RORY NOONAN REPORTS
A BLISTERING second-half display regained the TG4 Munster Ladies senior football title for Cork at CIT on Saturday afternoon – as Saoirse Noonan enjoyed a dream senior championship debut.
Having played poorly in the first, four goals after the break saw them come from behind for a deserved win in the end, to dethrone 2017 winners Kerry.
Captain Ciara O’Sullivan led by example with two goals, Noonan bagged a brace after coming on at half-time, and dual star Hannah Looney netted a penalty.
Kerry started much the brighter of the two sides and went in front through Amy Foley with three minutes gone. A great ball from Aisling Hutchings set up Doireann O’Sullivan for the equaliser a minute later. Foley got her second to put Kerry back in front, as they were dominating exchanges at his stage.
But Cork took the lead in the eighth minute when Eilis Lynch fouled Ciara O’Sullivan and Hannah Looney slotted home the resultant penalty.
Lorraine Scanlan pointed from a free for Kerry and with 12 minutes they were back in front. A good move, involving Andrea Murphy and Foley, set up Sarah Houlihan for their opening goal. She added a point from a free as Kerry led 1-4 to 1-1.
Cork responded in style, with points from Hutchings, and two Áine O’Sullivan reducing the deficit. But two frees from Houlihan, and a late goal from Foley saw the reigning champions lead by 2-6 to 1-5 at half-time.
Strong words at half-time saw a far different Cork side after the break, with an early goal from Ciara O’Sullivan putting them level and from here it was all Cork.
With 35 minutes gone, O’Sullivan was fouled and Noonan, a Republic of Ireland soccer international, stepped up to coolly slot home the penalty, to make it 3-6 to 2-6.
With 40 minutes gone it was over as a context when Ciara got her second goal, as Cork were now dominating all over the pitch, with player of the match Melissa Duggan outstanding in defence for them. Orla Finn and Aine O’Sullivan tacked on points, with Houlihan and Dineen replying for Kerry, Two from Noonan made it 4-12 to 2-9, with six minutes to go.
Kate O’Sullivan pulled a point back for Kerry, but Cork’s fifth goal put the icing on the cake for the Rebels as they cruised to victory in the end, claiming a first Munster crown since 2016.
Both counties will now head for the revamped qualifiers and Kerry’s group 1 opponents will be Tipperary and TG4 Ulster champions Donegal. For Cork, it’s a three-team group 2 alongside Ulster counties Armagh and Monaghan.
Cork: S Noonan 2-2 (1-0 pen), C O’Sullivan 2-0, H Looney 1-0 (1-0 pen), O Finn 0-3, A O’Sullivan 0-4, D O’Sullivan 0-2, A Hutchings, L Coppinger 0-1 each.
Kerry: S Houlihan 1-4 (3f), A Foley 1-2, L Scanlon (1f), E Dineen, B Ryan, K O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Cork: M O’Brien; C Collins, R Phelan, E Spillane; M O’Callaghan, M Duggan, S Kelly; A Hutchings, O Farmer; H Looney, D O’Sullivan, L Coppinger; A O’Sullivan, C O’Sullivan, O Finn.
Subs: S Noonan for O Farmer, B O’Sullivan for A O’Sullivan, O Farmer for L Coppinger, A Kelleher for R Phelan, A Barrett for C Collins.
Kerry: L Fitzgerald; L Coughlan, S Murphy, E Lynch; D Kearney, A Desmond, A O’Connell; L Scanlon, A Brosnan; A Foley, S Burns, E Dineen; A Murphy, E O’Leary, S Houlihan.
Subs: B Ryan for S Burns, K O’Sullivan for L Coughlan, S Lynch for E O’Leary, A O’Callaghan for A Murphy, D Geaney for E Dineen.
Referee: T Fox (Tipperary).