By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Cork showed tremendous resilience as their alchemy of youth and experience came together impressively in the second half to put a halt to the Wexford machine and win today’s Irish Daily Star Camogie League Division 1 final at Semple Stadium.
It was an occasion to remember for the sport, with this national decider taking place as part of a double-header with the Allianz Hurling Division 1 final and after a quiet opening, both sets of players certainly provided a showpiece to match.
In securing their 14th title, and their first since beating the same opposition in the 2007 final, the Rebels were also scuppering Wexford’s four-in-a-row bid.
They had to do it the hard way too, overcoming a nervous first half when they were a clear second best and going in at the break 0-6 to 0-3 in arrears.
Manager Paudie Murray and his backroom staff certainly their corn, making a key change just before half time that saw Orla Cotter moving to midfield and going on to give a player-of-the-match performance.
He undoubtedly gave his charges a few home truths during the interval too, as they were transformed after the resumption, upping the intensity of their play no end. Katrina Mackey’s 39th minute goal helped them establish a four-point buffer which was enough to withstand the expected late Wexford rally.
Cotter and Gemma O’Connor gave dominant displays around the middle in the second half, while the Cork defence was outstanding. Goalkeeper Aoife Murray and full-back Rena Buckley were unyielding, while Briege Corkery completed stamped out the considerable threat of Kate Kelly in customary bullish fashion.
It was upon this defensive and midfield foundation that Cork eked out their win, reducing the normally goal-hungry Wexford to only two green-flag opportunities that yielded but a point to Ursula Jacob’s first-half penalty.
Indeed Wexford were over-reliant on the Oulart-The Ballagh sharpshooter for scores from placed balls. Jacob provided five of their six first-half points and added another late in the second half. In contrast, all bar three of Cork’s points came from play and that was significant in the end.
The opening exchanges were very cagey in perfect conditions, with a slight breeze away from the Town End in Cork’s favour in the first half.
Nerves undoubtedly played a part and though Cork did get off the mark first with a ninth minute pointed free from the 2007 match-winner Jenny O’Leary, Wexford gradually exerted control.
Jacob equalised from a free before blasting over from a 13th minute penalty, after Joanne O’Callaghan had fouled Katrina Parrock.
O’Leary restored parity eight minutes later but even by this stage, Wexford had gotten on top by virtue of Catherine O’Loughlin and Mary Leacy in the spine of their defence, and Lisa Bolger at midfield.
Cork’s brilliant defensive unit began to creak under the unrelenting pressure, conceding frees and Jacob was unerring in punishing the indiscretions. Parrock also found the mark to give JJ Doyle’s crew that three-point advantage, although Cotter did send over an eye-catching point from 55m for the Leesiders.
At that juncture, it looked like Wexford might pull away with the wind at their backs in the second half, but they seemed caught unaware by Cork’s greater physicality in the latter period and were unable to cope with it.
Doyle responded by making a number of substitutions that included the introduction of big guns such as Úna Leacy but they made little difference.
The lively Mackey and Anna Geary had points on the board within five minutes of the restart and though Kelly did flight over a remarkable point from 50m out and tight to the right sideline, Mackey’s hand-passed goal after showing a clean pair of heels to the Wexford rearguard gave the Leesiders the lead.
Emboldened, they added points from Cotter, O’Leary (free) and team captain Julia White, with the latter coming after a brilliant block had stopped Parrock’s goal-bound shot.
Wexford threw everything forward in the final ten minutes, with Úna Leacy and Jacob halving the deficit. They never threatened the major score needed however, and the glory was Cork’s.
Watch a video report of Cork v Wexford click on link:
Scorers – Cork: K Mackey 1-1; J O’Leary 0-3(fs); O Cotter 0-2; A Geary, J White 0-1 each
Wexford: U Jacob 0-6(5fs, 1 pen); K Kelly, K Parrock, U Leacy 0-1 each
Cork: A Murray; J Duffy, R Buckley, J O’Callaghan; B Corkery, E O’Sullivan, P Mackey; L Dorgan, G O’Connor; O Cotter, A Geary, K Mackey; J White, R Curtin, J O’Leary. Subs: J Casey for Dorgan (30+1); K Buckley for Curtin (51)
Wexford: M D’Arcy; N Lambert, C O’Loughlin, K Atkinson; S Redmond, M Leacy, D Codd; J Dwyer, L Bolger; K Kelly, B Gordon, F Rochford; K Parrock, U Jacob, E Quigley. Subs: M O’Leary for Rochford (40); U Leacy for Quigley (40); Claire O’Connor for Redmond (42); L Holohan for Gordon (50); F Kavanagh for Dwyer (57)
Referee: A Lagrue (Kildare)