By Daragh Ó Conchúir at Croke Park
CAITRIONA COLLINS scored a goal and six points while Minor star Saoirse McCarthy added four from play as Cork put the agony of two consecutive defeats at the last hurdle behind them to become Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship winners.
The Rebels had to stave off a wonderful effort by Down, who were in contention right to the end, the magnificent Niamh Mallon and Saoirse Sands leading the way.
Once Collins found the net in the 40th minute however to put six points between the teams, it was an uphill struggle for Martina Rooney’s crew.
Their cause wasn’t helped though by the harsh sending off of Sara-Louise Carr 10 minutes later, the reason for the Clonduff attacker’s second yellow card not obvious from the stands at least, or to the player herself, who was distraught.
That didn’t affect the result however but rather scuppered any hopes Down had of making it back.
They started the game with skipper Fionnuala Carr at full-forward, which was surprising given that the tactic had failed in the Semi-Final and that their comeback that day had been propelled by Carr’s relocation to centre-back.
She was unable to influence proceedings from the edge of the square on this occasion either, and Down definitely missed her commanding presence in the middle of the half-back line.
They began very confidently however, points from Sara-Louise Carr and Sands getting them on their way.
McCarthy, who along with Laura Hayes and substitute Cliona Healy, was winning her second All-Ireland medal in a few months having enjoyed U18 glory, got a chance to show her pace and the subsequent player of the match had the teams level in the blink of an eye with a wonderful brace.
Down enjoyed their best period at this juncture and moved three points clear, with two points from Mallon, who was also involved in the move for Paula Gribben’s score.
Mallon’s point off her left from 60m in particular was a thing of beauty, and Down were flying.
They didn’t score for the entire second quarter however and Cork went in leading by 0-7 to 0-5, Collins slotting three points to bring the teams level before Caroline Surge and McCarthy also found the target.
Mallon and Sands quickly restored parity within five minutes of the restart but it was all Cork from there, Paudie Murray’s crew leading by three when Collins rocketed the net.
It was a fantastic finish at the end of a move that had its genesis in a stunning fetch from the clouds by Siobhán Hutchinson. Finola Neville took the ball forward and drew the cover before timing her pass to perfection, leaving Collins to do the rest.
Down tried hard to respond but they couldn’t threaten Amy Lee’s goal and Cork were finally able to end their Intermediate torment.
SCORERS FOR CORK: C Collins 1-6(0-4fs); S McCarthy 0-4; C Sugrue 0-2; C Healy 0-1(f)
SCORERS FOR DOWN: N Mallon 0-4(2fs); S Sands 0-2; P Gribben 0-1, S L Carr, F Carr (f) 0-1 each
CORK: A Lee, N Ní Chaoimh, S Harrington, J Barry, S Hutchinson, L Weste, L Callanan, S Buckley, K Hickey, L Hayes, F Neville, S McCarthy, C Collins, M McCarthy, C Sugrue: Sub: C Healy for McCarthy (39), R O’Callaghan for Sugrue (60), R Killeen for Callanan (60+2)
DOWN: M McNally, N Kelly, A Savage, C McGilligan, B Savage, D Magee, C Rocks, P Gribben, D Savage, S L Carr, N Mallon, A McAleenan, S Sands, F Carr, O Caldwell. Subs: O Gribben for Magee blood (14-28), Gribben for Caldwell (29), C Cowan for McGilligan (52)
REFEREE: J Dermody (Westmeath)