Cork 2-13 Dublin 2-12
Sport does this. Defies all logic sometimes. A team – Dublin – bring themselves to the precipice of glory only to freeze. There follows the agonising reality that the other team – Cork – are slowly reeling them in, taking away what they presumed was a hard-earned victory and there is nothing to be done about it.
Cork outscored Dublin 2-7 to 0-2 in the last quarter. That cold hard fact makes everything that went before largely irrelevant. It completely overshadows Cork’s abysmal shooting display, nullifying the importance of their 18 wides and two shots that dropped short.
What will be remembered is Geraldine O’Flynn’s point with 58 minutes played rather than her two awful miscues from frees, the second of which seemed to confirm Cork would be dethroned.
What will also be remembered is Siobhán Woods’s shot that dropped short at the death and not the point she so bravely landed with 57 minutes played.
The margin for error is minuscule. Logic has nothing to do with it sometimes.
The half-time score had Dublin leading 1-7 to 0-4. Cork had kicked 10 wides to Dublin’s seven. It was a poor spectacle at that juncture. The champions looked nothing like a team in search of a ninth All-Ireland title since breaking new ground in 2005. They looked washed up. Weak.
Avalanche of scores
It seemed logical to presume they needed an avalanche of scores in the opening 10 minutes of the second half to have any hope. Valerie Mulcahy, who had been poor, which is so rare, clipped a quick point.
We braced ourselves for the revival, but it didn't come. Not yet. Reason told us the game was over when Dublin weathered this initial storm before the seemingly relentless Carla Rowe cut through a sea of red jerseys to set up Lindsay Peat's second goal. Noelle Healy and the superb Lyndsey Davey points stretched the margin out to 10 points.
Cork needed a miracle. Mulcahy got another free but Noelle Healy responded for Dublin. No chance.
On the sideline Eamonn Ryan, the Rebelettes 73-year- old manager, already introduced Nollaig Cleary after half-time. That meant eight Cork players on the field had eight All-Ireland medals.
“We were in serious trouble,” Ryan admitted.
He sent on Rhona Ní Bhuachalla and Eimear Scally. They combined for 2-1 of the 11-point swing that followed. "To their eternal credit people who must have been sorely disappointed came on and forgot their own disappointment. And played out of their socks for the sake of the common good.
“That was the kernel of the recovery; people put aside their own disappointment and worked so hard for the team for which they had not actually been picked on. That was the difference in the end. That seemed to lift the other players.
“Not that they wanted to show us [for not picking them]. There was no element of that. And that’s rare enough in sport because it is very personal when you are not picked.”
On sensing Dublin were waning, Cork became relentless. 27,374 people were riveted.
Mulcahy found her mojo, landing two scores, which strangely won her woman of the match, while dual stars Angela Walsh and Briege Corkery played like women possessed. Which they are.
All this overshadows Dublin's first-half performance. Sinéad Goldrick was excellent throughout, but when the supply-line dried up Davey, Peat and Sinead Aherne were unable to add to their 2-6 total compiled in the first 36 minutes.
Maybe it was conditioning, maybe it was the will to win being so deeply ingrained in the Cork footballers. Maybe it will make All-Ireland champions out of this young Dublin side in 2015. Maybe we will never know.
Maybe it was Croke Park. The wide expanse of this pitch is something a team needs to grown accustomed to. Cork have been there once a year since 2005, Dublin just the once in 2010. On that pitch, that matters.
One thing’s for certain: this Cork team are securely part of that too often used realm of sporting immortals.
Cork: M O'Brien; R Phelan, A Walsh, B Stack; V Foley, D O'Reilly, G O'Flynn (0-3); R Buckley, B Corkery (capt); A Walsh, C O'Sullivan (0-1), O Farmer; V Mulcahy (0-6, two frees), G Kearney, O Finn (0-2).
Substitutions: N Cleary for Annie Walsh (half-time), R Ní Bhuachalla (1-1) for Kearney (42 mins), D O'Sullivan for Farmer (45 mins), E Scally (1-0) for Finn (49 mins).
Dublin: C O'Connor; R Ruddy, S Furlong, L Caffrey; S Finnegan, S Goldrick (0-1, capt), S McGrath; D Masterson, M Lamb; N Healy (0-2), N Hyland, C Rowe (0-2); L Davey (0-3), S Aherne (0-3, one free), L Peat (2-0).
Substitutions: S Woods (0-1) for Hyland (45 mins), S McCaffrey for Lamb (53 mins), L Collins for Furlong (54 mins), N McEvoy for Healy (56 mins).
Referee: M Farrelly (Cavan).