Double proves Tipperary are a force to be reckoned with


Tipperary's star-studded camogie team have clearly outstripped the county's hurlers in winning big matches in Croke Park. They managed a double record in sparkling manner by retaining the All-Ireland senior title they won for the first time last year and by beating Cork for the first time in the history of the game.

Tipperary's joy was augmented by a match of superb quality that never flagged, consistently producing the code's great skills before a crowd of 12,880.

It was unquestionably a day on which the profile of the game soared and many players produced moments of individual brilliance.

The heroes were many and were largely assembled in a Tipperary side of outstanding quality and drive. Len Gaynor, the former Tipperary manager and All-Ireland winner, was first to congratulate his daughter Ciara on her stunning display at centre half back.

Linda Mellerick was one of the top Cork stars and was under no illusions as to where the game was won and lost. Her summing up was frank: "We were beaten in all sectors of the pitch. They were fitter, our League win over them didn't matter one bit, they were confident and strong."

Tipperary's win was built on a blistering start which yielded two goals by dynamic full forward Deirdre Hughes of Toomevara. "It was a dream start for them and one we could ill afford," said Mellerick.

Fiona O'Driscoll had opened Cork's account after just 35 seconds with a pointed free, but Hughes' double strike quickly undermined Cork's confidence.

Hughes was quickly on to a sideline cut by Emily Hayden before netting off a post for the opening goal after four minutes. Within two minutes she palmed the ball to the Cork net to finish off an astute Claire Grogan centre.

Grogan, at 14, is believed to be the youngest player to figure in an All-Ireland senior final and her contribution was immense.

It got even worse for Cork who spent the remainder of the match trying to catch up but with little prospects of succeeding against a Tipperary back line powered by goalkeeper Jovita Delaney, Suzanne Kelly at right back, Una O'Dwyer at full back and Sinead Nealon and Gaynor.

Up front, Philly Fogarty and Catriona Hennessy were dynamic on the wings to complement the work of Emily Hayden and Angela McDermott in the middle. Tipperary manager Michael Cleary believes his side can improve: "They still have not hit top gear," he said.

Cleary, the former Tipperary attacker and now the most successful of camogie managers, said: "The good start gave us confidence and belief in what we can do but, as I have said, they are not at their best yet and I say this from judging what I see in the training sessions.

"Temperament and quality are their two main assets," said Cleary of his squad. "They are also not in the least bit cocky or arrogant."

Ciara Gaynor said: "We were nervous last year and felt we had to get back here and prove how good we are and we had to prove it to ourselves. This time we forgot about the nerves and let the hurling do the talking. Every one of us was brilliant and that's why we won."

Cork had talented performers in Denise Cronin at right corner back, Mary O'Connor at centre back, Vivienne Harris at left half back, Mellerick in midfield and attack leader Fiona O'Driscoll. But the trouble for them was the lack of space they were given by Tipperary.

Cork's goal was badly needed but it came too late. Una O'Donoghue supplied it but it only nibbled at Tipperary's confidence.

Moments earlier Denise Cronin darted up from left corner back to threaten the Tipperary defence and only got a point for her effort.

Following that early burst by the champions, Grogan hit the point of the match to stretch Tipperary's lead to 2-5 to 0-4 by half-time.

Tipperary: J Delaney; S Kelly, U O'Dwyer, C Madden; S Nealon, C Gaynor, T Brophy; E Hayden, A McDermott; P Fogarty (0-1), N Kennedy, C Hennessy (0-4, three frees); E McDonnell (0-2), D Hughes (2-2), C Grogan (0-2).

Cork: C Keoghane; D Cronin (0-1), E Duggan, M Finn; S Hayes, M O'Connor, V Harris; U Troy, L Mellerick; S O'Callaghan (0-2), F O'Driscoll (0-4, two frees), C Harrington; E Burke (0-1), C Healy, U O'Donoghue (1-1). Subs: P O'Connor for Harrington, M Burke for P O'Connor.

Referee: A Derham (Dublin).