By Daragh Ó Conchúir
CORK manager Paudie Murray has been saying all summer that Kilkenny are significantly superior to anyone else in Camogie at present and within minutes of seeing his side book their place in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final with a narrow victory over Galway, he was delivering the message once more.
“I’m pretty relieved at this stage” said Murray on RTÉ2 after Cork saw an eight-point lead reduced to two in the second half.
“Our second half wasn’t good, our first half wasn’t too bad. Fair play to Galway, this team is a good team. They’re coming in with a lot of good players and in team this could be a very good Galway team so you’ve got to pay credit to them.
“We have a great never-say-die attitude and that’s what pulled us through. I don’t know did we deserve it really… looking back on it probably not.
“I’m worried going into the final at this stage facing Kilkenny. It probably won’t be a great contest; they play 10 behind the ball so we’ve to do an awful lot better if we’ve to have any chance.
“It won’t be one for the spectator really, a low scoring game. As I said, we’ve a lot to do to have any chance really. You’d be hoping Kilkenny have an off day and that we’d play way above ourselves to have a chance.”
Two first-half goals put Cork in a commanding position, leading by 2-6 to 0-6 at half time.
The first came from Aoife Murray in the 11th minute, the goalkeeper driving to the roof of the net from a penalty, awarded when the direct-running Niamh McCarthy was dragged down by Rebecca Hennelly.
The second was an exceptional solo effort just before the break from Orla Cotter. The St Catherine’s player was very involved in that opening period and she fielded a long Murray free before running at the heart of the Galway defence and prodding the sliotar to the net.
Points from the industrious Hannah Looney and Katrina Mackey stretched the margin to eight. Looney hand-passed over when a goal was on and Mackey, who had hit the crossbar just two minutes into the game, flashed a shot just wide.
Another goal would have finished the contest but instead Galway were emboldened. Cork went 28 minutes without a score, as the brilliant Aoife Donohue propelled the westerners forward. A 49th minute goal from Niamh Hanniffy helped reduce the margin to two.
Rena Buckley, Chloe Sigerson and Ashling Thompson were outstanding as Cork held firm despite the loss of Gemma O’Connor with an ankle injury, though Galway did spurn some good point-scoring chances.
Instead, Mackey slotted a point on the hour to leave Mark Dunne’s crew needing a goal and despite persistent pressure, it didn’t really look like arriving.
SCORERS FOR CORK: O Cotter 1-3(0-3fs); A Murray 1-0 (pen); K Mackey 0-2; O Cronin, N McCarthy, A O’Connor, H Looney 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR GALWAY: A Donohue 0-4(3fs); N Hanniffy 1-0; A O’Reilly (1f), O McGrath 0-2 each; N McGrath 0-1,
CORK: A Murray, P Mackey, R Buckley, L Treacy, M Cahalane, G O’Connor, C Sigerson, L Coppinger, A Thompson, A O’Connor, O Cronin, O Cotter, H Looney, N McCarthy, K Mackey. Sub: E O’Sullivan for G O’Connor inj (46), J White for A O’Connor (48), L Homan for K Mackey (60+1)
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, S Dervan, R Black, T Kenny, L Ryan, R Hennelly, H Cooney, A Starr, O McGrath, N McGrath, A O’Reilly, N Kilkenny, S McGrath, M Cooney, A Donohue. Sub: N Hanniffy for M Cooney (40)
REFEREE: E Cassidy (Derry)