BY NIALL SHERRY
Cork captain strikes late to see lee-siders home, 0-15 to 1-11
There will be no O’Duffy cup return to Kilkenny next month.
Despite a second-half comeback, Brian Dowling’s side fell to a late point from Cork captain Linda Collins.
While many had earmarked Kilkenny as favourites for the semi-final tie at headquarters, the rebels desire to reach their first final in three years was evident.
It was a rip-roaring affair, that could have gone either way, but over the course of the near 65 minutes, Cork probably just about deserved their victory.
Cork got off to a great start when late inclusion, Saoirse McCarthy hit a fine point from the left from about 30 metres out. Kilkenny responded by driving down the field and creating a great goal chance, but Piltown forward, Aoife Doyle saw her goal-bound effort smothered by Cork keeper Amy Lee. A telling intervention by the opposition’s numero uno.
The cats eventually got off the mark around the fifth minute, with a pointed free from the ultra-reliable Denise Gaule. Both sides probed a little, wary of each other’s attacking threat. The deadlock was then broken Cork’s Chloe Sigerson hit a wonderful score from past the Kilkenny ‘45. The rebels moved two ahead when Enniskeane’s Orla Cronin popped over the first of her frees in the 10th minute.
Just ahead of the first water-break, Kilkenny number 12, Katie Power hit a cracking score from over the shoulder, to reduce the deficit to the minimum. This was building to be a very close encounter.
When play resumed, Cork wasted little time in building on their one-point lead. Midfield star, Katrina Macky and Orla Cronin raising flags to move the Leesiders three ahead. Kilkenny would go almost 13 minutes without a score, before St Martins Katie Nolan and Aoife Doyle combined nicely to get a much-needed score. However, Cork responded in kind, with the impressive Sigerson pointing to leave the score 0-6 to 0-3 in the rebel’s favour. The Cork supporters were sensing revenge, following their sides loss at the same stage in the competition last season.
Both side’s number 10’s exchanged points before Kilkenny wing-back Kellyann Doyle, who was a major doubt for the clash, hit a fine score having taken a nice pass from Clara’s Mary O’Connell. The stripey-women’s attempts to build any momentum was being halted by the concession of a number of frees.
Chloe Sigerson hit a monster effort from just inside the Cork half, before the deadly Cronin struck another to leave the rebels leading 0-9 to 0-5. Paudie Murray’s team were not done for the half yet, and that dammed Sigerson hit another point, her fourth of the game to leave the challengers five ahead at the short whistle. Cork were playing with a great desire, hunger and intensity. Kilkenny were in trouble.
Kilkenny emerged from the interval needing to play like champions. They got off the mark in the second period, thanks to a free from Windgap’s Gaule. Cork’s defence, led by Pamela Mackey were steadfast, Dowling’s side were struggling to find the space to create scoring opportunities. Once again, Orla Cronin responded with a free, her fourth placed ball of the day. Not to be outdone by her Cork counterpart, Denise Gaule hit another good point from a free to leave just three between the sides.
Then came the best passage of play that Kilkenny produced on the day. Tullaroan’s Miriam Walsh took a great pass from full-back Claire Phelan, before off-loading to the on-running Mary O’Connell who rifled to the back of the, giving the Cork keeper no chance. The rebels were shaken. Gaule popped over another free – midway through the second half, the teams were tied. Game on!
Cornin and Gaule again trade frees, with just over 10 minutes remaining, a place in the final against Galway was certainly up for grabs. For the first time since the 27th minute, Kilkenny took the lead, again Denise Gaule, 2020 player of the year showing un-airing accuracy from the placed ball. From the resulting puck-out, the cats gained possession, the ball found its way to Katie Power who fired over her second point of the day – the black and amber now led by two, 1-11 to 0-12.
As throughout the proceedings, placed balls were proving to be vital for both teams. Orla Cronin hit her sixth free of the day, once again only the bare minimum separated the sides. That wasn’t to be Cronin’s last strike. Cork lifted the intensity again, in search of an equalising score, they poured forward and during an ensuing melee, Cronin tangled with cat’s midfielder, Grace Walsh. Cronin appeared to make contact with Walsh’s helmet and push her back to the ground. Westmeath whistler, John Dermody consulted with his linesman and Cronin was shown a straight red card. Cork down to 14, but crucially level, as Fiona Keating’s point stood, despite Cronin’s indiscretion.
Just like their group game with Galway in Callan earlier in the championship, Kilkenny couldn’t make use of their numerical advantage, and deep into stoppage time, Cork captain and substitute, Linda Collins took a pass, and under no pressure pointed to reclaim the lead for the rebels and take what was to be the winning score. The grip on the O’Duffy was gone. Season over.
Scorers for Kilkenny: D Gaule (0-7 frees), M O’Connell (1-0), K Power (0-2), K Doyle and K Nolan (0-1 each).
KILKENNY: A Norris; M Teehan, C Dormer, D Tobin; K Doyle, M Farrell (Capt), C Phelan; G Walsh, D Gaule; M Walsh, K Nolan, M O’Connell; S Fitzgerald, K Power, A Doyle.
Subs: L Murphy for S Fitzgerald (38), N Deely for M Teehan (48), M Kenneally for A Doyle (55).
Scorers for Cork: O Cronin (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 45), C Sigerson (0-5, 0-1 free), S McCarthy, K Mackey, L Collins and F Keating (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.
Subs: L Collins for C O’Sullivan (50).
Referee: John Dermody (Westmeath).
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
With a rebel yell the Kilkenny faithful cried no, no, no!
So that’s it, the senior team’s exploits are over until next season. They huffed and puffed against a hungrier Cork side. The pain of previous defeats at the semi-final stage appeared to be the driving force behind the Leesiders matchday motivation.
In Chloe Sigerson, player of the match, Cork played with greater intensity of the course of the match. Orla Cronin was accurate from placed balls, a la Denise Gaule, should her red card stand, the Enniskeane forward will be a huge loss to her county’s challenge against opponents and bookies favourites Galway.
Enough about the rebels. Kilkenny, well it wasn’t to be their day. Our camogs have brought us much joy over the past 12 months, an O’Duffy cup and a league title, but perhaps not a full 60-minute performance this season. There have been times this season, when they have been down, and somehow shown great resolve to get over the line, but in Croker last Sunday the well ran dry.
After the match, manager Brian Dowling spoke of possible changes ahead in the county camogie set-up, possible retirements and that. Let’s hope when all involved have time to take stock and reflect on the season, they will see that this panel of players has more to give.
A special word for Kellyann Doyle, having watched her sustain the shoulder injury against Wexford, I couldn’t have imagined her lining out against Cork. That’s the spirit and desire this group has, there’s no I in team.
I sincerely hope that Dowling & Co dust themselves down, enjoy the autumn and winter with their clubs, and are ready to drive on in 2022. To all concerned with our senior ladies, thanks for everything – see you all next season.