Premier ladies first class act
TIPPERARY 2-11 CORK 1-11 IF the country's hurlers are fed-up with playing second fiddle to Kilkenny, spare some sympathy for the nation's camogie players as they watch Tipperary's women setting up as awesome a reign of terror.
Five years ago they were relative unknowns and caused a sensation by winning their first senior title.
Yesterday, in their fifth consecutive All-Ireland Foras na Gaeilge senior final in a row, Tipp won the O'Duffy Cup for the fourth time.
They came hell bent on avenging their 4-9 to 1-9 loss to Cork a year ago and their revenge was certainly served up cold and clinically.
The scoreline indicates there was little in it, thanks to a late Gemma O'Connor goal but once Deirdre Hughes got an early second-half goal and Emer McDonnell tagged on four brilliant points to put them into a six-point lead with 10 minutes remaining, Tipp never looked in trouble.
And while those were the heroines up front, where Emily Hayden at centre-forward was also excellent, Tipp's brilliant defence and the tireless work of midfielder Philly Fogarty played as great a part.
No one epitomised their defensive brilliance more than full-back Una O'Dwyer, Tipp's level-headed female version of Noel Hickey, who admitted that the 2002 final had haunted them.
"It all came down to last year and those four goals. Everyone kept saying 'four goals, four goals', that was always in our mind," said Tipp's 'Captain Fantastic' who got one crucial block on Fiona O'Driscoll in the final minutes. Cork's scoring statistics tell the tale. One goal in the dying minutes. Five points from the half-forwards but just four from the inside forward line and only one of those from play.
The reigning champs led at half-time (0-7 to 1-3) when Una O'Donoghue, in particular, was giving Therese Brophy serious problems, and Tipp had shot five bad wides into the Canal End, echoing the Cork men's problems of a week earlier.
But by the game's end, O'Dwyer's opposite number Caoimhe Harrington suffered the rare experience of being taken off.
Orla O'Sullivan was also called ashore and Suzanne Kelly had held last year's hat-trick heroine Fiona O'Driscoll to just three frees.
"Everyone helped us," O'Dwyer insisted. "Every time you were under pressure or looked for someone, there was always someone there to support you, everyone played their part in defence."
Manager Raymie Ryan, the Tipp hurler who actually won his first All-Ireland senior medal yesterday thanks to his female charges, said a goal shut-out of the Cork forwards was something they had worked on.
"It took a full year's work to stop Fiona O'Driscoll having the All-Ireland she had last year!" Ryan revealed of their huge defensive focus.
And he also felt Deirdre Hughes' brilliant individual goal just after the re-start - a rasper from 30 yards - was the turning point.
The 1-4 contributed by RTE's Player of the Match Emer McDonnell - a niece of Cork football legend Billy Morgan - was also pivotal.
The Burgess star is a 22-year-old medical student with a passion for horse-riding but it's doubtful if four legs would have been faster than the fantastic solo dash she made to kick her first-half goal after 25 minutes.
Hughes scored 1-1 and set up many of McDonnell's, including one great over-head handpass. For the switch of Noelle Kennedy back into the forwards when the ploy of using her as a third midfielder was letting Stephanie Dunlea sweep up defensively, the management deserve credit.
Cork were unlucky to lose one of their brilliant half-back line - Gemma O'Connor - to a hand injury, though she returned as a late sub and goaled in injury-time minutes when they got successive frees and desperately chased three-pointers.
Their substitution of Paula O'Connor at half-time was surprising though Caitriona Foley, like fellow-sub Briege Corkery, Emer Dillon and Jennifer O'Leary, battled to the end.
But Tipp were in no mood for folding and even goalkeeper Jovita Delaney contributed, making a vital block and clearance on a late free to help them hold on.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH - Una O'Dwyer (Tipperary).
SCORERS - Tipperary: E McDonnell 1-4, D Hughes 1-1, N Kennedy 0-3 (2f), E Hayden 0-2, J Ryan 0-1. Cork: G O'Connor 1-0, F O'Driscoll 0-3 (3f), E Dillon, J O'Leary 0-2, R Moloney 0-2 (2f), U O'Donoghue, O O'Sullivan 0-1.
TIPPERARY - J Delaney 7; S Kelly 7, U O'Dwyer (capt) 9, C Madden 8; S Nealon 8, C Gaynor 8, T Brophy 7; P Fogarty 9, A McDermott 7; J Ryan 7, E Hayden 8, C Grogan 7; N Kennedy 7, D Hughes 9, E McDonnell 9. Subs: T O'Halloran for Kennedy (56 mins).
CORK - G Casey 6; J O'Callaghan 6, D Cronin 7, S Dunlea (capt) 7; P O'Connor 6, M O'Connor 8, G O'Connor 8; R Moloney 7, V Harris 6; U O'Donoghue 7, E Dillon 8, J O'Leary 7; O O'Sullivan 6, C Harrington 6, F O'Driscoll 7. Subs: C Foley 8 for P O'Connor (h-t), S Hayes 7 for G O'Connor (inj, 36 mins), B Corkery 9 for Harris (47), C Desmond 6 for Harrington (47), G O'Connor for O'Sullivan (54).
REF - A Derham (Dublin).
ATTENDANCE - 16,183.