By Daragh Ë Conch·ir
After looking for much of the second half that they would move within an hour of a famous three-in-a-row, Cork had to dig deep to snatch a draw in a Gala All-Ireland senior camogie semi-final of cracking quality at Nowlan Park.
It took two late frees from SÝle Burns to set up a replay which will take place next Sunday at a venue that has yet to be determined.
The Rebels were certainly breathing a sigh of relief afterwards, especially after referee Karl O’Brien had inexplicably declined to award a free to Galway on Cork’s 20m line deep in injury time, when it appeared that Therese Maher had been bundled over.
The unerring Aislinn Connolly would never have missed from that range and with time almost up, it is likely that the Tribeswomen would have advanced.
While Cork could claim with some justification that they had been the victims of a couple of strange calls against them prior to that, none more than when Connolly converted eight minutes from time after O’Connor had been penalised despite making a brilliant catch, they will know that they caught a huge break with this call.
That they were in this position despite the outstanding performances of Eimear O’Sullivan, Jennifer O’Leary and Burns, can be attributed to Galway’s obduracy – characterised magnificently by corner-back Sandra Tannian – a constant goal threat and in particular, the brilliance of Kinvara queen Veronica Curtin.
Curtin has been donning the Maroon jersey for 15 years but remains as sharp as ever and it was her two second half majors that stunned Cork. The Rebels showed all their experience though to fashion those two late opportunities for Burns, who brought her tally to nine points from placed balls as a result.
Curtin got Galway off the mark with a point after just 30 seconds and Connolly converted a free but a 12th minute goal from O’Leary, when the Barryroe flier pulled first time after a mis-hit free from Burns had led to a goalmouth scramble, put Cork in front.
The Maroons spurned plenty of scoring chances but were much more clinical in the second quarter, spurred on by a brilliantly-worked team goal just three minutes after O’Leary’s strike.
It was Curtin who won possession and drove forward before laying off to the hugely industrious Maher. The team captain controlled and hand-passed almost in one movement to Tara Rutledge, who finished to the roof of the net.
Driven on by a dominant half-back line and midfield, Galway pushed on with points from distance by Connolly, Caroline Murray and Breda Hanney but Cork began to exert their authority in their own half-back division late on.
Burns kept them in touch with three frees and set up Julia White for another score after a brilliant fetch and pass. O’Leary added a brace and despite being second best for much of the proceedings, the Leesiders were ahead at half time, 1-8 to 1-7.
Curtin and Orla Kilkenny – who was now operating at full-forward – fired quick points for Galway but with O’Sullivan hurling plenty of ball at midfield now, Cork gained the upper hand.
Five points in a row, including three from Burns, pushed them four points clear and but for a full-length diving save by Galway goalkeeper Susan Earner from Joanne Casey’s rising shot – deflected out for a 45 that Burns converted – the situation would have been very grave indeed for the Connacht outfit.
Curtin’s 45th minute goal after Maher’s bustling run threw the game wide open. When she lobbed Aoife Murray deftly from a tight angle 10 minutes later, it was looking good for Galway but the thrilling finish ensured that the teams will have to do it all over again.
Scorers – Cork: S Burns 0-9(8fs, 1 45); J O’Leary 1-3; O Cotter, E O’Sullivan, J White, R Moloney, J Casey 0-1 each
Galway: V Curtin 2-2; A Connolly 0-5(fs); T Rutledge 1-0; O Kilkenny 0-2; C Murray, B Hanney 0-1 each
Cork: A Murray; J O’Callaghan, C Foley, R Buckley; J Duffy, M O’Connor, A Geary; O Cotter, E O’Sullivan; J White, G O’Connor, J O’Leary; S Burns, R Moloney, J Casey. Sub: P Mackey for O’Callaghan (46)
Galway: S Earner; S Tannian, S Dervan, N Kilkenny; R Glynn, AM Hayes, S Keane; E Kilkelly, O Kilkenny; C Murray, T Maher, B Hanney; T Rutledge, V Curtin, A Connolly. Subs: T Manton for Keane (ht); L Ryan for Kilkelly (41)
Referee: K O’Brien (Dublin)