Wednesday 22 May 2019

Better team won but Cork will be back

Cork will be back, of that there's no doubt, we really could be on the cusp of a famous rivalry

A dejected Cork team line up for the presentation after the game
A dejected Cork team line up for the presentation after the game

Diarmuid Sheehan

Well, you just can't win them all. Simple, but ultimately always proved to be the case.

Cork's perfect record at headquarters in All Ireland Finals came to a grinding halt last Sunday and to be fair to all concerned it probably was time. Little or no consolation I know to the current crop of Cork stars, but Dublin deserved to win and it wasn't anyone from Cork's fault that they did.

Cork have been the flag bearers for Ladies Football over the last decade or so bringing the game on to new heights and while year after year the Rebels got better and better, so too did the chasing pack - and with that being the case it was only a matter of time before a new dynasty would be created, and right now that is Dublin.

Dublin are the best side in the country today and may well be for a while yet, but Cork are not far behind them and that will drive Ephie Fitzgerald and this current bunch of Leeside stars on to close the gap and reclaim what they will feel is rightfully theirs.

Despite all the negativity from a Cork point of view and the premature talk of a three, four or even five in-a-row for Dublin the facts show just what is currently between these sides.

Dublin scored 14 times Cork just one behind with 13. Dublin hit Cork with everything they had and the Munster side just kept coming back. Dublin are a side on form with bag loads of experience, Cork are a side hurting, but with massive talent again coming through. All this surely suggests that this rivalry has a long way to go.

Dublin's pace all over the pitch was mesmerising at times with their ability to carry the call from defence into attack a key component in their win. Cork also had runners from deep, but far too often the blue wall dispossessed them or made Cork's forwards shoot from distance which ultimately proved to be the wrong tactic.

Dublin also had the goals (three in all) and that will go down in the history books as the difference here. Dublin's goals also came just at the right time for them as each time it seemed Cork were on the cusp of getting back to near parity. The penalty goal from Sinead Aherne was despatched perfectly with both Carla Rowe's goals shoe in for goal of the season contenders.

Cork's Áine O'Sullivan's goal was another piece of class that should be in the reckoning for that award, but with Dublin bagging three majors and Cork just one that difference was always going to be an issue.

Cork carried the ball into tackles far too often during the 60 minutes or so which again proved costly time and time again and with Dublin tackling as if their collective lives depended on it you could see how frustrating it was for Cork and just what it meant to Dublin.

At one stage Doireann O'Sullivan won a free after being tackled by six Dublin defenders 30 metres out from goal - that was the level of commitment brought to the party by a side hell bent on retaining their crown.

And when Cork did get skip the challenges their attackers failed to get enough scores from play (1-3 in total) with only four players scoring all game and that is just not enough return from some forward stars.

Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to a team and say well done and that is most definitely the case with Dublin this season. The girls in blue came into the game with the league title already secured and last season's All Ireland to defend and right from the off it was hard to see anything but a Dublin win.

The final factor that was dismissed before the game by all in the Leinster side's camp but subsequently spoken about after the win was the fact that Dublin had it in for Cork.

The girls in blue felt that their win in 2017 had been dismissed in some quarters because they hadn't beat Cork in the final so there was motivation there that seemed to give that extra half a percent all game.

Cork were dogged, passionate, skilful and classy but still found themselves behind for the entire game. The girls in red threw everything they had at the Dubs, but the champions were just that bit better almost everywhere.

Dublin played with a purpose and an intensity that Cork couldn't cope with and ally that to serious experience and some very potent forwards and it is not hard to see why Dublin secured their first ever back-to-back title.

Cork lost nothing in defeat here except a game. They continued to win the hearts and minds of their own fans with their opponents also acknowledging the effort put in to take back the title and the grace at which that title was conceded.

Cork's effort was magnificent but sometimes effort just isn't enough. Sometimes you need that something else - that spark, that piece of luck, that bounce of the ball to go your way but last Sunday those pieces of luck didn't go Cork's way.

Over 50,000 at headquarters on Sunday which was the sixth highest attendance at Croke Park this year and, while Dublin brought a lot of that crowd through the turnstiles, Cork's efforts to bring ladies football on to another level over the last decade were responsible for most.

Cork will be back next year and they will be the ones with the grudge to settle. Looks like there could another big crowd heading to Dublin in September 2019.

A footnote if you will allow me? Aside from the excitement of the game and the massive attendance one other thing stuck out for me and that was the respect for the process.

Both sets of players stayed in the line behind the Artane Band right the way round. Both showed total respect for President Michael D Higgins during his trip along the carpet, but for the first time in quite some time I got to see two teams stand for the entirety of the National Anthem with no player and no fan looking to get the jump on the other.

A lesson the other gender could learn.