The tight affair anticipated between Cork and Galway in the opening All Ireland semi- final materialised, despite what the final scoreline might imply.
Spectators saw a terrific contest, where a gutsy Cork side rode their luck at times in defence and ultimately came good down the home straight. On 57 minutes, with the Southerners a point ahead at 1-10 to 0-12, their tireless midfielder Jennifer O’Leary powered forward. Eventually she offloaded to Katríona Mackey, who netted precisely from close range.
Galway had a gilt-edged goal chance of their own two minutes later. However, Aislinn Connolly and Veronica Curtin contrived to baulk each other with the posts at their mercy. The last gasp expired.
Deep into added time, Síle Burns landed a third goal, which made the margin emphatic and deceptive. Cork’s other midfielder, Órla Cotter, had done the spadework, dispossessing two defenders.
It had all been so different. On nine minutes, following a brilliant point by Curtin, Galway looked confident leaders at 0-6 to 0-2, even facing a fresh breeze. They were quicker to the ball, sharper to use it. But this fluency was never translated fully to the scoreboard.
Galway failed to score in the first half after the 17th minute. A tenacious Cork midfield came more and more into matters, staunching possession. Equally, elegant centre-back Gemma O’Connor got to grips with the menacing Níamh McGrath.
Briege Corkery, presumably with the elements in mind, had been sited at full-forward. She hallmarked this decison by goaling on 22 minutes, when she latched onto a breaking ball, scurried forward and planted the ball beyond Susan Earner’s dive. Four minutes later, she added a point for good measure. This contribution lay at the heart of Cork’s unlikely enough half-time lead of 1-8 to 0-8.
The second half was neck and neck, with Galway still profligate in front of goal. Then a wonderful brace of points from flying midfielder Níamh Kilkenny in the 38th and 39th minutes re-invigorated their challenge at 1-9 to 0-10.
They threatened to break through but never did better than paring the margin to the minimum.
Cork stayed resolute. Everything was right in the balance as O’Leary broke forward on that crucial run, her composure proving adequate to the occasion.
Galway are left to rue those missed chances and so unproductive a second quarter. An improving Rebel outfit will not be one bit afraid to be in Croke Park on camogie’s biggest day.
CORK: Aoífe Murray, Jenny Duffy, Rena Buckley, Joanne O’Callaghan, Pamela Mackey, Gemma O’Connor 0-1, Eímear O’Sullivan, Jennifer O’Leary 0-4 (3fs), Órla Cotter, Joanne Casey, Lynda Dorgan, Katríona Mackey 1-2, Síle Burns 1-1, Bríege Corkery 1-1. Subs: Anna Geary for Katie Buckley (36), Regina Curtin for Lynda Dorgan (46), Finola Neville for Joanne Casey (60+1).
GALWAY: Susan Earner, Sandra Tannian, Sarah Dervan, Lorraine Ryan, Sinéad Cahalan, Therése Maher, Regina Glynn, Níamh Kilkenny 0-2, Ann-Marie Hayes, Aislinn Connolly 0-2, Níamh McGrath 0-3 (2fs), Brenda Hanney, Veronica Curtin 0-3, Martina Conroy 0-1, Órla Kilkenny 0-1. Subs: Emer Haverty for Regina Glynn (44m), Noreen Coen for Órla Kilkenny (58m), Órlaith McGrath for Martina Conroy (58m).
Referee: Alan Lagrue (Kildare).