Rebelettes turn on style to crush Mayo challenge
Cork 0-14 Mayo 0-7 Tesco Ladies NFL Division 1 final
IN a week when a famous managerial dynasty provided the hot topic for discussion in the world of sport, there was something rather fitting about Cork's victory at Parnell Park.
Alex Ferguson's decision to step down at Manchester United, following a period of unparalleled success, garnered enough column inches to fell a couple of rain forests.
But in Eamonn Ryan, Cork's ladies footballers have a man of similar stature, a leader blessed with an uncanny ability to rejuvenate players, to keep them fresh and hungry.
At the weekend, Cork collected their 14th piece of national silverware under Ryan. A haul of seven Division 1 titles and as many All-Ireland senior titles has a neat symmetry to it.
A seven-point victory over Mayo in Dublin was achieved with minimum fuss and in clinical fashion.
The exploits of Mayo superstar Cora Staunton dominated the pre-match build-up, but Cork ignored the hype and finished with silverware in the bag once again. It's been a recurring theme since Cork won the All-Ireland title under Ryan for the first time back in 2005.
After losing to Monaghan in the 2012 decider, they weren't in the mood to finish as runners-up again. It's not the Cork way, not under Ryan. And only the bravest punter would back against captain Anne Marie Walsh hoisting the Brendan Martin Cup in September.
Cork have rarely looked better, fresher or hungrier at this time of the year. They played against the wind in the first half, yet reached the interval with the teams level at 0-5 apiece.
The signs were ominous for Mayo, who registered 10 first-half wides. And so it came to pass as Cork outscored last year's Division 2 winners by 0-9 to 0-2 in the second half.
Mayo managed just one point from play in the second half as Fiona McHale's score within a minute of the restart handed the Connacht outfit the lead for the only time. Mayo didn't score for the next 17 minutes as Cork reeled off five points without reply. Job done.
Such was their dominance, it was left to Mayo goalkeeper Yvonne Byrne to collect the player of the match award.
Byrne preserved a clean sheet with a string of outstanding saves but for an emerging side under Peter Clarke, this was a harsh reality check. They've progressed significantly this year but there's still a journey to travel.
For Cork, business as usual and they could have two more cups in the cabinet by the end of the season, if Munster and All-Ireland titles are banked.
"You want to win as much as possible while you're able," said full-back Brid Stack. "Hopefully this will be the start for the rest of the year."
Monaghan manager Greg McGonigle was one of the interested spectators in a healthy attendance, with the Farney County tipped to emerge as Cork's most likely championship challengers. He'll have left with plenty of food for thought.
Even with Juliet Murphy still absent, as doubt surrounds her inter-county future, Cork were far too good for Mayo. Stack and her defensive colleagues ensured that Staunton was well contained, particularly in the second half.
Scorer of 1-10 in the semi-final against Monaghan, Staunton bagged four points, including three from play. But as the game wore on, she cut an increasingly frustrated figure, having to drop into her own half-back line for possession.
Cork had their homework done and finished with four points on the spin to add gloss to the scoreboard.
Stack added: "A few of the girls were disappointed at half-time – they didn't get their shooting boots going but they came out in the second half and were unbelievable, as well as the girls that came off the bench.
"It just proves the depth in the squad – it's great to see and it's a great foundation going into the championship."
Mayo shotstopper Byrne, a survivor from the breakthrough All-Ireland senior win in 1999, admitted that the westerners were "disgusted" to lose. But she insisted that some good can come from this, if lessons are learned.
Byrne said: "We knew we'd be up against it against Cork. It was a final up for grabs, but Cork's experience showed. Coming from Division 2 to make a Division 1 final is a good leap and hopefully a learning curve for us."
Mayo were back in a Division 1 final for the first time since 2009 and in situations such as these, Ryan's brilliant side possess an innate ability to get over the line.
Scorers – Cork: V Mulcahy 0-4 (3fs), O Finn, G O'Flynn (2fs) 0-3 each, R Ni Bhuachalla 0-2 (1f), D O'Sullivan, Angela Walsh 0-1 each. Mayo: C Staunton 0-4 (1f), S Rowe 0-2, F McHale 0-1.
CORK – E Harte 7; AM Walsh 7, B Stack 8, A Barrett 7; B Corkery 7, D O'Reilly 7, G O'Flynn 8; Annie Walsh 7, R Buckley 7; O Farmer 7, Angela Walsh 7, O Finn 8; V Mulcahy 7, R Ni Bhuachalla 7, D O'Sullivan 7. Subs: N Cleary 6 for Mulcahy (48), E Farmer for O'Sullivan (54), V Foley for Barrett (56).
MAYO – Y Byrne 9; M Corbett 6, N Tierney 6, K Sullivan 6; Ciara McManamon 5, M Carter 7, L Ryder 5; C Egan 6, Clodagh McManamon 6; A Gilroy 5, D Doherty 5, F McHale 7; L Cafferky 5, C Staunton 7, S Rowe 7. Subs: A Bell 6 for Ryder (19), G Kelly 6 for Cafferky (45), N Kelly 6 for Doherty (45), C Connelly 6 for Ciara McManamon (45).
Ref – K Delahunty (Tipperary)