THE performance of the Cork ladies footballers in their 3-16 to 0-9 win over Kerry gave their supporters plenty of optimism going forward as they now play Waterford in the Munster final.
This was a strange display by Kerry, but they knew following their round-robin defeat to Waterford that they needed to put together a game-plan based on damage limitation to ensure they didn’t get a drubbing from the Rebels.
Cork gave their opponents something to think about in the second minute when a sweeping three-player move saw the final pass to Orlagh Farmer overcooked.
It was evident from the opening exchanges that corner-forward Amy Foley was playing as sweeper for Kerry, but Cork were careless in the opening exchanges kicking three blatant wides.
Kerry were under the cosh as the Cork fans were getting frustrated with their inability to punish them as the home side came mighty close to raising the opening green flag in the 12th minute.
A fabulous Eimear Scally move saw her jink two defenders before putting the ball into the path of Saoirse Noonan who drilled the ball inches wide of the left post.
For the Cork captain, goalkeeper Martina O’Brien, the opening quarter was a frustrating period.
“We went out last week against Waterford knowing we needed a win and there is little doubt our attitude was spot on in that game as we tore into them and put the game to bed,” said O’Brien.
The Cork captain believes the permutation coming into this game was slightly different as a win or a loss would have sealed a Munster final place for Cork.
“We probably had a different mindset, but in reality I don’t think our heads were quite right but having said that you don’t want to go into any game totally switched off, but I think fatigue was also evident as we looked sluggish for about 15 minutes,” added O’Brien.
Finally, the home fans were given something to cheer about in the 14th minute when Orla Finn kicked a point following a free.
Finn is a class act when given sight of goal and was the only player in her team to kick points in the opening half where she finished with tally of six, four of which were from placed balls.
On the other side of Finn’s game, she was the conductor of the orchestra four minutes from the interval when she played s superb pass to Scally whose shot came off the post into the path of Noonan who made no mistake.
The Kingdom’s priority to concentrate on defending showed on the scoreboard as all they could muster up was a mere point from a Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh free.
Despite the possession that Cork had in the opening half, they only went in at the break commanding an eight-point lead, 1-6 to 0-1.
Looking at Kerry, although having a young squad, one wonders is the standard of football dipping in the province — a sentiment that O’Brien disagreed with.
“Look I think the reality is that counties get a run and despite Kerry not getting good results in recent years, they are determined to compete at this level and they won’t stop until they get a team good enough to mix it with the best.
“Waterford have suddenly risen and will have no fear going into the Munster final and despite Tipperary getting relegated, they have players capable of bouncing back into the big time.”
The season has been kind to Cork as they have already won the National League with a victory over Galway and despite many pundits predicting it as a two-horse race between the Rebels and Dublin, O’Brien is not looking that far ahead.
“We know it’s not a two-horse race. Believe me Galway are serious contenders and how could you write off Mayo or Donegal? Then you have Armagh and Tyrone coming up from intermediate last year.”
O’Brien believes her team will now put all their focus on the Munster final.
“We will first take care of business against Waterford and then its game by game as this championship has been known to throw up the unexpected.”
The one minus that spoiled this game as a spectacle was the referee’s insistence to give players up to 10 seconds in the advantage rule that frustrated players and spectators alike.
It only took Cork 12 minutes to score their second goal when a long ball from Ciara O’Sullivan was caught superbly by Libby Coppinger before billowing the back of the net.
The introduction of Beara’s Aine O’Sullivan shows the depth in this Cork side as she had some nice touches before rifling an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net in added time.
it’s onwards and upwards for Cork as manager Ephie Fitzgerald will now prepare his side for a Munster final against Waterford with Croke Park the ultimate goal in September.