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Camogie: Jacob class spearheads three-in-row glory march

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Ursula Jacob celebrates after scoring Wexford's third goal

Ursula Jacob celebrates after scoring Wexford's third goal

Ursula Jacob celebrates after scoring Wexford's third goal

HOW fitting it was that, in a summer in which female athletes have commanded so many back pages, this brilliant Wexford team joined them by powering to a landmark title success in thrilling fashion.

Not only did the Slaneysiders bag their first All-Ireland three-in-a-row, they did it in one of the best senior camogie finals ever witnessed.

Cork, the game's long-time standard-bearers who were back in their first final since 2009, threw everything they had at them and were level at half-time. But, like true champions, Wexford eventually conquered the Rebels with an imperious display of skill and character that copper-fastened this side's place in history.

In both halves they bounced back from goals and, for a second consecutive final, Ursula Jacob finished the season with a personal coronation.

Last year she provided 1-3 in the dying stages to pull Wexford out of the fire. Yesterday the Oulart-The Ballagh genius was on another level, finishing with an astonishing haul of 2-7.

Her two goals, scored within one pivotal two-minute spell, ultimately turned the screw. Her first, after a Michelle O'Leary shot, saw her get a flick to an Aoife Murray batted clearance after 47 minutes.

Cork responded immediately, with Katriona Mackey slaloming through the defence to goal at the other end and cut the deficit to two points. Within another minute Jacob had struck the coup de grace, whipping first-time on a loose ball in the goalmouth which soared high and rocketed past several sticks.

Wexford's brilliant ground hurling was a strong feature throughout, but this was a moment of such sublime skill that, as the net rattled, you could almost hear the hope fizzling out of Cork's brave challenge.

As always Jacob was humble and modest afterwards. She's won three All-Ireland medals (one club) at HQ in the past 12 months yet, she seems unaffected by ego or pressure.

"I'll just thank the Croke Park pitch for that one," she grinned about her second piledriver. "I saw it on the ground, didn't think I had time to pick it up, and just pulled on it."

Credit

Manager JJ Doyle, who deserves equal credit for Wexford's current run, tried to stress what great teamwork they exhibited, but he also acknowledged that Jacob is a "special" player.

"We have a few once-in-a-lifetime players there," he said. "The big players stand up on the big days, not on days when you're getting it handy. It's on days like this that characters stand up and that's when real winners come about and our team is full of real winners."

Yet he admitted that what a few of them said in the dressing-room at half-time "couldn't go out before the watershed."

All the pre-match talk was whether Una Leacy (knee) and Kate Kelly (shoulder) were fit to play, but they both started in their regular positions.

It was Cork who made the only pre-match change, replacing Katie Buckley with U-20 soccer international Claire Shine.

She got an unforgettable welcome to her first All-Ireland final, a shuddering tackle after 16 seconds that earned Catherine O'Loughlin a yellow card, yet the Douglas teenager survived and provided one of Cork's main attacking threats.

But their full-back line was in trouble almost immediately and the decision to start Joanne O'Callaghan on Katrina Parrock backfired badly as she goaled after 14 minutes and scored another two points to put Wexford six clear.

After being kept scoreless for 13 minutes, Cork finally got into the game with a 25th-minute penalty and the decision to move Briege Corkery out of full-forward and into the corner was certainly a factor, as she won it and Aoife Murray dispatched it.

Wexford responded immediately with two quick points to go five clear again, but Cork, led by Corkery and their superior midfield of Orla Cotter and Jenny O'Leary, kept up the pressure.

Joanne Casey and Shine set up a second goal for Sile Burns and two quick-fire points from their midfielders sent them in level at the break (2-4 to 1-7), though they could have been ahead if Mags Darcy had not made a brilliant diving save to stop Shine.

Wexford pushed two points clear again on the restart, but Darcy was quickly forced to make another double-save before that heart-stopping three-goal exchange turned the game on its head. Jacob's second goal certainly hardened Wexford's resolve and when, three minutes later, she bulldozed past Jenny Duffy to score a fabulous point off the right wing, their tails were up.

Cork's defensive problems were underlined by the Wexford full-forward line scoring all but two of their scores.

Cork, remarkably, lost this encounter despite winning the midfield battle.

Leacy, by her high standards, had a very quiet game, but Wexford wingback Deirdre Codd was immense throughout and, in the final quarter, their defence really worked tirelessly as a unit.

Questions will probably be asked as to why Cork boss Paudie Murray chose to leave Corkery, with her great ability to open up defences, in the inside-forward line until the dying stages, but too many of Cork's bigger names did not win their individual battles and, ultimately, they paid the price.

Scorers -- Wexford: U Jacob 2-7 (4f, 2 '45'), K Parrock 1-2, F Rochford, K Kelly 0-2 each. Cork: J O'Leary 0-4 (2f, 1'45'), K Mackey, S Burns 1-0 each, A Murray 1-0 (pen), O Cotter, B Corkery 0-1 each.

Wexford -- M Darcy 8; C O'Connor 7, C O'Loughlin 7, K Atkinson 6; N Lambert 7, M Leacy 7, D Codd 9; L Bolger 6, K Kelly 7; M O'Leary 7, U Leacy 6, J Dwyer 7; F Rochford 8, K Parrock 9, U Jacob 9.5. Subs: F Kavanagh 7 for Bolger (46).

Cork -- A Murray 6; R Buckley 6, J O'Callaghan 5, J Duffy 6; E O'Sullivan 6, G O'Connor 8, P Mackey 7; J O'Leary 8, O Cotter 9; J Casey 6, A Geary 5, C Shine 8; K Mackey 7, B Corkery 8, S Burns 7. Subs: K Buckley 6 for Shine (55), R Curtin 6 for Casey (55).

Ref -- A Lagrue (Kildare).

Irish Independent