O'Driscoll hat-trick heroine for Rebels
CORK 4-9; TIPPERARY 1-9 THREE goals from Cork's own 'Pocket-Rocket' Fiona O'Driscoll shattered Tipperary's dream of becoming the first team in 14 years to complete a four in-a-row in yesterday's superb Foras na Gaeilge All-Ireland senior camogie final.
By day she's a diminuitive PE and science teacher in Coláiste Choilm, Ballingcollig but once O'Driscoll dons a red jersey, she turns into an unstoppable, earth-scorching, goal-seeking missile.
After scoring 6-10 en route she finished her eighth senior camogie final with another 3-2 to her credit and, as one of the team veterans, revealed this one meant more than her five previous medals.
"I didn't play in the League this year and seriously thought I wouldn't be back but I went to see them in the league semi-final and, well, camogie's always been my first love," said O'Driscoll.
All six Cork backs and the inspirational solos and clearances of swashbuckling goalkeeper Ger Casey were an integral part of ending their four-year senior drought.
To keep such such a talented forward line to just three-points in the second-half (and one of those scores was from brilliant Tipp centre-back Ciara Gaynor) in Croker's expanded space, was particularly significant, after trailing by one point (1-5 to 1-6) at half-time.
Yet the omens were already there. Tipp boss Michael Cleary started Deirdre Hughes at right-half forward in a pre-match switch with Philly Fogarty.
But Gemma O'Connor refused to give any quarter in Cork's marvellous half-back line. Within 12 minutes Hughes was back in at full-forward and she didn't get much leeway either from Eithne Duggan.
Tipp dominated first-half possession and Emer McDonnell goaled after 14 minutes to take the lead.
But when Jovita Delaney batted down a shot from Caoimhe Harrington four minutes later O'Driscoll pounced and indeed forced Tipp's 'keeper to make a fantastic, reflex save minutes later.
Tipp were probably unlucky that advantage wasn't played when Hughes goaled just before half-time but the whistle had already gone for a foul on Noelle Kennedy, allowing a Grogan free give them the minimal lead at the break.
Significantly Cork didn't get one single first-half free (to Tipp's 10) and yet were still very much in it.
The champions, as their manager Cleary noted, restarted well with quick points from Fogarty and Hughes to pull three clear but then Cork shifted up a gear. Rachel Moloney's arrival off the bench to bolster midfield, where Vivienne Harris was excellent, was also a factor.
But huge credit must go to defenders like Stephanie Dunlea, Paula O'Connor and inspirational centre-back Mary O'Connor who kept Noelle Kennedy scoreless.
Brilliant school-girl wing-forward Jennifer O'Leary was also exceptional, as demonstrated by the rare sight of Sinead Nealon being taken off, and centre-forward Una Dillon played a brilliant provider's role.
Tipp full-back Una O'Dywer made a rare handling error which Una O'Donoghue picked up to score Cork's second goal after 40 minutes.
Two minutes later Dillon put O'Driscoll through and though she was surrounded by defenders and without her hurl, she kept her head to hand-pass a third goal.
"I remembered being in the exact same position, playing Tipp in a Munster Championship game this summer," O'Driscoll revealed. "I went for a point that day but regretted afterwards not going for goal."
No regrets this time though and five minutes later she completed her personal hat-trick with Cork's fourth goal.
"Goals proved the difference," said Cleary. "In the past four years the goal tally between us in Championship has been 7-2 to Tipp but Cork got them today."
Indeed, not long after Cork's third goal, Deirdre Hughes burst through to try and kick to the net but Duggan got a block in and it was that sort of inspirational tenacity which led Cork to a deserved 20th title in a marvellously skillful and entertaining final in front of a crowd of 13,287.
Player-of-the-Match: F O'Driscoll (Cork).
SCORERS Cork: F O'Driscoll 3-2, U O'Donoghue 1-1, E Dillon 0-3, J O'Leary 0-3 (2f). Tipperary: E McDonnell 1-1, C Grogan 0-4 (3f), P Fogarty 0-2, D Hughes 0-1.
CORK G Casey; J O'Callaghan, E Duggan, S Dunlea; P O'Connor, M O'Connor, G O'Connor; V Harris, E Burke; L Mellerick, E Dillon, J O'Leary; U O'Donoghue, C Harrington, F O'Driscoll. Subs: R Moloney for E Burke (half-time), O O'Sullivan for Harrington (49 mins).
TIPPERARY J Delaney; P Bulfin, U O'Dwyer, C Madden; S Nealon, C Gaynor, T Brophy; S Kelly, A McDermott; P Fogarty, N Kennedy, J Ryan; E McDonnell, D Hughes, C Grogan. Subs: L Young for S Nealon (54 mins), E Hayden for McDermott (60).
REF A Lawlor (Westmeath).
KILKENNY 2-11; CORK 2-8
THEIR senior star may have dimmed lately but the juniors' All-Ireland camogie glory ominously signalled that Kilkenny have a new generation on the rise again.
Full-forward Aoife Neary will certainly be amongst them, the schoolgirl from James Stephens scoring all but two of their first-half scores, when they led by 2-9 to 1-4.
Yet Cork made a remarkable recovery thanks to the arrival of sensational substitute Breege Corkery whose goal and phenomenal second-half workrate in midfield almost singlehandedly overthrew the Kittens' huge lead.
Edel Maher, Colette Desmond and Catriona Kelly also contributed to Cork's incredible comeback but Kilkenny were fortunate to have cool heads in full-back Liz Sweetman and Catherine Doherty, who kept her head to get their only second half-scores, to narrowly hang on.
SCORERS Kilkenny: A Neary 1-8 (4f, 2 '45'), C Doherty 1-2, M O'Connor 0-1. Cork: C Kelly 0-5 (5f), G Collins, B Corkery 1-0 each, C Desmond 0-3.
KILKENNY C Ryan; K Kinahan, AM Young, E Lyng; P Comerford, M Lawler, A Fitzpatrick; E Maher, E Aylward; M Ryan, D Lanigan, J Frisby; C Doherty, A Neary, M O'Connor. Subs: U Walton for Lanigan, N Sutton for Kinahan.
CORK E Clifford; J Brown, L Sweetman, N Bowles; C Foley, N Ahearn, M Holland; V O'Keefe, E O'Farrell; C Desmond, C Kelly, G Collins; A Murphy, E McCarthy, M Watson. Subs: B Corkery for O'Keefe, S O'Donovan for E O'Farrell, D Twomey for McCarthy.
REF U Kearney (Armagh).