The Rebel women bring trophy home after thriller game
AS the final whistle blew and the Cork team celebrated their eighth All-Ireland title in 10 years, Monaghan's Cathriona McConnell lay motionless on the ground.
Backroom staff, teammates, even a photographer all attempted to console her but it was to no avail.
The player's grief at having missed the final chance in the dying moments of the game was total. The parallels with the men's final were uncanny and McConnell's reaction mirrored Mayo's Aidan O'Shea's.
In a season of sensational Croke Park moments, nobody could accuse the women of not playing their part.
Although Hill 16 was unoccupied, the noise from the previous day's epic encounter between Clare and Cork seemed to echo around the stadium.
At noon, Offaly beat off Wexford in the junior final – winning their first title since 1981 – finishing with a score of Offaly 2-11 Wexford 0-12.
Then it was Cavan versus Tipperary in the Intermediate Championship Final, with Cavan's Bronagh Sheridan scoring a late penalty to win the tie with a score of Cavan 1-14 Tipperary 1-12.
Although only 25,103 fans watched Cork take on Monaghan in the main event, their devotion to the sport was rewarded with another thrilling game. It was no easy victory for Cork – they had to overcome a determined and hungry Monaghan side, looking for their first victory in 16 years.
At half time, the Rebels led by 1-6 to 0-6, thanks to a goal by Valerie Mulcahy. But Monaghan fought their way back in to the match, with a penalty from Linda Martin being the difference between the two sides until the dying minutes.
But points by Juliet Murphy and Geraldine O'Flynn put Cork back on top and on course for a thrilling one-point victory before McConnell's free, which was the last kick of the game, went wide. "It was so disappointing," said Una Treanor, from Emyvale, Co Monaghan, who had brought along her children Grace (6) and Senan (5) to yesterday's final.
"It was terrible that we had to lose by a single point – but it was a great game. They played so well," she added.
But sisters Jennifer (18) and Amy (16) O'Lehan from Glanmire, Co Cork, were celebrating a famous victory for their side.
"It was an absolutely brilliant game – so close. We were holding on to each other at the end. It was exactly like the men's final," said Jennifer.
Some 30 young members from the Youghal Ladies' Football Club in Cork had travelled to watch game, with secretary Gordon Kingsley saying this latest Cork win would give ladies football in the county a massive boost.
"This is just what we need," he said.
Meanwhile, Cyril 'the Bird' Kavanagh, Liam Corcoran and Shane Murphy cut a dash in eccentric costumes.
"I'm a huge fan," declared Shane Murphy who has been following the team since they burst on the scene in 2005.
"I'll be having cups of tea with them after the homecoming," he said.