BY DARAGH SMALL in Parnell Park
Saoirse Noonan was the super-sub once again for Cork as they were crowned Lidl NFL Division 1 champions for the 12th time beating Galway at Parnell Park.
Ephie Fitzgerald had already inspired his players to two victories over champions Dublin in the league, and this was a huge win for last season’s beaten TG4 All-Ireland finalists.
Noonan finished her goal brilliantly when she was presented with her chance in the 48th minute and that killed off the Galway challenge. Captain Martina O’Brien had saved a Roisin Leonard penalty and although Charlotte Cooney and Louise Ward did find a way past the Cork goalkeeper, Galway were second best in this divisional final, their sixth reversal in the decider.
There was 6-30 scored in the earlier Division 2 final but this was a much tighter affair while both sides flooded their defences and then attacked methodically looking to exploit any weakness.
Galway dominated the opening quarter but Cork worked their way into the game and took a narrow 0-7 to 0-5 lead into the half-time break. Tracey Leonard scored her first point in the fourth minute, but she missed her two other attempts from frees, with her cousin Roisin Leonard unerring.
Orla Finn tied things up for the first time before Roisin Leonard tapped over her opening free, and Ciara O’Sullivan hit back for Cork. The Munster outfit took the lead for the first time in the 16th minute when Libby Coppinger manipulated an opening and scored for a 0-3 to 0-2 advantage. Finn scored her second to make it a double-scores lead in the 20th minute and that came just after Mairéad Seoighe was awarded a yellow card, when the Galway attacker collided with Hannah Looney off the ball.
Galway were down to 14 players but they scored the next two points through Megan Glynn and a wonderful Roisin Leonard point when she dropped the shoulder and sent over a sweetly struck effort off her right boot. But those scores were soon cancelled out by Finn and Eimear Scally.
Cork had Aishling Hutchings yellow carded in the 29th minute when she fouled Roisin Leonard. And it was Roisin Leonard who halved the deficit as well but Cork scored last in the half, Ciara O’Sullivan’s second secured a two-point interval lead. Leanne Coen was a half-time substitute for Galway and she was hauled down for a penalty six minutes after the restart.
Roisin Leonard stepped up but her shot was the perfect height for O’Brien to batt away. Hutchings returned just after Niamh Cotter scored a brilliant Cork point and Scally scored another stunning point after she combined with Hannah Noonan. Cork were 0-9 to 0-5 in front and Finn’s fourth meant for another double-scores lead in the 42nd minute.
Six minutes later Ciara O’Sullivan played in Noonan and she was calm enough to pass the ball past Lisa Murphy for the crucial Cork goal – a stunning finish with a side-foot volley from the substitute. But Galway hit back when Charlotte Cooney blasted to the net in the 52nd minute, while Niamh Cotter and Ciara O’Sullivan both saw yellow for Cork.
Galway scored late with points from Tracey Leonard and Lucy Hannon, and after Sinéad Burke was sent to the sin-bin Louise Ward scored a magnificent goal. But there wasn’t enough time for the comeback and Cork held on for a deserved win.
Cork: O Finn 0-5 (0-3f), S Noonan 1-0, E Scally 0-3, C O’Sullivan 0-2, L Coppinger 0-1, N Cotter 0-1.
Galway: C Cooney 1-0, L Ward 1-0, R Leonard 0-3 (0-2f), T Leonard 0-2 (0-2f), M Glynn 0-1, L Hannon 0-1.
Cork: M O’Brien; C O’Shea, H Looney, M Duggan; M O’Callaghan, E Kiely, S Kelly; N Cotter, A Hutchings; C O’Sullivan, O Farmer, D Kiely; E Scally, L Coppinger, O Finn.
Subs: E Meaney for D Kiely (39), for S Noonan for O’Callaghan (39), R Ní Bhuachalla for Coppinger (47), E Spillane for E Kiely (50).
Galway: L Murphy; S Molloy, F Cooney, S Lynch; O Murphy, S Burke, C Cooney; L Ward, B Hannon; O Divilly, T Leonard, M Glynn; M Seoighe, S Conneally, R Leonard.
Subs: L Coen for Seoighe (half-time), Á McDonagh for Conneally (44), L Hannon for Glynn (50), M Coyne for B Hannon (58).
Referee: M Farrelly (Cavan).