby were particularly effective, while team captain Ann Dalton was the game’s dominant midfielder, but Ann Downey’s side lacked any sort of attacking thrust.

The Noresiders managed just two points from play as they struggled to escape the shackles of the outstanding Catríona Foley, Rena Buckley and Mary O’Connor.

O’Connor was poise personified as she won her 11th senior All-Ireland in total, her seventh camogie medal joining the four football mementoes in her trophy cabinet.

The unrelated Gemma O’Connor thundered into proceedings at centre-forward in the second half as Cork gradually pulled away for a deserving eight-point victory.

The game got off to a particularly cagey start even though the accurate Rachel Moloney pointed a free for Cork in the opening minute. It was another seven minutes before Aoife Neary equalised from a placed ball.

Eimear O’Sullivan flighted over the first point from play from tight on the right touchline to restore Cork’s advantage, but Dalton equalised with a sensational 13th minute effort.

The St Lachtain’s dynamo was on her knees when she won possession out around the middle, before somehow wriggling free of two Cork players, driving forward and slotting over the bar expertly.

Neary converted a free from a very tight angle to give Kilkenny the lead for the first and only time.

That was the signal for the Rebels to up a gear and their response was mightily impressive, as they shot five of the next six points to go four clear.

Moloney provided three of those, two of them frees, and it was her centre that broke for Una O’Donoghue to arrow one over. Emer O’Farrell also got in the act but Michelle Quilty’s score kept Kilkenny in touch, at just 0-8 to 0-5 behind.

Gemma O’Connor and Katie Power were booked just prior to the interval after an off-the ball exchange of shoulders. That certainly seemed to fire the Cork player up and she won ample possession after the restart.

By the time she sent over a mighty score from 46 metres, Denise Cronin’s charges had doubled their half-time advantage, Moloney (free) and Eimear O’Sullivan having added points earlier.

Aoife Neary stopped the rot for Kilkenny with a 42-minute free, just after Murray had done well to bat Dalton’s effort for a point clear from under her crossbar while under substantial pressure.

Kilkenny needed a slice of luck and a goal then might have got them back into proceedings.

Neary tried to raise the green flag from a 21-yard free 10 minutes from the end but Briege Corkery bravely blocked her drive and cleared. Cork continued to play the ball intelligently down the flanks and they finished with a flourish as Kilkenny wilted in the glorious sunshine.

Moloney registered her seventh point of the day from a free before feeding substitute Katriona Markey, who added her name to the scoresheet.

Cork introduced team captain Amanda O’Regan two minutes from the end and the Douglas woman could start readying her victory speech when Gemma O’Connor took a pass from Corkery to conclude the scoring.

CORK: A Murray; J O’Callaghan, C Foley, R Buckley; J Duffy, M O’Connor, S Hayes; B Corkery, O Cotter; E O’Sullivan (0-2); G O’Connor (0-3), U O’Donoghue (0-1); S Burns, R Moloney 0-7 (six frees), E O’Farrell (0-1). Subs: K Mackey (0-1) for O’Farrell (37 mins); E Dillon for O’Donoghue (47); A O’Regan for Burns (58); L O’Connell for O’Callaghan (60)

KILKENNY: C Ryan; L Fennelly, C Doherty, J Frisby; L Lyng, A Butler, E Aylward; C Dormer, A Dalton (0-1); T Muldowney, K Power, E Keane; M Quilty (0-1), D Gaule, A Neary 0-5 (four frees, one 45). Subs: A Dunphy for Muldowney (17 mins); D Delaney for Lyng (37 mins); M O’Connor for Quilty (50); K Fennelly for Dormer (58)

Referee: U Kearney (Armagh)