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Marie O'Callaghan sidesteps Caroline Kelly and Ciara Murphy in Fitzgerald Stadium last Saturday.
Marie O'Callaghan sidesteps Caroline Kelly and Ciara Murphy in Fitzgerald Stadium last Saturday.
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Fitzgerald insists ladies footballers can bounce back from Munster elimination 

IN the aftermath of Cork's first back-to-back championship defeat since 2013, Cork boss Ephie Fitzgerald instilled a sense in those listening that this isn't over yet for the reigning All-Ireland champions.

A loss to Kerry on Saturday night means the Rebels must take the long road to Croker this summer. They had been in the past 13 provincial finals, across an era of dominance on the big stage as well.

"People will look now and say 'Oh, Cork are gone', but we're not really. 

"We're as competitive as ever. It's just that sometimes you lose these close games, and Cork have been on the right side of so many of them over the years. 

"Maybe that little bit experience in closing games out cost us, and maybe we need to learn that a bit better for ourselves having been three points up with a few minutes to go, but I couldn't have asked any more of them.

"We didn't start well and Kerry came out in the first-half with a much better intensity. 

"In fact, we could have been down by a lot more by half-time. We gave away possession and they caught us on a few breaks towards the end, but Kerry are a decent side.

"Our response in the second-half is what we expected of the girls. 

"I know we lost the match, and there's a lot of disappointment, but there's a lot of positives for us going forward, and I said that to the girls after.

"I couldn't have been more prouder of their effort because a lot of them are new to this type of football. 

"It's a good learning experience for them, and it could have gone either way at the end of it to be honest. 

"So, whilst we're not happy to lose, I certainly couldn't be happier with the attitude that they showed. The O'Sullivans (Ciara and Doireann) will be back too in the next few weeks so our panel will be stronger."

As to the fact that this is the first time since 2004 that Cork haven't made the Munster Senior Championship final, having contested the last successive 13, Fitzgerald was quite matter-of-fact about it.

"It's irrelevant. It makes no difference to me. Whether you make it or otherwise, if you're not going to win it, it doesn't matter. 

"All we look at is our own performances and we fell a little bit short.

"Kerry were worthy winners, and we congratulate them, but we've to move onto the qualifiers now and get ready for that.

We'll get back to training, look at things, and come the qualifiers in July I think, I'm sure we'll be competitive again."

And so Waterford and Kerry will contest the 2017 Munster SFC final on July 8, and it will be the first time since 2003 that the sides will have done provincial battle, with the Kingdom beating the Déise by two points. Following on from that victory, Cork won the Dairygold Cup nine seasons in-a-row, and contested 13 successive finals.