Sunday 26 May 2019

Rowe's goal touch finally sees Dublin exorcise their Cork ghosts

Carla Rowe of Dublin scores her side’s third goal despite the efforts of Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien, Doireann O’Sullivan (No 14) and Róisín Phelan at Croke Park yesterday. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Carla Rowe of Dublin scores her side’s third goal despite the efforts of Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien, Doireann O’Sullivan (No 14) and Róisín Phelan at Croke Park yesterday. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Down the home stretch, Dublin endured some nervous moments, as if the ghosts of past finals with Cork were ready to haunt them once more.

When they coughed up a 48th minute free for Orla Finn to convert, it left just one point in it, 2-8 to 1-10. And those crushing final defeats to the game's standard-bearers in 2014, 2015 and 2016 - especially - by a cumulative total of four points, really began to loom large.

Carla Rowe of Dublin shoots to score her sides second goal. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Carla Rowe of Dublin shoots to score her sides second goal. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

But this Dublin team wasn't about to let go of the one thing that has driven them so hard over the last 18 months, that desire to finally set that Cork record straight.

And when push came to shove they had enough leaders throughout the field to re-assert themselves and strike for home.

Ironically, it was a goal from Carla Rowe just after that Finn free that re-ignited them. Two years ago a Rowe 'point' that TV replays confirmed had gone between the posts was disallowed - Hawkeye was not in use - denying Dublin a draw.

But this time there was no dispute as she stepped on to her 'weaker' foot and crashed home her second goal after great approach work by Lindsey Davey to restore the four-point advantage they had taken in at the break.

Nicole Owens of Dublin in action against Shauna Kelly of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Nicole Owens of Dublin in action against Shauna Kelly of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

In that moment Dublin's doubts evaporated and they were able to control the game in a way that their male counterparts would have been proud of.

To Cork's credit, they didn't stop chasing, but throughout the second half Davey was indefatigable, popping up to win frees and link the play like she did for the goal at one end and bravely blocking a Ciara O'Sullivan shot at the other with her chest to create the turnover for Sinead Aherne to score their final point seconds later. It completed back-to-back titles but, even more importantly, delivered a championship win over Cork.

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It may not be the same Cork team that held the game in a vice-like grip for so long but it was worth savouring nonetheless.

"We couldn't make it out to be more than a game for this group coming into it, but everybody knew that it was and wasn't shying away from it," said Dublin manager Mick Bohan afterwards.

Lyndsey Davey of Dublin is fouled for a penalty by Shauna Kelly, left, and Eimear Meaney of Cork, that was scored by Sinéad Aherne of Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Lyndsey Davey of Dublin is fouled for a penalty by Shauna Kelly, left, and Eimear Meaney of Cork, that was scored by Sinéad Aherne of Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"If we were to build it up in the camp it could become an immovable beast and we didn't want that, It's a testament to where the group have come.

"We were very clear in the fact that, and again this is said with huge respect to Cork, it wasn't football that was going to beat us, it wasn't fitness, it wasn't ability. It was a matter of staying in the moment in those closing key stages of the game where we have been unsuccessful in the past."

The 50,141 crowd was yet another record for ladies finals day. The presence of Dublin is an obvious boost, but so too is the growing popularity of the game and the efforts of the governing body to drive it. An important barrier has been broken, 50,000-plus, and the important thing now will be to consolidate that.

No doubt, the product is good and this Dublin team, coming on the back of the heroics of Cork across the previous decade, have helped to enhance it.

Orla Finn of Cork in action against Sinéad Finnegan of Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Orla Finn of Cork in action against Sinéad Finnegan of Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The level of contact allowed by Mayo referee Garryowen McMahon, referenced by Bohan afterwards, was another factor.

"That's the way the game should be played, that's the way they want to play it," he said.

That level of full-blooded engagement led to some magnificent defending. The tone of that was set in the opening minute when Dublin midfielder Lauren Magee chased down Libby Coppinger, an All-Ireland camogie championship winner just seven days earlier, and dispossessed her as she bore down on goal. Dublin were defiant in that respect, protecting the middle channel just that bit better than Cork.

Consequently, the fouls racked up, with all eight of Finn's points coming from frees before Doireann O'Sullivan added another late on that came off the crossbar.

Cork were lively up front, especially through Eimear Scally and Ciara O'Sullivan, the running from deeper positions from the pair along with outstanding midfielder Aine O'Sullivan and wing-back Marie O'Callaghan, really troubled Dublin.

But the champions have a capacity for goals and when Davey was fouled on 18 minutes going through, a penalty was awarded which Aherne converted impressively for some early momentum.

Aine O'Sullivan's goal, after McMahon appeared to indicate a free out to Dublin, restored parity at 1-4 each, but Dublin struck again, this time Niamh McEvoy and Nicole Owens combining to send Rowe in for her first goal.

Dublin led by 2-6 to 1-5 at the break and their attack always looked more likely to create openings but in the end McEvoy, Owens and Healy were all replaced having played their part.

"If you look at some of the players that came off today even, you would never have picked them so it just shows you the way that this group are evolving," said Bohan.

For Cork they have rebuilt impressively but they took it as a slight that they had been so extensively written off.

"I felt it was a bit disrespectful," said manager Ephie Fitzgerald, echoing the words of his captain Ciara O'Sullivan.

"We are very proud. I don't think anybody could have dealt with the change that we have had over the last couple of years, and be back in the final again. But there is no doubt we will be back."

Scorers - Dublin - S Aherne 1-7 (1-0 pen, 0-4fs), C Rowe 2-0, N Owens 0-2, N McEvoy, S Goldrick 0-1 each. Cork: O Finn 0-8 (8fs), A O'Sullivan 1-2, C O'Sullivan, D O'Sullivan (f) 0-1 each

Dublin: C Trant; N Collins,L Caffrey, M Byrne; S Goldrick, S Finnegan, S McGrath; L Magee, O Carey; L Davey, N McEvoy, C Rowe; S Aherne, N Healy, N Owens. Subs: J Dunne for Owens (51), H O'Neill for McEvoy (53), A Connolly for Healy (60).

Cork: M O'Brien; E Spillane, R Phelan, M Duggan; M O'Callaghan, E Meaney, S Kelly; H Looney, A O'Sullivan; D O'Sullivan, C O'Sullivan, A Hutchings; L Coppinger, E Scally, O Finn. Subs: S Noonan for Coppinger (h-t), O Farmer for Looney ((55), C Collins for Spillane (55).

Referee: G McMahon (Mayo).

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