Monday 20 November 2017

White lightning strikes for Cork in thrilling finale

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland senior camogie final: Cork 0-10 Kilkenny 0-9

Ashling Thompson discards her helmet as the celebrations begin in Croke Park. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Ashling Thompson discards her helmet as the celebrations begin in Croke Park. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

It may not have been one for the purists but the climax, at least, of this Liberty Insurance All-Ireland senior final was so sensational that you could forgive anything that prefaced it.

In the 60th minute Gemma O'Connor, the great Cork veteran who wasn't even expected to line out due to a serious knee injury, stepped up to hit a Hail Mary shot from the 65-metre line and equalised to exclamations of 'Holy God!'

When six minutes of added time were then announced, the tension became unbearable.

Ticked

A replay looked inevitable as both sides emptied their tanks and traded chances before Cork substitute Julia White produced a miraculous winner out of a hive of stripey women just as the clock ticked into minute 67.

After a 22-year wait for their title last year, defending champions Kilkenny were never going to give up without a fight and it took those two magnificent clutch shots to get past them.

Cork captain Rena Buckley lifts The O'Duffy Cup. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Cork captain Rena Buckley lifts The O'Duffy Cup. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Hurt is so often the difference between teams as tightly bound as these two and Cork had the monopoly on it yesterday.

They were not only hurt by losing a three-in-a-row to the Cats last year but particularly hurt at the un-Cork way they had relinquished their crown.

O'Connor, who damaged her medial knee ligaments in the semi-finals, spent the last three weeks on a monumental intensive rehab programme to make it back.

And White had more hurt than most after a nightmare two years.

Ashling Thompson embraces Cork team-mate Leanne O’Sullivan. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Ashling Thompson embraces Cork team-mate Leanne O’Sullivan. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

First she ruptured her Achilles which cost her the guts on one season and then she broke a bone in her foot in April.

"Since 2015 I've played about 15 minutes of championship camogie, today included," said Cork's game winner.

"I knew where the goals were and that we had about 30 seconds left, so I was thinking we had nothing to lose but I waited and made sure (it went over)," she grinned. "I think it probably was my first touch."

Her late, late winner sealed history on several fronts.

Cork's 27th title finally pushed them ahead of Dublin on the all-time senior honours list and also meant that Rena Buckley made GAA history. Not only did she pocket her 18th All-Ireland medal (11 football, 7 camogie) but she became the first player, of either gender, to captain her county to All-Ireland senior titles in two codes.

Gemma O’Connor of Cork gives Kilkenny’s Shelly Farrell the slip. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Gemma O’Connor of Cork gives Kilkenny’s Shelly Farrell the slip. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

She made some vital blocks in the dying minutes and afterwards spoke of Cork's desire to show more passion than in 2016.

"Had we lost the game today at least we'd put in a very honest effort and fair play to Kilkenny they died in their boots," Buckley (30) said.

With trademark modesty, she said her dual captaincy "was not something I've put a huge amount of thought into" but she did allow herself some excitement at her 18th medal.

"I never imagined it, I don't know how you'd describe it but it's been a fantastic period in my life. I don't hail from a massive GAA house," she said, borne out by her revelation that she keeps her medals "in a press at home".

Orla Cronin kept Anne Dalton (centre-back and quasi-sweeper) unusually quiet and, without her pulling the strings, Kilkenny struggled badly in the first half, scoring just 0-2 (one free).

Nervy

The half-time scoreline of 0-5 to 0-3 reflected a nervy game not helped by some awful weather. Neither side ever created a decent goal chance but, with both teams' defences on top and Ashling Thompson outstanding in Cork's, the Rebels' half-forward line stood out early on.

But on the resumption Kilkenny scored four points to one via Denise Gaule (free), Katie Power and two from the excellent Meighan Farrell to take their first lead of the game in the 39th minute.

Yet the way Cork bounced back immediately, with an Orla Cotter free and Cronin's third point, indicated that they were up for this fight.

Points from Julie Ann Malone, and a cracker from Miriam Walsh, moved Kilkenny a point clear again and then came those final frenetic six minutes of guts and glory.

"We're bitterly disappointed, no point in saying anything else," admitted Kilkenny manager Ann Downey. "We probably didn't turn up in the first 20 minutes. I don't know why but, in fairness, the girls died with their boots on in the second half.

"All I can do is congratulate Cork and congratulate Rena on captaining her camogie and football teams to All-Irelands. No other player has done it and it's brilliant. I congratulate herself and Gemma on their careers."

SCORERS - Cork: O Cronin 0-3; A O'Connor, O Cotter 0-2 each; G O'Connor, K Mackey, J O'Connor 0-1 eacy. Kilkenny: M Farrell, D Gaule, JA Malone 0-2 each; K Power, S Farrell, M Walsh 0-1 each.

CORK - A Murray 8; P Mackey 7, R Buckley (capt) 8, L Treacy 9; E O'Sullivan 7, G O'Connor 8, C Sigerson 7; L Coppinger 6, A Thompson 9; A O'Connor 8, O Cronin 9, O Cotter 6; H Looney 6, N McCarthy 6, K Mackey 8. Subs: L Homan 6 for Looney (52), J White 7 for Sigerson (62).

KILKENNY - E Kavanagh 7; C Foley 7, D Tobin 8, G Walsh 8; C Dormer 7, A Dalton 7, A Dunphy 7; M Farrell 8, A Farrell (capt) 8; JA Malone7, K Power 6, D Gaule 6; S Farrell 6, M Walsh 6, D Morrissey 5. Subs: M Quilty 6 for Morrissey (h-t), J Reddy 6 for Malone (59).

Ref - O Elliot (Antrim)

Irish Independent

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