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Sarah Harrington, Leah Weste, Sarah Buckley, Niamh Ní Chaoimh and Finola Neville celebrate with the the Jack McGrath Cup. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Sarah Harrington, Leah Weste, Sarah Buckley, Niamh Ní Chaoimh and Finola Neville celebrate with the the Jack McGrath Cup. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
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It's not easy being a second team but the Cork intermediates gave a first-class display

THE expression third time lucky is probably one that will be used many times over the coming days as Cork finally lifted the All-Ireland intermediate cup on Sunday.

They lost out in the finals in the last two seasons, after a replay last year, in a game that they left after them the first day. But all credit to the squad they regrouped and ensured they were back in Croker yesterday to try and end that drought.

Cork’s last win was in the inaugural competition in 2006 and since then they have featured in more than their fair share of finals. So considering those factors it’s more a case of relief than lucky to see the cup heading south.

Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

No doubt there were plenty of motivating factors for the side, from the disappointment of the last two years to a determination to end that drought. In that time members of the intermediate side would have had to attend the after-match function with the senior side and it must have been difficult to watch them celebrating as you drowned your sorrows.

Of course, they would have been delighted for the senior players, with several of them subs on that panel, but at the back of your mind is always the fact you came up short in your own game.

As the second side in any county, it’s not an easy task to reach a final and these girls deserve massive praise for doing so on the consistent basis they have since 2006. In that time they have featured in nine finals (including 2006), making them the most consistent side in this competition.

It shows the strength of camogie in Cork at present and hopefully for many years to come. The Rebel county is probably the only one that could produce two teams to these high standards over this time and going forward is the only one likely of doing so for some time.

Saoirse McCarthy hit 0-4 from play. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Saoirse McCarthy hit 0-4 from play. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Of course, others have had good years, but none at the level of Cork and no matter what the result was today that consistency must be acknowledged and applauded.

In the league they showed they were going to be the form side as captain, Sarah Harrington got to lift the cup to set them up nicely for the All-Ireland series.

But when you are taking on a side you have already beaten this season there is always a fear factor.

Time and time again we have seen how difficult it can be to defeat a team for the second time. Just look at the Cork senior hurlers over the last two years, losing out in the semi-final of the All-Ireland series to a side they had either beaten or drawn with previously.

The same happened to the Cork U21 hurlers, who had a great win over Tipperary in the Munster final but then lost out to them in the All-Ireland final.

Thankfully that didn’t happen yesterday as Sarah got the chance to lift another cup in what was a deserved win for Cork.

They took their time to settle and in the early stages, you might be forgiven for thinking it could be another one of those days. Down settled far quicker and were the better side for the first 10 minutes or so,

But Cork started to settle with Jennifer Barry leading by example at centre-back and Harrington solid out behind her.

Katelyn Hickey in action on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Katelyn Hickey in action on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Katelyn Hickey and Sarah Buckley started to get a grip at midfield and up front, the likes of Caitriona Collins, Saoirse McCarthy and Caroline Sugrue started to torment the Down defence.

By half-time the Rebels were in front and it looked like there was only going to be one winner, though credit must go to Down who started the better of the two sides again and were back on level terms five minutes in.

But when you need big players to step up then Cork have them in abundance and Collins showed she wasn’t going home empty-handed again this year.

She rattled off two magnificent points, both from long range frees, to settle the nerves and when Sugrue put three between them the Rebels could start to relax and enjoy the occasion.

The key moment came in the 41st minute and it was a goal worthy of winning any final.

A magnificent catch by Siobhan Hutchinson in defence started the move and she put Finola Neville on her way.

Finola Neville was a key performer on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Finola Neville was a key performer on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Neville popped the sliothar to Collins and when given an opportunity like that she doesn’t miss.

Afterwards selector, Brian O’Sullivan, who was the man on the sideline as Paudie Murray was split between the teams, was proud of Cork’s efforts and delighted for the squad.

“It was great to win and I thought the girls were brilliant out there today. We took a while to settle but once we did I thought we played some great camogie.

“Our defence was outstanding and they haven’t conceded a goal all year and managed to do the same today. As a unit, they have been outstanding and set the platform for us.

“The goal was a big score and in fairness, Caitriona never lets us down. It’s great to win after the last two years and we will enjoy the celebrations now,” concluded Brian.

Caitríona Collins hits the net. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Caitríona Collins hits the net. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile