Cork 2-10 Monaghan 1-10
In his first season at the helm, Ephie Fitzgerald has guided holders Cork through to another TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football championship final.
Cork will contest their 11th final in 12 seasons when they take on Dublin for the Brendan Martin Cup on September 25th – the third successive season that the counties will meet for the silverware.
Cork’s six-in-a-row hopes remain on course but they were given a stern test by Ulster champions Monaghan at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening.
Monaghan registered 14 wides during the game – seven in each half – and paid the price for that.
They also had a strong wind at their backs in the second half but Cork, superbly marshalled by player of the match and dual star Briege Corkery, held firm.
Monaghan also suffered a blow 12 minutes from time when corner back Lianne Ward was sin-binned but in the time she was off the pitch, the Farney girls outscored their opponents.
Monaghan had a spell of four points without reply, including two from Rosemary Courtney, and that brought them to within three points, trailing by 1-8 to 2-8.
Corkery steadied the ship with a superb score for the Rebelettes and they had the answers down the home straight as Monaghan could never get closer than three points – despite outscoring Cork 4-2 with Ward off the pitch.
At half-time, Cork had a 2-4 to 1-2 lead but Monaghan’s decision-making and use of the ball let them down on numerous occasions, while they also struggled on their own kick-outs.
Cork went 11 minutes without a score in the opening half but Monaghan weren’t clinical enough to punish them at the other end of the field.
Cork, who had 11 wides of their own, were off to flier when Orla Finn, one of their big stars this season, found the net in the third minute.
And when Ciara O’Sullivan finished an excellent move from close range in the 14th minute, Cork had a seven-point lead, 2-2 to 0-1, and looked on course for a big win.
But as they went scoreless from there until the 25th minute and in that time, Monaghan roared back into contention.
Cora Courtney’s shot was half-blocked midway through the half and when the ball went loose, midfielder partner Eimear McAnespie netted for Monaghan.
A Courtney free had Monaghan back to within a goal but Cork had the final two points of the half from Finn (free) and Corkery.
Finn and Caoimhe Mohan traded points early but Cork managed to grab a stranglehold on the game again, going close to a third goal on a couple of occasions but doing enough to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Cork were seven points clear – 2-8 to 1-4 – but Monaghan showed resilience to make a game of it.
Cork, however, have been down this road so many times before and when the dust settled, they were back in familiar territory.
Monaghan, who contested finals with Cork in 2008, 2011 and 2013, had that sinking feeling again but their progress has been remarkable under manager Paula Cunningham this year, winning Ulster despite losing six of their seven league outings.
CORK: M O'Brien; M Ambrose, B Stack, R Phelan; V Foley (0-1), D O'Reilly, S Kelly; R Buckley, B Corkery (0-4); A Walsh (0-1), C O'Sullivan (1-0), O Farmer; L Coppinger, D O'Sullivan, O Finn (1-3, three frees).
Subs: H Looney for Farmer, R Ní Bhuachalla for Coppinger (both half-time.), E Scally (0-1) for D O'Sullivan (53 mins), J O'Shea for Looney (57 mins).
MONAGHAN: C McKenna; R McKenna, J Fitzpatrick, L Ward; A McAnespie, S Courtney, G McNally; C Courtney (0-2, two frees), E McAnespie (1-0); L McEnaney (0-1), E McCarron (0-2), T Scott; C McAnespie (0-1), C Mohan (0-1), R Courtney (0-3).
Subs: L Jones for Scott (45 mins), M Atkinson for Mohan (56 mins).
Referee: G Carmody (Mayo).