00:00 Saturday 29 September 2007  Written by FR. Liam Kelleher

Confident Cork crush Mayo with dream football



CORK'S reputation as a sporting power, which had taken a severe buffeting in recent weeks, rose Phoenix-like from the ashes, when the Rebel Treble lady footballers crushed Mayo to bring home the Brendan Martin Cup to Leeside for the third year in a row.

Deep down the pressure to deliver must have been enormous, but this fantastic group of girls, have proved, if indeed proof was needed, that they can deliver for the county when the need was greatest. What we witnessed in Croke Park was magic, apart from the history achieved. Cork produced a brand of total football, never seen on the big stage before in ladies football and rarely witnessed in men's.

From the off, when they raced into a four point lead, Cork's dominance was there for all to marvel at, and they never let up until virtually the final whistle. Leading by 12 points with a few minutes to go and giving more of the fantastic panel a run out in Croke Park Park, they conceded two goals in the final minute to ease the pain of Mayo's impending annihilation.

Cork did have to plan without the senior of their side, Mary O'Connor, cruelly ruled out of the final with a knee injury; no doubt she was the extra person in the players plan. Cork's bench is frighteningly strong and in for Mary came the most bedecked player of the modern era in ladies football at 18 years of age, Amanda Murphy. While Mary was in line to play in her 14th All-Ireland final, Amanda was in line to collect her 16th All-Ireland medal - scary stuff indeed.

Manager Mary Collins summed it all up nicely: "We achieved what we set out to achieve, it is a simple and that."

So, back to the game itself. Cork thundered into the game from the off and with points from Amanda Murphy, Deirdre O'Reilly, Juliet Murphy and Geraldine O'Flynn leaving Cork 4 points to the good after the first quarter. Mayo were shell shocked, but they had a mini-revival before the break reducing the gap when the defining score of the half came.

Norita Kelly had wandered into the full forward line which is very unaccustomed for her, she was bearing down on goal, her knee which had been a cause of concern gave way colliding with the full back; the referee deemed a foul had been committed and awarded a penally.

Valerie Mulcahy dispatched it to net with clinical efficiency. This was a huge body blow to Mayo who had fought back to 3 points of Cork, now the difference was 6 as the half-time hooter sounded.

Apart from the industry of the midfield pairing and the opportunism of the forwards the work rate and covering of the defence was phenomenal, they never allowed Mayo to settle on the ball and never gave Mayo danger woman, Cora Staunton, an inch. The odds seemed to be stacked firmly against Brid Stack when she had the responsibility of shackling Miss Staunton but she rose to the occasion to earn 'player of the match' title and that says it all.

As bad as the blow Mayo suffered just before the break, a virtually fatal one was inflicted on them when Valerie Mulcahy again found the net, after a precision pass from Laura McMahon, who received the ball from Rhona Buckley.

With the departure of Norita Kelly, Cork had to rejig their formation with minor star Rhona Buckley being introduced. Deirdre O'Reilly moved to midfield and Cork's aim was to maintain what they had. They did this with brilliant defending, the full line of Angela Walsh back to her imperious best with her sister Ciara playing a stormer, Rena Buckley was simply Rena, intelligent, composed and efficient in everything she did.

Newcomer to the team Linda Barrett slotted in well in the half line, while Briege Corkery as usual ran herself to a standstill, but they got huge assistance from Juliet, Deirdre and Nollaig Cleary and Geraldine O'Flynn coming back to help out as the need arose. The net result of all this was Mayo were limited to just 2 points for 27 minutes of the half and huge credit too must go to keeper Elaine Harte who made two breathtaking saves.

Cork tagged on points from Amanda Murphy, 2, who had moved to centre forward, Geraldine O'Flynn 2, Nollaig Cleary and Juliet Murphy to push Cork's total to 2-11, 12 clear of Mayo with the clock showing 3 minutes left.

Diane O'Hora added a point for the Mayo girls and then a clearly rattled Cora Staunton blasted a 15 metre free to the net inside the last minute after a surging run from full back Helena Lohan earned the free. Miss Lohan collected again from the kickout and her shot was parried by Elaine Harte but Fiona McHale, was on hand to find the net, to give the score an air of respectability.

The hooter again sounded on the kickout and the three-in-a-row dream had been achieved. In summary, Cork were extremely confident in all they did, they ran with poise, passed with precision, tackled like demons and supported each other with an intense passion that Mayo could not cope with.

The Brendan Martin Cup was accepted on behalf of the Cork team by captain Juliet Murphy and Mary O'Connor.

Cork scorers: Juliet Murphy 0-1, Geraldine O'Flynn 0-3, Nollaig Cleary 0-2, Valerie Mulcahy 2-1, Deirdre O'Reilly 0-1, Amanda Murphy 0-3.

The attendance of 21,000 was 4,000 down on last year, with Leitrim the intermediate champions appearing to have the biggest following on the day, they too reached the promised land making up for the disappointment of last year. Kilkenny too made history in the junior with their first title, and they defeated a gallant London coached by Johnny Wilson with Clonakilty native Larry O'Leary part of his team.

Cork: Elaine Harte (Rockbán), Ciara Walsh (Inch Rovers), Angela Walsh (Inch Rovers), Rena Buckley (Donoughmore), Linda Barrett (Donoughmore), Brid Stack (Rockchapel), Briege Corkery (St. Val's), Juliet Murphy (Donoughmore), Norita Kelly (Rockchapel), Geraldine O'Flynn (Rockchapel), Laura McMahon (Rosscarbery), Nollaig Cleary (Gabriel Rangers), Valerie Mulcahy (Rockbán), Mary O'Connor (Inch Rovers), Deirdre O'Reilly (Rockchapel), Claire O'Donoghue (Beara), Sinead O'Reilly (Rockchapel), Amanda Murphy (Beara), Mairead Kelly (Rockchapel), Rhona Buckley (Ballingeary-Inchigeela), Regina Curtin (Rockchapel), Catriona Foley (Rockbán), Norma Kelly (Rockchapel), Fiona Crowley (St Val's), Anne MArie Walsh (Inch Rovers), Amy O'Shea (Inch Rovers), Anita Thompson (Ballingeary-Inchigeela), Caoimhe Creedon (St Val's).

Manager, Mary Collins; coach, Eamonn Ryan; selectors, Frank Honohan, Jim McEvoy, Ger Twomey; physio, Michael Cotter; doctor, Dr Lucy Fleming.

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