Friday 23 March 2018

It's joy of six for Cork girls

Ni Bhuachalla penalty proves pivotal in seeing off Monaghan

NOT even the prospect of cruciate ligament surgery for the third time could dampen Cork captain Amy O'Shea's spirits as she hobbled up on crutches to receive the Brendan Martin Cup at Croke Park yesterday.

The 27-year-old had to be helped off early in the second half, but insisted afterwards: "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now I feel nothing.

"Every pain and ache was gone lifting that cup. I said two rosaries when I came off and it was nothing related to my knee!"

That was a measure of just how much Monaghan's gutsy challengers pushed Cork to the pin of their collar yesterday.

Eventually the Rebelettes squeezed through by two points for a sixth All-Ireland senior title in seven years to exorcise the demons of last year's quarter-final loss.

But the truth is that just two soft goals separated them from Monaghan, who suffered their sixth loss from eight finals and a third since 2002.

The first goal came after just 21 minutes when goalkeeper Linda Martin opted for a short kick-out which badly back-fired when Nollaig Cleary intercepted it and chipped her.


That goal gave Cork a two-point half-time lead (1-3 to 0-4) but four scores apiece by the break indicated just how much on top both defences were.

When Monaghan scored three unanswered points within 10 minutes of the restart -- one from the excellent Ciara McAnespie and two from Niamh Kindlon (one free) -- it looked increasingly like the Farney women might finally get that first title in 14 years.

Cork's Grace Kearney burst upfield to level it but another Kindlon free edged Monaghan ahead a second time, showing they had no intention of suffering the kind of defeat that Cork had handed them in the 2008 final.

By then O'Shea was gone injured and to see Cork then whipping off usual star forward Valerie Mulcahy indicated just how much pressure they were under in attack where, thanks to Monaghan's brilliant defence, only Cleary shone at any stage yesterday.

Geraldine O'Flynn levelled the sides then and, not for the first time, Cork's huge All-Ireland day and five-in-a-row experience stood to them as their superior bench depth kicked in, with Norita Kelly and Orla Finn's introductions making a huge difference.

The turning point came when Finn burst through the defence after 42 minutes and Isobel Kierans put in a rash rugby tackle to concede a penalty, which Rhona Ni Bhuachalla tucked away for a three-point lead.

Monaghan, to their huge credit, still wouldn't give up.

Points from Caoimhe Mohan, Laura McEnaney (Banty's daughter) and a Cathriona McConnell free pulled it back to a point with just five minutes remaining and Cork badly needed a particularly steadying insurance point from dual star Rena Buckley to hold their composure.

Deirdre O'Reilly, the former All Star centre-forward -- corner-forward in the 2008 final but now lining out at corner-back -- gave outstanding leadership in those frenetic dying minutes.

"You know she hates playing corner-back but she is willing to do it for the team!" chuckled long-time manager Eamonn Ryan.

"Deirdre was superb against Dublin too and, for years she has been one of the most under-rated players around."

For Monaghan there was heartbreak, especially considering how well their defence had played.

Cork finished without four of their six starting forwards.

Monaghan's full-back line -- especially Grainne McNally -- were outstanding, holding Cork's full-forward line to a single score from play.

Link-woman Therese McNally ran herself into the ground and Cork had to switch O'Reilly onto Ciara McAnespie to contain her.

But, like their opponents, Monaghan found it virtually impossible to break down a brilliant, swarming 'team' defence and also made far too many unforced turnovers when the momentum had swung their way.

Kindlon's withdrawal, after scoring 0-3 (2f) in quick succession, was a surprise, but Monaghan manager Gregory McGonigle explained that he threw in some speedy forwards then to try to dig out a goal, a ploy that had been particularly successful in their semi-final defeat of Kerry.

They had scored a staggering 18-74 en route to yesterday's final but were held goal-less by Cork's imperious defence and that, ultimately, proved the big difference.

Scorers -- Cork: N Cleary, R Ni Bhuachalla (pen) 1-0 each, J Murphy 0-3 (2f), G O'Flynn, R Buckley, G Kearney, V Mulcahy 0-1 each. Monaghan: N Kindlon, C McConnell (2f) 0-3 each, E McCarron 0-2, C McAnespie, C Mohan and L McEnaney 0-1 each.

Cork -- E Harte 7; AM Walsh 7, A Walsh 8, D O'Reilly 9; G O'Flynn 7, B Stack 8, B Corkery 7; J Murphy 8, R Buckley 7; N Cleary 8, M Kelly 6, G Kearney 6; V Mulcahy 6, R Ni Bhuachalla 6, A O'Shea (capt) 6. Subs: C O'Sullivan 7 for O'Shea (inj, 38), O Finn 9 for Mulcahy (39), N Kelly 8 for Cleary (46), A Sheehan 6 for Ni Bhuachalla (53), Annie Walsh 6 for Buckley (55).

Monaghan -- L Martin 5; G McNally 9, S Courtney (capt) 8, C Reilly 8; A McAnespie 7, N Fahy 8, L Connolly 7; A Casey 7, C Courtney 6; T McNally 9, E McCarron 7, C McConnell 6; C McAnespie 7, N Kindlon 6, C Mohan 6. Subs: I Kierans 6 for C Courtney (25), L McEnaney 8 for Kindlon (42), C Courtney for McCarron (46), E McElroy 6 for Kierans (50).

Ref -- J Niland (Sligo)

Irish Independent

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