Cork 2-12 Kilkenny 1-9
It’s easy now to say that experience told in this camogie final because the bare bones of the day make it look that way. Cork, with their team dripping All Irelands from as far back in some cases as 2002, found a way to dig themselves out of a six-point hole against Kilkenny, whose barren run in the competition now stretches out to 21 years.
A 12-point turnaround across half an hour of an All Ireland final draws a neat and tidy line between one group who’ve seen and done it all before and another with no points of reference to call on. Rocket science, this ain’t.
Except that with a minute to go and still just two points between the teams, Kilkenny substitute Aoife Neary was fouled for just about as stonewall a penalty as you could wish to see. Clare referee John Doolan had his choice of two separate fouls to call on desperate Cork defenders but somehow ended up giving neither.
Kilkenny’s spirit doused, Cork tacked on 1-1 in injury-time to gild the scoreline lily. They probably deserved to win here but six points is overegging the pudding just a touch. It’s to the credit of Kilkenny joint-manager Graham Dillon that he refused to make a big deal out of the non-penalty decision afterwards.
“You know as well as I do when you’re standing on that sideline in Croke Park, you can only see the girl beside you,” said Dillon. “Whether it was or wasn’t a penalty, you still have to stand up and score it so we won’t blame it on a penalty. Cork probably showed more intensity in the second half and we failed to match it.”
In a game where both sides set up defensively, Kilkenny needed to take advantage of a stiff first-half breeze. And by the time the break came around, it looked like they’d done a reasonable job. They went to their tea 1-6 to 0-4 ahead and were well worth it.
Full-forward Katie Power was giving Anna Geary a chasing and though Michelle Quilty fluffed one early goal chance set up for her by Power, she pounced on a second to score the Kilkenny goal on 17 minutes. With wing-forward Denise Gaule's frees a consistent threat, they looked to have little enough to worry about come the second half.
But this wasn't Cork's first rodeo. Eleven of the starting 15 had All Ireland medals before yesterday, in most cases multiple ones and in Briege Corkery, Angela Walsh and Rena Buckley, a trio with a decade's football All Irelands behind them and a tilt at another coming in a fortnight. Whatever they were going to do, panicking wasn't an option.
They chipped away with points from Katriona Mackey and the excellent Orla Cotter. And when the game was there to be turned, it was another of their veterans who delivered.
Jenny O’Leary actually retired last year. Having moved from west Cork to south Armagh, her intention had always been to step away from the Cork team with which she’d won her first All Ireland away back in 2002. And having been convinced to return to the side, her life was turned on its head just a fortnight ago with the death of her sister.
From where anyone gets the strength to just turn up after that is a mystery. Yet it was O’Leary who turned the game, striking a classy goal on 40minutes after a strong run and pass from Walsh.
It put Cork into a 1-8 to 1-7 lead - their first of the day and one they wouldn’t give up. Further points from Cotter and Corkery saw them close to the finish line before a late goal from Walsh got them across it. They survived the penalty scare, they survived everything.
“We’ve had some people who’ve had bereavements this year, we’ve had other struggles,” said Cork captain Geary afterwards. “Everybody has struggles. But this is sport. Sport is an opportunity to create a little bit of happiness through the sadness and that’s what happened here today. We’ve a lot of people who have things going on in their lives but for 60 minutes here they put it out of their minds and just played.
“It is a terrible thing but you look at the Clare under-21 player who lost his dad and went out and played. That’s the power of sport. Things like that drive teams on because you realise how lucky you are to be involved and to be in this position. You realise how lucky you are that you’re not in that position and going through something that somebody else is going through. You have the power to lift someone else up when they’re down. I couldn’t be more proud.”
CORK: Aoife Murray; Joanne O'Callaghan, Anna Geary, Laura Treacy; Eimear O'Sullivan (0-1), Gemma O'Connor, Pamela Mackey; Rena Buckley, Ashling Thompson; Jenny O'Leary (1-1), Angela Walsh (1-0), Briege Corkery (0-2); Julia White (0-1), Orla Cotter (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 45), Katriona Mackey (0-1). Subs: Joanne Casey for O'Leary, 62 mins.
KILKENNY: Emma Kavanagh; Mairéad Power, Kate McDonald, Jacqui Frisby; Claire Phelan, Collette Dormer (0-1), Elaine Aylward; Leann Fennelly; Ann Dalton; Denise Gaule (0-5, 0-4 frees), Aisling Dunphy, Áine Connery; Shelly Farrell (0-1), Katie Power (0-1), Michelle Quilty (1-1). Subs: Miriam Walsh for Connery, 44 mins; Aoife Neary for Farrell, 54 mins; Edwina Keane for Fennelly, 56 mins.
Referee: John Dolan (Claire)