CORK 2-13 GALWAY 0-15 CORK became queens of the Silver Screen at Croke Park yesterday. In the first-ever Bord na Gaeilge All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final to be shown live on RTE, the Leesiders collected their 19th title.Yet the holders had to battle every step of the way to overcome the admirable challenge of Galway by four points in a thrilling spectacle that must have won thousands of new fans for the sport.
A crowd of 10,436 endured the most dreadful conditions of high winds and driving rain, yet both teams overcame the elements to produce one of the finest Finals of recent times.
Two goals in two minutes during the first half from Cork's classical goal-poacher, Irene O'Keeffe, proved crucial as the favourites were facing a most testing challenge from Galway.
O'Keeffe, who plans to retire now, was overjoyed at the close.
The goal-scoring heroine was concerned at half-time that Cork only held a four-point lead, 2-7 to 0-9, with the wind advantage to face Galway on the resumption.
``I didn't think it was going to be enough, but our backs were superb. They soaked up everything,'' stated Irene.
Galway manager, Tony Ward, overcome with tears, agreed that O'Keeffe's double strike was vital.
``Those two goals were a killer, but I thought we played the better camogie on the day.
``We did our best, and you can't blame anyone. We are a young side, and we'll be back.
``It must have been a very good spectacle alright, but it's no good losing good matches,'' reflected Tony.
Galway, attacking the Canal end, began in excellent fashion, with Anne Broderick, Therese Maher, Sharon Glynn and Colette Nevin making positive contributions.
Cork's forwards were being well contained, but the brilliant free-taking of Lynn Dunlea kept Cork in touch as the sides were level four times in that opening period.
Glynn scored the point of the match on 13 minutes, firing over the sliotar in majestic style, but O'Keeffe's first goal on 19 minutes was to grant Cork the lead for the first time.
Linda Mellerick, as busy as a bee throughout the hour, passed outside to O'Keeffe, who found the space and time to fire in a thundering drive, 1-4 to 0-6 for Cork.
Maher responded with a fine point for Galway, but on 21 minutes, after Sinead O'Callaghan had struck the Galway bar, O'Keeffe worked her way in on the left to crack home her second goal, 2-4 to 0-7 for Cork.
Cork had suddenly found their confidence, and they finished the half with a flourish as Fiona O'Driscoll sent over one of the best points of the afternoon.
Yet Galway, who secured their only O'Duffy Cup crown two years ago with a victory over Cork, played with bright optimism on the restart.
They lorded possession for long spells, scoring four points in succession from Ann Forde, Maher, Veronica Curtin and Nevin to only trail by a point on 40 minutes.
In the subsequent scoring exchanges, Cork just managed to stay ahead of their gallant rivals by two points at most, and one point on two further occasions.
But with four minutes left, and Cork desperately clinging onto a two-point lead, Galway were inches away from a sensational goal.
Forde found Glynn, whose clever, simple pass saw substitute, Denise Gilligan, hit a rocket that went inches to the left of the Hill 16 goal.
Surviving that let-off, Cork proceeded to notch on two more frees from Dunlea, the teacher, whose homework on the training ground, has a habit of finding the right result, nine valuable frees in this triumph.
Even better drama is promised next year when the All-Ireland Final will be 15-a-side on the full pitch with the GAA goals.
And it's likely that Cork will be very much the team to beat as they strive for the three-in-a-row and their 20th crown.
They are still quite a young side, and they really proved their desire to earn this success. ``There's years left in us yet,`` commented the winning skipper, Eithne Duggan, who praised her team-mates industry.
Galway's Therese Maher enjoyed a stunning second half display, and her drive was one of the principal reasons why the champions were under so much pressure.
And if Dunlea demonstrated free-taking at it's finest, Galway's Colette Nevin was also on top of her form, shooting six frees and another point from play.
SCORERS: Cork: L Dunlea 0-9 (all frees), I O'Keeffe 2-0, F O'Driscoll 0-3, M O'Connor 0-1 (f) Galway: C Nevin 0-7 (6f), T Maher 0-3, S Glynn, A Hillary, I Hobbins, V Curtin, A Forde 0-1 each.
CORK: C Keohane; E Duggan; D Cronin, V Harris, M Finn; U Troy, M O'Connor, L Mellerick; S O'Callaghan, F O'Driscoll, I O'Keeffe; L Dunlea. Subs: M Deasy for Troy; P O'Connor for Deasy.
GALWAY: L Curry; O Broderick; A Broderick, T Laheen, P Nevin; T Maher, S Glynn, A Hillary; C Nevin, I Hobbins, V Curtin; A Forde. Sub: D Gilligan for Curtin.
REF: J. Morrissey (Tipperary).