Cork power to calm Down shock waves
Intermediate Final: Cork v Down, 2.0
There were plenty of raised eyebrows when Down got the better of Tipperary thanks to a 58th-minute goal from Sara-Louise Carr to reach the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship final for the first time in 20 years.
It may have been a surprise, but there were indications the Mournewomen were making real progress as the summer evolved. Admittedly, the League was a disaster as they lost all five outings, but then they got the better of Derry in the Ulster final. They followed that up with a draw against the much-fancied Oak Leafers in the opening round of the All-Ireland Championship.
That laid the platform for the rest of the campaign and they defeated Laois to bag the runners-up spot in Group 1 behind Cork, who had overcome all before them.
Tipp topped Group 2 and were six points clear at half-time in the semi-final, but with the experiment of deploying Fionnuala Carr at full-forward dispensed with, there was an immediate improvement as the Clonduff colossus began to exert greater influence from centre-back. Nicole Kelly put the shackles on the dangerous Nicola Treacy too.
Meanwhile, Niamh Mallon was keeping the umpire busy as she racked up nine points, seven from placed balls. That brought Down within touching distance and Sara-Louise Carr pounced for the deciding goal to go with her earlier two points from play.
Cork will be desperate to get over the line having lost the last two deciders, including last year's to Meath after a replay.
Much like their senior counterparts, they have cruised through to the final, finishing the group phase with a positive score difference of plus 65 points, compared to Down's minus two. Indeed, the Rebels were 12-point victors when the teams met in Páirc Esler in July.
The Leesiders possess a lot of firepower, with the likes of Finola Neville, Caroline Sugrue and Katelyn Hickey well able to hit the target. Minor star Cliona Healy came off the bench to have a big impact in the semi-final win over Galway, scoring three points in as many minutes soon after her second-half introduction to edge the Leesiders clear and finishing with four.
Healy wasn't involved when Cork won the Division 2 title, but she and a handful of other colleagues from the All-Ireland-winning minor championship side have made the step up and with that sort of ability to be called upon, they will be hard to beat.
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