'Cork have nine or ten Roy Keanes'
Published 26/09/2016 | 02:30
The task of replacing the iconic Eamonn Ryan was considered a poisoned chalice by many but as Ephie Fitzgerald notes, it's always easier to cope with the pressure when you have "nine or ten Roy Keanes" among your ranks.
Displaying all the grit and character which rightly sees them recognised as one of the greatest teams in any code, the Rebelettes came from behind to claim a sixth Brendan Martin Cup success in a row, inflicting final heartbreak on Dublin for the third straight year.
With the game in the melting pot heading into the final quarter, Cork seized the day yet again, suffocating the Jackies before hitting four points without response. And despite a late Dublin rally, there was only ever going to be one winner.
It wasn't their most accomplished display but anything is possible when you have the likes of Rena Buckley and Briege Corkery, who collected their 17th senior All-Ireland medal in yesterday's win, in your side - with Fitzgerald drawing comparisons to another Cork sporting great.
"I said earlier in the week, if you look at Roy Keane as an analogy in terms of his massive will to win, total focus…United were lucky to have Keane - we have nine or ten of them. There's never any talk of what they've won, it's always the next one," he said.
"That's the secret of their success - their humility, their respect for one another, their respect for the game, they're playing together for so long. Nothing would surprise me with this bunch.
"It's not an accident that the girls come out the right side of these games, they're just driven. In the last quarter of an hour, I thought Rena and Briege, they got on so much ball, Deirdre O'Reilly drove us forward," he said.
"Ciara O'Sullivan…in the first-half our forward line didn't really function at all, there was no fluidity. That's character, when you're not playing well and you come out and you can give that kind of performance. They can file things away when things aren't going well, it's always the next ball."
In his maiden season it's beyond Fitzgerald's "wildest dreams" to have collected league, Munster and All-Ireland honours. Likewise for his right-hand man, Nemo Rangers club-mate and former Cork star James Masters, who came on board this year.
"It's actually an awful lot harder being on the line than playing. Last night the nerves, this morning nerves and the lunch came out and I didn't even want to eat it, just nervous for the girls," Masters said.
"Then you look at it then and a lot of them have 10 All-Irelands and you trust that they're going to do it. We talk about humility and it's true, there's no ego in this Cork team and what strikes me is that they do everything at 100pc.
"You try to get them to calm down and do things warming up but everything is driven and the likes of Bríd (Stack) and Deirdre (O'Reilly) drive it on, if there's something not up to scratch they'll say it to management."
Much of the talk on social media and around Croke Park after centred on Carla Rowe's controversial 'point', which was waved wide, and a possible replay but Fitzgerald wouldn't hear of it.
"As far as we're concerned, we're All-Ireland champions. I don't know what went on out there, I haven't looked at it. There's no Hawk-Eye or whatever, so, no comment," Fitzgerald said.
Read more: Cork reign on but Jackies in Eye of storm