WHAT A DIFFERENCE a year makes. Just 12 months after the heartbreak of losing the three-in-a-row, Cork's revamped camogie team and management bounced back to win their 23rd Gala All-Ireland senior title yesterday but it is probably fair to say the Rebelettes have never worked harder for one.
A rookie Galway team, with only one title to their name and back in their first final for 10 years, tore into them right from the start and contributed hugely to a game whose combined skill and ferocity made it one of the greatest the game has ever seen.
Apart from the sheer brilliance of the hurling, it veered so dramatically at times that it was like an out-of-control rollercoaster.
Ultimately, Galway's brilliant young side, left weeping at its climax, will forever rue not taking any of the three great goal chances that came their way -- including a penalty -- in the second-half.
But in the end Cork's big-day veterans, not least goalkeeper Aoife Murray, held them fast and it was a great shame that only a disappointing crowd of 18,727 was there to witness such an epic.
When the chips were down, and especially in the final quarter, already legendary Cork players like Briege Corkery, Gemma and Mary O'Connor and Joanne O'Callaghan led a sensational defensive shut-out, conceding just three scores in the second half and keeping Galway completely scoreless for the final 20 minutes.
But that's not to say the Tribeswomen didn't have chances and Murray, in particular, was emblematic of Cork's phenomenal resilience.
After a particularly shaky start, which saw Galway's topscoring teenage full-forward terror Jessica Gill (18) quickly fire them into an unanswered four-point lead, Cork's self-possession was rescued by two brilliant goals from Sile Burns, the first after 17 minutes and the second just three minutes later.
Suddenly, the vastly experienced Munster side -- who had contested eight of the last 10 finals and won four of them -- had completely reversed that lead and looked in serious danger of pulling away.
But then Murray made a blunder that could have left her with a lifetime of doubt and regret.
Her failure to read the flight of an Aine Hillary long-range effort off the left-wing saw the ball dip into the net over her head, leaving Galway trailing by just a point (1-5 to 2-3) at half-time.
It was, noticeably, only Galway's first score from play and it would transpire to be their only one of the match which was, ultimately, their Achilles heel, but it certainly gave them every reason to hope and believe.
It was only the third goal Cork had conceded all summer and the sort of error that could have completely rattled a 'keeper.
But her blunder only served to inspire Murray who went on to have a remarkable second-half, saving three point-blank shots to keep her team safe while Galway, to their huge credit, piled on huge pressure and never once contemplated giving up.
Their first second-half chance came just six minutes after the re-start when a sublime Gill sideline cut saw brilliant Galway veteran
Therese Maher field a fantastic high catch only to be brought down by Caitriona Foley and Joanne O'Callaghan for a penalty.
But Gill, who had shot five from five placed balls before the break, didn't quite get her considerable power behind it and Murray deflected it to safety.
Cork had already snuck two points clear thanks to Rachel Moloney and brilliant midfielder Orla Cotter, the latter on hand again minutes later to solo through and lay on another score for Moloney to put them three points clear.
With Rena Buckley (who had summered in America) arrived off the bench at that stage, you could see the Rebelettes romping home, especially as fellow sub Emer O'Farrell was also so strong.
But to their credit, Galway, led by Therese Maher and a brilliant half-back trio, especially Niamh Kilkenny, simply refused to wilt.
Cork maintained their three-point lead with a particularly brilliant long-range point from Emer O'Sullivan followed quickly by a vital intervention by Corkery to dispossess Therese Maher deep in the Rebel defence.
A second '45 from free-taking ace Moloney pulled them four points clear with seven minutes left but for a long time there was only two points between the sides.
With four minutes of proper time left, Galway got a gilt-edged chance in front of goals, again set up by Niamh Kilkenny, but veteran Veronica Curtin fluffed her chance to finish it and Gill belted the follow-up wide.
Minutes later Galway's own 'keeper Susan Earner made another of several good saves from Burns to keep them still battling and, when four minutes of added-time was called, they steeled themselves for one last push.
No sooner had another brilliant long-range score from Moloney pulled Cork five points clear than the ensuing puck-out saw a scramble in the Rebels' goalmouth and substitute Deirdre Burke flashed a brilliant snap-shot at Murray.
But, in what must rank right up there for hurling's 'Save of the Season', the Cloughduv star somehow got her hurl across her body to deflect it to safety and copper-fastened an extremely hard-earned victory.
Ultimately, Galway had only two scorers and only scored once from play but those cold statistics tell nothing about the depth of their challenge or the magnificence of Cork's response, particularly their defence -- bolstered by Corkery and Cotter -- in those dying stages of a stunning final that proves today's players have truly brought the game to a new level.
Scorers -- Cork: R Moloney 0-7 (4fs, 2'45s); S Burns 2-0; O Cotter, B Corkery and E O'Sullivan 0-1 each. Galway: J Gill 0-8 (7fs, 1 '45); A Hillary 1-0.
Cork -- A Murray 8; L O'Connell 7, C Foley (capt) 8, J O'Callaghan 8; G O'Connor 9.5, M O'Connor 8, S Hayes 7; O Cotter 10, B Corkery 10; A O'Regan 7, U O'Donoghue 7, E O'Sullivan 7; S Burns 8, R Moloney 8, E O'Riordan 6. Subs: E O'Farrell 8 for O'Riordan (half-time), R Buckley 7 for O'Connell (40), L Dorgan for O'Regan (57).
Galway -- S Earner 8; S Tannion 8, A Kelly 6, T Manton 6; AM Hayes 8, S Cahalan 8 (capt), N Kilkenny 9; A Hillary 7, S Noone 6; M Dunne 6, T Maher 9, V Curtin 7; O Kilkenny 6, J Gill 8, B Kerins 7. Subs: L Kavanagh 6 for Dunne (half-time), C Cormican 6 for Noone (48), D Burke for Kerins (58).
Ref -- E Browne (Tipperary).