Heartbreak for West Cork in county ladies' senior football final
West Cork 1-9
KIERAN McCARTHY REPORTS
IF West Cork want to end Mourneabbey’s dominance of Cork ladies’ club football, then they need to become more like the north-Cork club – that’s the verdict of West Cork boss Brian McCarthy. It’s hard to argue with that logic after what unfolded at CIT.
There was so much to admire about the Mourneabbey performance – how they tore out of the blocks and cut West Cork wide open to score four goals in 23 first-half minutes and build up a commanding lead, and then in the second half how they withstood the growing West Cork pressure and managed the game cleverly.
They showed, again, why they are reigning Cork, Munster and All-Ireland champions. West Cork are not at that level yet. That shouldn’t be too surprising either when you consider that when Mourneabbey won the first two county titles of their current six-in-a-row, West Cork didn’t even exist.
The division has come a long way in a short space of time, but they have to improve if they want to end Mourneabbey’s reign.
‘We have to learn and try to be more like Mourneabbey,’ McCarthy stated.
‘Look at the goals we gave away, they came from our mistakes and they punished us. They are very good at punishing mistakes. We need to learn to do that too. And we must learn quickly if we want to bridge that gap.
‘Their experience of the last five years was all over that second half, they know how to play, how to hold onto a lead, how to slow down the game and how to win games.’
There will be regrets in the West Cork camp, most centred around that first-half display. They were second best and their mistakes, like McCarthy alluded to, were punished. That happened as early as the second minute when a stray West Cork pass allowed Mourneabbey spring their lethal attack that carved right through the divisional side’s defence before Ciara O’Sullivan set up her younger sister Doireann for an easy finish from close range. Dream start for the champs, who smelled blood, while West Cork were chasing the game from the very beginning.
After Áine Terry O’Sullivan and Doireann O’Sullivan swapped frees, Mourneabbey struck for goal number two when Doireann set up Dublin import Noelle Healy, who ripped through the West Cork defence and thundered a superb strike to the net. Eimear Kiely hit back with a West Cork point but it got worse for them moments later when Bríd O’Sullivan goaled after good work by her sister Doireann and Healy. It was now 3-1 to 0-2.
While Mourneabbey attacked at pace, West Cork’s build-up was laboured and often sloppy, though Áine Terry O’Sullivan did convert a free to narrow the gap – but that was only a momentary respite as the Mourneabbey juggernaut was at full tilt as a Healy point was followed by Doireann’s second goal. It was now 4-2 to 0-3 after 23 minutes, and to worsen West Cork’s plight they lost full back Sarah Hayes to a shoulder injury. It was all going wrong for West Cork.They were shell-shocked.
Three points in a row from Áine Terry O’Sullivan, the hard-working Libby Coppinger and Daire Kiely for West Cork narrowed the gap at the break, 4-2 to 0-6, but Mourneabbey were bossing this final.
‘Often when you try to start fast you don’t start fast at all. It was something I mentioned in the dressing-room, to try and get on top early,’ Mourneabbey boss Shane Ronayne explained.
‘The key today is that we did the simple things right for 25 minutes. The interplay for the goals was outstanding too, we cut them open. The girls just clicked. Noelle, Doireann, Ciara, they all combined brilliantly and they are just so hard to stop when they do that.’
When Mourneabbey tagged on the first four points of the second half to swell the lead to 4-6 to 0-6, West Cork were in serious trouble.
The superb Doireann O’Sullivan was on target with three frees and Laura Fitzgerald adding the other.
But West Cork didn’t lie down. They improved as the game went on. Their regret will be that they left themselves with far too much to do after that first-half performance. Another regret will be their wastefulness at big moments. In the pre-final build-up manager Brian McCarthy demanded that his side be more ruthless in front of goal – but they weren’t. Chance after chance was missed in the second half. An Áine Terry O’Sullivan free was saved and the follow-up from Niamh Cotter was blocked. Points from Eimear Kiely and the ever-impressive Melissa Duggan – West Cork’s best player – followed before Daire Kiely missed a goal chance. In between there were several bad wides too. West Cork didn’t help themselves and didn’t set seeds of doubt in Mourneabbey’s mind.
Even after Melissa Duggan was fouled for a penalty in the 48th minute that saw Ciara O’Sullivan yellow carded and Áine Terry O’Sullivan rattle the net to make it 4-6 to 1-8, it was Mourneabbey that took the sting out of West Cork’s momentum when Doireann O’Sullivan scored two quick points, the first a classy score from distance, to put nine between the teams. That was Mourneabbey’s experience again. In the big moments, they knew what to do. West Cork kept coming, with Clare O’Leary in midfield one of their better performers throughout, but Mourneabbey were always quite comfortable and are deserving champions.
That’s two years in a row West Cork have lost to Mourneabbey in the county final. The gap isn’t huge but the club team holds the aces right now. Still, there are lots of lessons for West Cork to take and learn from, and one of those is that before Mourneabbey won the All-Ireland title last December, they had lost three finals in the previous four years. The lesson there: keep banging on the door and it will eventually open once you keep evolving and improving. Back to the drawing board for West Cork.
Mourneabbey: Doireann O’Sullivan 2-7 (5f); Noelle Healy 1-1; Brid O’Sullivan 1-0; Laura Fitzgerald 0-1.
West Cork: Áine Terry O’Sullivan 1-4 (1-0 pen, 3f); Eimear Kiely 0-2; Libby Coppinger, Daire Kiely, Melissa Duggan 0-1 each.
Mourneabbey: Meabh O’Sullivan; Aisling O’Sullivan, Eimear Meaney, Sandra Conroy; Kathyrn Coakley, Roisin O’Sullivan, Anna Ryan; Maire O’Callaghan, Niamh O’Sullivan; Ciara O’Sullivan, Brid O’Sullivan, Sile O’Callaghan; Ellie Jack, Doireann O’Sullivan, Noelle Healy.
Subs: Laura Fitzgerald for N O’Sullivan (ht); A Cronin for B O’Sullivan (42); E Harrington for S O’Callaghan (51).
West Cork: Martina O’Brien (Clonakilty); Siobhan Courtney (Castlehaven), Sarah Hayes (Rosscarbery), Clare O’Shea (Beara); Eimear Kiely (Valley Rovers), Emma Spillane (Bantry Blues), Cliona Maguire (Rosscarbery); Niamh Cotter (Beara), Melissa Duggan (Dohenys); Laura O’Mahony (O’Donovan Rossa), Clare O’Leary (Clonakilty), Daire Kiely (Valley Rovers); Libby Coppinger (St Colum’s), Áine O’Sullivan (Beara), Fiona Keating (Courcey Rovers).
Subs: Christina O’Sullivan (Beara) for Hayes (23, inj); Eve Murphy (Bantry Blues) for E Kiely (42), Rachel Murphy (Bantry Blues) for Keating (42); Michelle O’Regan (Valley Rovers) for D Kiely (60).
Referee: Maurice Mulcahy.