By Daragh Ó Conchúir
CAPTAIN Linda Collins shook off the disappointment of being left out by scoring a sensational winning point just seconds from the end to book a place in the All-Ireland senior camogie final.
Not for the first time this year, champions Kilkenny mixed the good with the bad and had been second best for most of proceedings but Mary O’Connell’s 44th minute goal after Miriam Walsh’s excellent assist having gathered Claire Phelan’s delivery breathed life into Brian Dowling’s outfit,
They had their best period thereafter, hitting four of the next five points to move two clear. Denise Gaule, who was hampered by a finger injury in the closing stages, landed three frees and Katie Power a stunning score and it looked for all the world that we were in for a third consecutive Kilkenny-Galway decider.
But that was to reckon without the character of this youthful Cork side. Though it was the likes of the experienced Ashling Thompson, Pamela Mackey and Hannah Looney that drove them on in that definite period, Saoirse McCarthy was a revelation at half-back too and points from Orla Cronin from a free and Fiona Keating brought them level just before the end of regulation time.
Keating’s score came after Meighan Farrell came from nowhere to deny Katrina Mackey a goal, after Collins, who had come on in the 50th minute for 19-year-old Ciara O’Sullivan, put her in.
There was a sting in the tail though when Cronin was sent off in the wake of the equaliser, for a what seemed like a push into the faceguard of Grace Walsh.
Not even that could deny the Rebels roar however, and it was Collins who came up trumps in the most dramatic fashion.
It was ferocious industry that buttressed Cork’s efforts. Kilkenny sought to work it out from the back early on, Aoife Norris taking a number of short puckouts but the Leesiders did not allow them out easily, pressing up high to put pressure on immediately.
When it came to workrate though, it was Chloe Sigerson who stood head and shoulders above all else on the pitch, with a truly phenomenal half-hour, covering so much ground but supplementing that with five points, four from play including a couple of huge scores from distance.
She was ably assisted by the athletic Looney in midfield, while Ashling Thompson was managing to nullify Gaule’s influence and the entire Cork defence, including the returning Pamela Mackey and Libby Coppinger, dominated their match-ups.
Meanwhile, Paudie Murray started with Katrina Mackey, Orla Cronin and Amy O’Connor in his full-forward line and they did well early on though Colette Dormer and Davina Tobin did get to grips with them later on.
They got off the mark early when McCarthy raided down the left from half-back but Amy Lee made a crucial intervention in the second minute, putting her body on the line to deny Aoife Doyle a goal from point-blank range.
Gaule levelled from a free but Cork worked the ball intelligently to create spaces and crucially, finished well for the most part.
Sigerson was the star turn but Katrina Mackey and Cronin also found the target and though Katies Power and Nolan, Kellyann Doyle and Gaule split the posts for Kilkenny, the champions went in at the change of ends trailing by 0-10 to 0-6.
The Cats couldn’t alter the mood initially after the restart, Cork playing with supreme confidence, and clearly revelling in the open spaces of Croke Park.
The goal changed that though and it looked for all the world that it would propel the Stripeywomen to another final but Cork had more in the tank and having fallen at the penultimate hurdle to Kilkenny last year, edged the verdict this time around.
Cork: O Cronin 0-6(5fs); C Sigerson 0-5 (1f); K Mackey, F Keating, S McCarthy, L Collins 0-1 each. Kilkenny: D Gaule 0-7(fs); M O’Connell 1-0; K Power 0-2; K Doyle, K Nolan 0-1 each.
CORK: A Lee, P Mackey, L Coppinger, M Cahalane, L Hayes, L Treacy, S McCarthy, H Looney, A Thompson, C Sigerson, F Keating, C O’Sullivan, A O’Connor, O Cronin, K Mackey. Sub: L Collins for O’Sullivan (50)
KILKENNY: A Norris, M Teehan, C Dormer, D Tobin, M Teehan, K Doyle, M Farrell, C Phelan, D Gaule, G Walsh, M Walsh, K Nolan, M O’Connell, S Fitzgerald, K Power, A Doyle. Subs: L Murphy for Fitzgerald (38), N Deely for Teehan (48), M Kenneally for A Doyle (55)
REFEREE: John Dermody (Westmeath)