SHIRLEY MOLONEY REPORTS
LEVEL at half time and only one point up with 20 minutes left, Cork were pushed all the way by Kerry in the Munster camogie junior final at Cashel.
In the end, reigning champions Cork, thanks to captain fantastic Nicole Crean from St Vincent’s, pulled away in the last quarter against a Kerry team that was defeated by Dublin in the All-Ireland Premier Junior final last September.
In 2017 Kerry won this Munster title by one point after extra time. Last year Cork finished strong and won by seven. Again, an impressive finish by the Rebels was key to victory last Saturday.
It was Kerry who got off to a flying start when Julianne O’Keffee caught a long delivery at the edge of the square to blast past Cork goalkeeper Molly Lynch.
Cork responded with points from Lucy Wallace and Christine O’Neill (free) but Kerry led 1-1 to 0-2 after ten minutes thanks to a Patrice Diggan free, against the wind.
Kerry’s Sarah Murphy and Cork’s Lucy Wallace then swapped points. The Cork rearguard – spearheaded by Enniskeane’s Danielle Carroll, Laura Doyle and Aoife O’Neill – proved a tough nut to crack, and after Cork goalkeeper Lynch pulled off a save from a tricky Jessica Fitzell shot, they cleared their lines.
An Emma Murphy point for Cork left the Rebels one point behind before captain and player of the match Nicole Crean pointed a free to level the game by the break, 0-5, to 1-2.
After the sides swapped points early in the second half, Newcestown’s Ciara O’Sullivan – who won a minor All-Ireland last month – scored an excellent point in the 40th minute to nudge Cork ahead for the first time.
Then followed a Cork goal. Crean’s 20-metre free deceived Kerry goalkeeper Aoife Fitzgerald and Cork opened up a four-point margin with 13 minutes left.
After Diggan responded with a Kerry free, Crean struck for her second goal after a surging run to see the defending champions take a six-point lead three minutes from time.
Kerry kept battling. Two Diggan frees were drilled goalwards, however the Cork defence held firm and cleared their lines before a Crean brace deep in injury time quenched Kerry hopes of pulling a result out of the fire.
Cork: N Crean 2-4 (1-2f), L Wallace 0-2, C O’Neill (1f), C O’Sullivan, E Murphy 0-1 each.
Kerry: J O’Keeffe 1-0, P Diggan 0-2 (2f), S Murphy (1f), J Fitzell 0-1 each.
Cork: M Lynch (Sarsfields); J Murphy (Blarney), D Carroll (Enniskeane, vice captain); A O’Neill (St Finbarr’s), L Doyle (Charleville), C O’Neill (Courcey Rovers); C Murphy (Carrigaline), C O’Keeffe (St Vincent’s); S Hurley (Enniskeane), C O’Sullivan (Newcestown), E Murphy (Glen Rovers); L Wallace (St Catherines), N Crean (St Vincent’s, captain), L Coffey (St Vincent’s), E Cooney (Carrigaline).
Subs: M Browne (Glen Rovers) for L Coffey (25), C Sexton (Barryroe) for E Cooney (33), F Nelligan (Charleville) for C O’Neill (61).
Kerry: A Fitzgerald; Á O’Connor, L Houlihan, M Costello; R McCarthy, P Diggan, A Behan; L Collins, E Ryall; A Whelan, S Murphy, B Horan; J O’Keeffe, J Horgan, J Fitzell.
Subs: C Walsh for J O’Keeffe (36), AM Leen for A Whelan (44), M Weir for A Behan (52), E Lawlor for B Horan (62)
Referee: John Lillis (Tipperary).