Cork inflicted a second consecutive defeat on Kilkenny to claim their first Liberty Insurance All-Ireland title since beating the same opposition in 2009, thanks to a 2-12 to 1-9 scoreline writes Daragh Ó Conchúir from Croke Park.
It was a strange game that didn’t get going in the first half, although that had much to do with Kilkenny’s clear superiority.
The Cats went in at half time leading by 1-6 to 0-4 and that in no way flattered them.
Cork star, Jenny O’Leary admitted that the Leesiders hadn’t performed at all in the first half and resolved to change that in the latter period.
“I don’t know if the occasion got to us or our heads were in our boots but we just said at half time that we’d worked too hard and we weren’t going to let it behind us.
“It was just a puck of the ball between us and thankfully we came out on the right side of it. We have waited a long time for this.”
O’Leary played a big role in the turnaround with a goal that brought the sides level in the 41st minute.
By that stage, Cork had already shown a newfound zeal and intensity. They ramped up the physicality noticeably in defence and as a result, speedsters Briege Corkery and Julia White, and the graceful Orla Cotter were able to exert a much greater influence at the other end of the field.
This was an extremely tactical affair, with both sides withdrawing players deep and Cork pulling Cotter back on Denise Gaule for puckouts, in a bid to nullify the Windgap forward’s aerial strength.
The Leesiders didn’t look comfortable in the first half though. They were only a point behind at the end of the opening quarter but Kilkenny had certainly settled better.
Aoife Murray made an outstanding reflex save from Michelle Quilty in the seventh minute after the excellent Katie Power had caught a long delivery and offloaded quickly but the Cork goalkeeper was unable to deny Quilty 11 minutes later.
Gaule added three points but Cotter and Eimear O’Sullivan were on target for Cork to keep them in touch.
It was evident from the opening seconds of the throw-in that Paudie Murray had lit a fire under his players at the break and though Shelley Farrell stretched the margin to six soon after the resumption, Cork proceeded to score a goal and five points without reply.
White set up Katriona Mackey for a point in response and Cotter (Free), O’Leary, Corkery (with White again the provider) had the deficit down to a goal when O’Leary struck for the defining score.
It had its genesis in some stout defensive work that forced a turnover and Cotter worked the ball out to Ashling Thompson. The Milford midfielder sent the ball down the left wing to Angela Walsh who hand-passed to O’Leary.
There was still plenty of work to do and she certainly took a lot of steps as she cut inside but John Dolan was probably giving advantage for a foul. A goal ensued and the sides were level.
Cork pushed on from there and Cotter launched a fantastic score. Emma Kavanagh made two excellent saves from Mackey and Walsh to keep Kilkenny in touch but points from Corkery and a Cotter 45 put three between them.
There was drama late on as Aoife Neary had solid claims for a penalty turned down and in the game’s final act, Walsh took another pass from Julia White to score a goal to spark wild celebrations.
SCORERS – Cork: O Cotter: 0-6(4fs); J O’Leary 1-1; A Walsh 1-0; B Corkery 0-2; E O’Sullivan, J White, K Mackey 0-1 each
Kilkenny: D Gaule 0-5(4fs); M Quilty 1-1; C Dormer, S Farrell, K Power 0-1 each
CORK: A Murray, J O’Callaghan, A Geary, L Tracey, E O’Sullivan, G O’Connor, P Mackey, R Buckley, A Thompson, J O’Leary, A Walsh, B Corkery, J White, O Cotter, K Mackey. Sub: J Casey for O’Leary (60+2)
KILKENNY: E Kavanagh, M Power, K McDonald, J Frisby, C Phelan, C Dormer, E Aylward, L Fennelly, A Dalton, D Gaule, A Dunphy, A Connery, S Farrell, K Power, M Quilty. Subs: M Walsh for Connery (44), A Neary for Farrell (53), E Keane for Fennelly (56)
REFEREE: J Dolan (Clare)