S-LE Burns was the two-goal star as Cork reclaimed the O’Duffy Cup with a five-point victory against Galway in Sunday’s Gala All-Ireland senior camogie championship final at Croke Park.
Beaten finalists last year, Cork returned to the top of the pile as they collected a 23rd senior title to move just three behind Dublin on the all-time honours list.
This was Cork’s first success since 2006 but this hard-fought win marked their fourth victory in this competition in seven seasons, a testament to their remarkable consistency.
Galway were appearing in their first final since 1998, when they were also beaten by Cork, having achieved a last-gasp semi-final victory over last year’s winners Wexford.
Jessie Gill was the goal heroine on that occasion and the Athenry teenager was in good form from placed balls in front of 18,727 spectators at GAA HQ.
Gill scored eight points, seven from frees and a 45, but she was unfortunate to see a second half penalty saved by Cork’s brilliant goalkeeper Aoife Murray.
Galway centre forward Therese Maher was fouled by Cork full back and captain Caitriona Foley and Gill’s resultant penalty was blocked by Murray at a crucial stage in the match.
Cork led by just two points, 2-5 to 1-6, prior to the penalty award and moved three clear again when the impressive Rachel Moloney converted a point from play in the 39th minute.
Murray may have felt under pressure to redeem herself after allowing -ine Hillary’s speculative shot to drop into the far corner of the net three minutes before half-time.
Hillary was shooting for a point from the left wing but the flight of the sliotar deceived the otherwise flawless Murray for Galway’s only score from play of the entire game.
That goal handed the Tribeswomen a real lifeline before half-time as they went in just a point behind at the break, 1-5 to 2-3.
Galway, the only team to defeat the Leesiders in the round-robin stage, opened the game with four unanswered points in the opening ten minutes from Gill, three frees and a 45, before the Rebelettes settled.
Rachel Moloney’s free after eleven minutes was Cork’s opening score but all of Galway’s good early work was undone when the lethal SÝle Burns scored the first of her two goals with 17 minutes on the watch.
Eimear O’Sullivan’s ball in from the left touchline broke between Galway corner back Sandra Tannion and Cork’s Elaine O’Riordan; Burns was onto it in a flash and the Rockbßn star found the bottom corner.
The tireless Briege Corkery added a point from play, Moloney converted a 45 and Cork had turned a four-point deficit into a two-point advantage in the space of nine minutes.
Galway kept plugging away in the second half but their lack of scores from play proved a hindrance as Gill kept the Westerners in touch with some brilliant free-taking.
The penalty miss was a crucial turning point but equally, Susan Earner in the Galway goal was kept busy with saves from Una O’Donoghue and Burns.
At the other end, Murray’s save from Deirdre Burke deep in stoppage time topped the lot, a breathtaking stop as the Galway sub looked certain to bulge the net.
That was Galway’s last salvo as Cork held out for a victory which they craved after suffering the heartbreak of final defeat against Wexford 12 months ago.
Cork scorers: R Moloney 0-7 (4f, 2 45s), S Burns 2-0, O Cotter, B Corkery & E O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Galway scorers: J Gill 0-8 (7f, 1 45), A Hillary 1-0.
CORK: A Murray; L O’Connell, C Foley, J O’Callaghan; G O’Connor, M O’Connor, S Hayes; O Cotter, B Corkery; A O’Regan, U O’Donoghue, E O’Sullivan; S Burns, R Moloney, E O’Riordan.
SUBS: E O’Farrell for O’Riordan (h/t), R Buckley for O’Connell (40m), L Dorgan for O’Regan (57m).
GALWAY: S Earner; S Tannion, A Kelly, T Manton; A-Marie Hayes, S Cahalan, N Kilkenny; A Hillary, S Noone; M Dunne, T Maher, V Curtin; O Kilkenny, J Gill, B Kerins.
SUBS: L Kavanagh for Dunne (h/t), C Cormican for Noone (48m), D Burke for Kerins (58m).
Referee: E Browne (Tipperary)