SPORT can be so wonderful and so cruel.
Apart from referee Owen Elliot ruining the second half of this game with frees we were treated to a tremendous battle between Cork and Kilkenny whose rivalry was to the fore once again. Toughness, fitness, skill and tremendous scores were there for all to see.
It was a game which Cork dominated early on, Kilkenny took over, then it was Cork again but the scores just wouldn’t come for the home side in that last quarter.
Cork won so much ball for 20 minutes. Ashling Thompson came powering in. Orla Cronin was winning a huge amount but Cork couldn’t match it on the scoreboard. Kilkenny didn’t score for 21 minutes in that second half.
Nerves came into it a little bit in the final quarter as players tired and mistakes were made but there’s no mistaking that this was a great game between two top sides. Unfortunately for Cork that will be of little consolation as for the second year in a row, they fell short at the semi-final stage.
I had said during the week that Cork needed to play direct and pick off scores from distance to win this game and they did that. To be fair they did nothing wrong on Saturday. They were beaten by the better team on the day.
Both sides will rue misses but that’s what championship is all about. When so little separates sides, you need to take every chance.
I think that not stopping the clock for water breaks in camogie is wrong. No sour grapes here but to stop the game for two minutes in each half and for that time not to be added on isn’t right.
Pamela Mackey was down for a few minutes with a shoulder injury that saw her taken off. Clare Phelan also went down yet just four minutes was added on at the end.
No matter how much attention you give Ann Dalton she does damage. What a brilliant goal in that opening half to take the lead for the first time. What an incredible catch under pressure and a great strike from a tight angle.
Cork started so brilliantly. They raced into a 1-3 to no score lead after just eight minutes. Gone was the slow play out of defence. Their movement, interplay and scores were excellent.
Chloe Sigerson hit the first two followed and an Orla Cronin free laying the foundations before a brilliantly worked goal which started out with Laura Treacy at full-back and Katrina Mackey offloading to Gemma O’Connor saw her struck low to the net between the legs of Aoife Norris.
Treacy was playing a stormer at full-back. She won every ball on Katie Nolan in a wonderful attacking style. Both sides went with a moving, splitting forward line. Kilkenny often working the 1-1-3 format or the 2-2-2.
Cork likewise pulled their half-forward line deep as they typically do. Gemma hovered around the square.
Kilkenny were affording Katrina Mackey too much space as they tried to counteract Corks overlapping play and she was instrumental in scores in that opening quarter.
Kilkenny never panicked. By the water break on 16 minutes, they were four points down and possibly should have been level but for some poor wides. On one occasion Denise Gaule was running through and should have given the pass for a goal chance but didn’t and I wondered if the killer instinct was gone from the Cats.
Mary O’Connell, a relatively unknown player scored two fine points to settle Kilkenny while at the other end Michelle Teehan I thought was playing a pivotal role in preventing Cork capitalising further. Both were taken off later in the game but they had done their job. Gaule played a top game once more and was up there for Player of the Match.
Cork missed a chance to go in level at the break but one point down and coming out with a slight wind at their backs wasn’t a bad scenario. What was a concern was how Kilkenny had fought their way back to go one up. Level after two minutes of the restart another excellent Kilkenny goal by Miriam Walsh and now we were worried.
But Cork in turn fought back. The scores wouldn’t come. I think I’d have brought on Cliona Healy and Julia White sooner but it’s easy to sit in the stand and say that.
Kilkenny march on to this unique of All-Ireland finals on December 12. Cork are left to reflect.