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Rowe on spot to fire Blues' victory surge as tables now decisively turned

All-Ireland Ladies SFC final: Dublin 1-10 Cork 1-5

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Blue waves: Sinéad Goldrick gets away from Máire O’Callaghan during Dublin’s victory against Cork. Photo: Sportsfile

Blue waves: Sinéad Goldrick gets away from Máire O’Callaghan during Dublin’s victory against Cork. Photo: Sportsfile

Blue waves: Sinéad Goldrick gets away from Máire O’Callaghan during Dublin’s victory against Cork. Photo: Sportsfile

The nature of the All-Ireland ladies football championship is that success has been historically cyclical. A team comes and dominates and, as far as everyone else is concerned, overstays their welcome.

Kerry won nine successive titles between 1982 and 1990, Waterford came to win three in four years after that, Monaghan reeled off two in a row after losing two finals before Mayo stepped up to take four from five around the turn of the century.

Cork's dominance was, of course, the most pronounced with 11 titles from 12 years between 2005 and 2016. For four of those wins, Dublin were on the receiving end in finals and elicited quite a degree of sympathy as to how they could ever break that cycle.

Now the tables have turned decisively. Dublin's fourth successive All-Ireland title generated one of their most impressive halves of football since their rise to the top in the latter part of the last decade as they turned a three-point interval deficit into a commanding five-point win at the end, the third successive year they have enjoyed such a margin of victory.

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Sarah McCaffrey, Leah Caffrey and Noelle Healy celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile

Sarah McCaffrey, Leah Caffrey and Noelle Healy celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile

Sarah McCaffrey, Leah Caffrey and Noelle Healy celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile

In truth, it could have been so much more, had some of the gilt-edged goal chances been taken in the opening half.

You got the sense at half-time that despite their lead Cork were taking too much water on board and that they'd eventually capsize.

And for much of the second half they were chasing shadows in much the same way that opponents of the Dublin men's senior football team are forced to. The similarities were quite apparent and control after the break was almost total.

Inevitably, a fourth success will be coupled with the six-in-a-row the men completed on Saturday evening and the ladies won't be separated from the debate around population and resources helping to fuel it all.

Suffered

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For a team that suffered much heartbreak to get to this point, that's unfortunate but the fact is a thriving ladies game in the capital has the capacity to drive just as much dominance as the men at this level.

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Cork's Ashling Hutchings challenges Dublin's Niamh McEvoy. Photo: Sportsfile

Cork's Ashling Hutchings challenges Dublin's Niamh McEvoy. Photo: Sportsfile

Cork's Ashling Hutchings challenges Dublin's Niamh McEvoy. Photo: Sportsfile

The LGFA may be facing the same conundrum as the GAA on that front.

Dublin were clinical after the break when they had to be. Captain Sinéad Aherne was clearly hampered by a hamstring injury she sustained against Armagh and was replaced at half-time.

In her absence, Carla Rowe took over free-taking duties, landing all three she was presented with, while also converting a 35th-minute penalty after she had been taken down by Cork goalkeeper Martina O'Brien at the end of a decisive move involving Jennifer Dunne and Lyndsey Davey.

O'Brien perhaps didn't need to apply the force she did in taking down Rowe who looked to be going to ground anyway but the goal set up Dublin for dominance, reducing Cork to rare incursions into the other half of the field.

And when they did, they were met with firm resistance with strong tackling from Sinéad Goldrick and Lauren Magee in particular who, with Dunne, gave Dublin a decisive edge in the middle third.

Cork scored just two second-half points from Ciara O'Sullivan and an Orla Finn free. Finn had been short with a few earlier efforts before handing over responsibility to Saoirse Noonan and Doireann O'Sullivan but they too were wide of the mark, in contrast to Rowe at the other end.

The O'Sullivan sisters were Cork's main threat, particularly Ciara who ran hard lines through the middle of the Cork defence.

It was one of those runs that created the opening for the Cork goal after just two minutes when she linked with Doireann, who in turn teed up Áine O'Sullivan.

The power of her shot gave Ciara Trant no chance and when Áine O'Sullivan and Finn added points by the 11th minute, there were grounds for Rebel optimism that they could reverse the trend of recent results, successive championship defeats in 2018 and 2019, to Dublin.

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Dublin's Sarah McCaffrey does her best to keep the ball out of reach of Cork's Shauna Kelly. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin's Sarah McCaffrey does her best to keep the ball out of reach of Cork's Shauna Kelly. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin's Sarah McCaffrey does her best to keep the ball out of reach of Cork's Shauna Kelly. Photo: Sportsfile

But they scored just one more first-half point, a 27th-minute Finn free, as Dublin, through Dunne and Magee, took command.

Rowe could have had a fifth-minute penalty at the end of a great move involving Lyndsey Davey, Noelle Healy and Goldrick who supplied the last pass, while O'Brien had to be smart to save from Nicole Owens after good approach work from Davey again and Dunne on 14 minutes.

A minute later they looked certain to score when Niamh McEvoy placed Noelle Healy but she pulled her shot wide from close range, giving Cork further respite. Only solid defensive work from Erika O'Shea and Róisín Phelan prevented further leakage for Cork.

On 21 minutes, Trant cleared the danger as Melissa Duggan sought to get on to a Noonan pass behind the cover, Cork's best chance to add to the earlier goal.

Dublin cut into their 1-3 to 0-3 deficit quickly after the restart with an Aoife Kane point signalling intent before Rowe's penalty brought a different tempo to it.

Two more Rowe frees had Dublin three points clear and a Ciara O'Sullivan point on 45 minutes did little to stem the tide, especially when Goldrick intercepted brilliantly and set up substitute Kate Sullivan to restore the three-point lead.

Dublin were quite capable of deploying cynical methods to halt any Cork momentum as the clock ticked with 14 second-half frees conceded.

It got scrappy in that respect with Cork also fouling repeatedly and eventually referee Jonathan Murphy showed yellow to Doireann O'Sullivan and Magee.

Dublin were relentless by then and landed the last three points through Owens, Healy and Rowe from a free.

Their penetrating runners, Davey, Dunne and Goldrick, especially had created the openings to overwhelm the Rebels, while Rowe's nerve from placed balls was also pivotal.

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Dublin captain Sinéad Aherne lifts the cup. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin captain Sinéad Aherne lifts the cup. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin captain Sinéad Aherne lifts the cup. Photo: Sportsfile

Donegal and Armagh had asked searching questions of this Dublin team en route to the final, so too did Cork in the first half here.

But each time they found an answer. The solution to taking them down feels like a long way off again.

Scorers - Dublin: C Rowe 1-3 (1-0 pen, 3f); N Healy, N Owens 0-2 each; A Kane, S Aherne (f), K Sullivan 0-1 each. Cork: A O'Sullivan 1-1; O Finn 0-3 (2f); C O'Sullivan 0-1.

Dublin - C Trant; M Byrne, N Collins, A Kane; L Caffrey, S McGrath, S Goldrick; L Magee, J Dunne; N Healy, L Davey, C Rowe; S Aherne, N McEvoy, N Owens. Subs: K Sullivan for Aherne (h-t), O Nolan for Kane (47), S McCaffrey for McEvoy (47), C O'Connor for Owens (57), S Aherne for Davey (59).

Cork - M O'Brien; E Meaney, R Phelan, S Kelly; M Duggan, A Hutchings, E O'Shea; M O'Callaghan, H Looney; E Kiely, C O'Sullivan, O Finn; A O'Sullivan, D O'Sullivan, S Noonan. Subs: N Cotter for Kiely (42), L Coppinger for Noonan (52), S O'Leary for Finn (52), A Kelleher for Meaney (59), M Cahalane for Kelly (59).

Ref - J Murphy (Carlow)


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