Girl power to fore as Rebel roar silences rivals
FORGET about gender. As Croke Park echoed with All-Ireland fever for the last time in 2012, this was as fierce and electric a performance as had ever been played on these hallowed grounds.
All-Ireland finals are synonymous with September but the hurling replay between Galway and Kilkenny pushed the women's football final out to the first weekend in October.
It's not the first time that the women were forced to play second fiddle to their male counterparts -- but try telling that to the players as Cork swept to victory over arch-rivals Kerry.
Not to mention the fans.
What they lacked in numbers, the fans made up for in loyalty and sheer voice power. In a rainbow of colours, fans from Armagh, Waterford, Antrim, Louth, Cork and Kerry swept upon Croke Park, with hats, scarves and headbands picked up en-route.
Earlier, Armagh defeated Waterford 1-12 to 1-05 in the intermediate final, while Antrim beat Louth 3-09 to 0-07 in the junior decider.
And while the female footballers are firmly closing the gender gap in terms of play, the fans have leaped into a different stratosphere.
Far from the usual genteel posse of fans that turn out for the men's All-Ireland finals, these were largely loud and proud teenage girls, challenging one another to flag-waving "dance-offs" and out-voicing one another in exuberant chants.
It was bedlam.
Making their first trip to Croke Park were little Holly O'Sullivan (19 months) and big sister Emma (4) with parents Caroline and Noel.
"Yes it's their first trip -- I'm delighted," said Caroline, admitting that Holly was already a little tired by the ordeal.
Kerry tried hard but they were just no match for their opponents, who came out on top by 0-16 to 0-7. "Cork were the better team," admitted Kerryman Luke Keane, from Knocknagashel, who had come along to see his neighbour Lorraine Scanlon play.
A school tour from Holy Family NS in Rathmore, Co Kerry -- right on the border of the two counties -- were divided in loyalties, with pupils from both counties.
Teacher Aine O'Donoghue had brought 40 pupils along for the game and they were heading back home on the train. "Do we have to go to school tomorrow?" wondered Emelia Wojtaszek (12).
"Of course," was Ms O'Donoghue's reply.
reports & analysis: Sport 58/59