Supreme Cork reach seventh heaven


WOMEN’S FOOTBALL ALL-IRELAND SENIOR FINAL:JUST FOR a snatched minute or two midway through the opening half, an optimist’s case existed for arguing that this All-Ireland final might turn into a contest.

Lorraine Scanlon, the Kerry midfielder pressed into service at full-forward, caught and turned and fired a fine point on 14 minutes to bring them back to just 0-3 to 0-2 behind. It was a score that came right out of their playbook for the day, the high ball into Scanlon constituting Plans A, B and C when it came to generating scores and the way she beat Cork full-back Bríd Stack to the ball and slung the point on the turn suggested that there might be hay to be made.

We should have known better.

Kerry didn’t register a score for the next 15 minutes, by which time Cork were six points ahead. Stack went on to have a thundering game for Cork and Scanlon was eventually moved back out to the middle of the field in a vain attempt to win some possession for Kerry. In the end, the champions’ supremacy was all-consuming and the 0-16 to 0-7 scoreline at the end did them a disservice.

The easiest thing to assume is that this is supposed to happen. That Eamonn Ryan’s Cork team only have to turn up fit and healthy and the wins and the titles will flow like wine at a wedding. Certainly, the weight of their experience seemed to annex swathes of Kerry headspace here as big-stage nerves seemed to keep some of William O’Sullivan’s players stuck to the ground in those opening exchanges.

“It did of course,” agreed O’Sullivan afterwards. “But I thought they battled fairly well out there. We knew things weren’t going right after the first five minutes or so. A couple of crucial things happened during the game. Bernie Breen broke her AC joint five minutes into the game.

“It was her call really to stay on the pitch. I suppose the hard line I would have taken her off the team but that might have caused a collapse among the rest of them. She is an inspirational figure on the team so we left her on.

“To be honest I thought she coped fairly well for the hour. Then there was a couple of other girls who have been big players for us just didn’t perform today. These things happen.”

Against this Cork team, they have a tendency to happen with grinding regularity. Their seventh title in eight years was a box ticked with ruthless efficiency. They were three points up after nine minutes, Valerie Mulcahy stitching a free and a point from play onto the board before Doireann O’Sullivan pounced on a poor kick-out to score the first of her four.

Edel Murphy’s quick kick-outs were a tactic of Kerry’s all through the game but they didn’t all go to hand and O’Sullivan managed to snaffle another one for a handy point before the end of the half. By that stage, Cork were stretching their lead quite easily. Referee Gavin Corrigan was losing patience with Kerry’s tackling – the free-count by the end was 32-11 in Cork’s favour – and Mulcahy was tagging on some very straightforward frees to keep the scoreboard rolling.

When Briege Corkery came up from wing-back to hoist the best score of the half on 27 minutes, it put Cork seven ahead. Sarah Houlihan and Orlagh Farmer swapped scores to make it 0-10 to 0-3 at the break.

It was hard to see where a Kerry revival might come from. Their defensive set-up meant they played with just three forwards for most of the game and once Stack worked out how best to deal with the high ball into Scanlon, Cork were set fair. Patrice Dennehy carried the fight when she came off the bench and her fine point on 46 minutes got Kerry back to within six points but that was as good as it got. When Nollaig Cleary and the tireless Geraldine O’Flynn kicked two in a minute soon after, there was only the countdown to the hooter left.

“They did what they normally do,” said Ryan. “They worked unbelievably hard for each other. They made some fierce bad mistakes but there was no recriminations, no pointing of fingers, no heads down. They just got on with the game. They seem to understand sport is an inexact science and that you are going to make mistakes and they understand that the faster you get over them the better your performance.

“That showed, with some unbelievably good players doing some unbelievably bad things. But they still had the character to do some good things too. They are very mature. They have lots of qualities and you couldn’t but admire them. It is very easy to work with them.”

CORK:E Harte; AM Walsh, B Stack, D O’Reilly; B Corkery (0-1), R Buckley, G O’Flynn (0-2); J Murphy, N Kelly; O Farmer (0-1), D O’Sullivan (0-4), C O’Sullivan; N Cleary (0-1), V Mulcahy (0-7, six frees), R Ní Bhuachalla. Subs: O Finn for Ní Bhuachalla, Angela Walsh for Ann Marie Walsh (both 39 mins), L McMahon for Farmer (46 mins), Annie Walsh for C O’Sullivan (58 mins), A Hutchings for Kelly, 63 mins.

KERRY: E Murphy; C Lynch, A Leonard, A Lyons; J Brosnan, A Desmond, C Kelly; L Scanlon (0-2), B Breen; S Houlihan (0-3, two frees), E Sherwood, L Galvin; M O’Connell, D Corridan, L Ní Muircheartaigh (0-1, free). Subs: P Dennehy (0-1) for Corridan (23 mins), Corridan for O’Connell (43 mins), M Fitzgerald for Galvin (45 mins), SJ Joy for Sherwood (59 mins).

Referee: G Corrigan (Down).

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