Thursday 26 April 2018

Flynn snatches victory in Cork's 10-point revival

Cork 2-13 Dublin 2-12 - TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football final

Cork's Geraldine O'Flynn shoots past Dublin's Leah Caffrey, left, and captain Sinéad Goldrick to score what proved to be the winning point in the All-Ireland ladies final at Croke Park. Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Cork's Geraldine O'Flynn shoots past Dublin's Leah Caffrey, left, and captain Sinéad Goldrick to score what proved to be the winning point in the All-Ireland ladies final at Croke Park. Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Cork captain Briege Corkery, centre, with her sister Mairead, right, and their niece Bridgín, with the Brendan Martin Cup. Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Cork's Valerie Mulcahy in action against Dublin players, from left, Sinead Finnegan, 5 and Sinead Goldrick. Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Like every other major All-Ireland this year, the Brendan Martin Cup went home with the aristocrats of the game yesterday.

But only after a Rebel hand dramatically shot out of the grave and clawed the champions back towards the light.

Cork's 10-point comeback in the final quarter, to win their ninth TG4 ladies senior football title in 10 years, ranks right up with everything the sensational Rebelettes have ever achieved and above some of it.

Even manager Eamonn Ryan, a man not given to hyperbole, happily admitted "it was the greatest (comeback) I've seen out on that field for a long time."

Dublin had them on the rack for 45 minutes, they shot 18 wides and the ninth senior medal that eight of them were chasing looked gone yet, somehow, they found a way back.

All anyone in the 27,000-strong crowd could do in those final 15 minutes was gape open-mouthed as the Rebelettes outscored their opponents by 2-7 to 0-2 thanks to their indefatigable will to win.

The goals came from supersubs Rhona Ni Bhuachalla and Eimear Scally whose introduction made a big difference and it was Ciara O'Sullivan and Geraldine O'Flynn respectively who produced the heroic late equaliser and winner in the frenetic dying minutes.

Dublin fans held their breath then when substitute Siobhan Woods, who had kicked a marvellous point to put them one ahead, had a late chance to equalise which just dropped short.

But you sensed that whatever late heroism the brave Jackies might produce, Cork would, somehow, still trump it.

The way they snatched victory, not from the jaws but from somewhere much deeper in the throat of defeat, confirmed their status as the greatest ladies' football team of all time.

Kerry won nine in a row in the '80s but the game was not then at this level and nor were their opponents.

In Dublin yesterday Cork had equal adversaries who got the tonic start they needed.

Tigerish

Their tigerish combination of youth and experience had them six points up after 13 minutes and they allowed them only four points by half-time (1-7 to 0-4).

Dubs manager Gregory McGonigle, who managed Monaghan when Cork pipped them in last year's final, looked to have finally got Cork's measure.

Their veteran full-forward line had them stretched, Lyndsey Davey and Noelle Healy were causing havoc in deeper roles and Dublin's half-back line was on top.

By half-time there was hardly a Cork player dominating their marker, so when former basketball international Lindsay Peat got her second goal five minutes after the re-start, the deal looked sealed for Dublin's long-awaited second title.

But, like the Kilkenny hurlers, these Cork women simply would not quit and, even in the midst of his dejection Dublin manager McGonigle could recognise the parallels.

"I asked Eamonn Ryan when he came down the steps if there's any chance of himself and Brian Cody retiring at the same time so we could all maybe get a go?" he confessed ruefully.

Ryan has always been amazed by his players' humility and, like Kilkenny, their selfless team ethic was a factor again.

"We had never had that many wides before, I was pulling my hair out," he admitted.

"We were opening them up and then kicking the ball wide, there was a lot of over-elaboration.

"We decided to rotate as many players as possible and to their eternal credit, people who must have been sorely disappointed at being left out, came on and forgot their own disappointment.

"They played out of their skins for the sake of the common good, that was the kernel of the recovery," he exclaimed.

Shifting full-back Angela Walsh into midfield and pressing up on Dublin's previously impeccable kick-outs also helped and Nollaig Cleary, persuaded out of retirement this summer, was one of the subs who led the fightback.

Walsh, like dual stars Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley, won her 14th senior All-Ireland and didn't just contribute on the pitch.

"At half-time Angela said, 'We've 30 minutes left, we either lie down and go to sleep or we get up and fight' and, as you can see we got up and fought!" captain Corkery revealed.

"But yeah, 10 points down it was looking unlikely," she grinned. "But that's an amazing bunch of girls we have and an amazing backroom who have full faith in us. Words can't describe it at the moment."

Geraldine O'Flynn played a huge part as she had kicked four second-half wides (two frees) still had the courage and leadership to kick the winner, from distance, with two minutes still on the clock.

It was painfully familiar for Dublin who let big leads slip twice to Cork in recent quarter-finals but this is the one that will haunt them most.

"Devastated," admitted their veteran midfielder Denise Masterson. "We dictated the pace in the first half and for most of the second half. We weren't complacent, we stuck to the game plan. There was a lot of young girls out there who had really big performances today.

"You have to give Cork credit," she conceded. "They don't lie down and die. Their more experienced players just took the game by the scruff of the neck."

But Dublin's manager remained adamant that they will be back and will win a senior title very soon.

"We need to be a bit like a shark," McGonigle said.

"Every time a shark takes a bite it loses a tooth but, within 24 hours, it gets another tooth back and we'll be the same next year. We'll need to make sure we've the tooth grown back and go at it again."

Scorers - Cork: V Mulcahy 0-6 (2f), R Ní Bhuachalla 1-1, E Scally 1-0, G O'Flynn 0-3, O Finn 0-2, C O'Sullivan 0-1.

Dublin: L Peat 2-0, L Davey 0-3, S Aherne 0-3 (1f), N Healy and C Rowe 0-2 each, S Goldrick and S Woods 0-1 each.

CORK - M O'Brien 6; R Phelan 6, Angela Walsh 7, B Stack 6; V Foley 6, D O'Reilly 7, G O'Flynn 8; R Buckley 6, B Corkery (Capt) 7; Annie Walsh 6, C O'Sullivan 6, O Farmer 6; V Mulcahy 8, G Kearney 6, O Finn 7. Subs: N Cleary 8 for Annie Walsh (h-t), R Ní Bhuachalla 8 for Kearney (42), D O'Sullivan 6 for Farmer (45), E Scally 8 for Finn (49).

DUBLIN - C O'Connor 7; R Ruddy 6, S Furlong 8, L Caffrey 7; S Finnegan 8, S Goldrick 7, S McGrath 7; D Masterson 7, M Lamb 7; N Healy 8, N Hyland 6, C Rowe 7; L Davey 9, S Aherne 8, L Peat 8. Subs: S Woods 7 for Hyland (45), S McCaffrey 6 for Lamb (53), L Collins 6 for Furlong (54), N McEvoy 6 for Healy (56).

Ref - M Farrelly (Cavan)

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