Cork 2-11 Donegal 0-11
Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald praised his side's defensive discipline on Saturday at Dr Hyde Park as they kept Donegal at arm's length to set up a hotly-anticipated TG4 All-Ireland senior ladies football final against Dublin on September 16.
Goals from Orla Finn and Saoirse Noonan paved the way for Cork's victory, while Player of the Match Doireann O'Sullivan landed three crucial, long-range scores as they struggled to break through Donegal's tight defensive screen.
The Ulster champions looked to be off the pace in the opening half, but the scoring threat of Karen Guthie kept them in touch at the break, while Geraldine McLaughlin's four points after the restart meant Maxi Curran's side were always a threat.
However, a 1-3 haul off the bench from talented youngster Noonan meant Donegal could not pull closer than three points and the record winners worked their way back into the final after a year's absence.
"We are absolutely thrilled. It was disappointing last year, we lost a close semi-final and we were determined this year that we'd go one step further," said Cork manager Fitzgerald. "I must compliment our backs because we were under a lot of pressure."
Cork got off to a flying start, but Donegal hit back. A palmed Finn goal after 18 minutes was a crucial score and after a handful of poor first-half wides Donegal never got back in touch.
"I think we probably missed too many scoring opportunities and kicked too many wides and squandered possession inside the '45'. I think that will probably be the biggest tale of today," said Donegal manager Curran.
After trailing 1-6 to 0-5 at half-time, Donegal came out of their shells and were well in contention by the 37th minute, but Noonan made a real impact.
She kicked three frees and Doireann O'Sullivan's point with 11 minutes remaining maintained their advantage, before Noonan blasted her sixth goal of the summer with two minutes to go.
"The two goals were the difference," said Fitzgerald. "I won't say we were comfortable, but I thought we were the better team, in the sense that we always had a lead and they never really looked like taking it off us."
Scorers - Cork: O Finn (3f), S Noonan (3f) 1-3 each, D O'Sullivan 0-3, E Scally 0-2
Donegal: G McLaughlin 0-5 (2f), K Guthrie 0-4 (1f), K Herron, Y Bonner 0-1 each
Cork - M O'Brien; R Phelan, E Meaney, M Duggan; S Kelly, A Hutchings, M O'Callaghan; D O'Sullivan, H Looney; A O'Sullivan, C O'Sullivan (c), E Spillane; L Coppinger, E Scally, O Finn Subs: O Farmer for Finn (36), S Noonan for A O'Sullivan (36), O Finn for Hutchings (47)
Donegal - L Gallagher; T Doherty, N McLaughlin, T McCafferty; D Foley, K Keaney, C Hegarty; AM McGlynn, O McCaffrey; K Herron, N Hegarty, SJ McDonald; K Guthrie (c), Y Bonner, G McLaughlin Subs: A McDonnell for McCafferty (23), E Ward for N Hegarty (43), A Boyle Carr for Keaney (48), N Hegarty for McGlynn (50)
Ref - B Rice (Down)