The Linda Mellerick column: Bad refereeing and a controversial finish can't take away from the sweetest of wins over Kilkenny

The Linda Mellerick column: Bad refereeing and a controversial finish can't take away from the sweetest of wins over Kilkenny
Cork's Orla Cotter scores a late point to snatch the victory over Kilkenny. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

THEY'RE always sweeter when they’re against Kilkenny. 

Nothing personal (well I’ll say that anyway) but we lost some awful games to them in the 1980 and early 90s. Memory doesn’t always fade with age.

A single point again!

Before the game, the pre-match change from the Kilkenny camp was Edwina Keane coming in for Miriam Walsh, a defender for a left corner-forward, leading us to believe Kilkenny were again going to play a sweeper against Cork. But general talk was that Keane was always going to start and Kilkenny had a plan. 

Well you’d expect that wouldn’t you. But it didn’t happen. Kilkenny played as they did in the semi-final and didn’t deserve to win this title. If you’re not going to go all out to attack a game, you don’t deserve to win it.

Two changes were announced from the Cork side, Niamh O’Callaghan and Niamh McCarthy making way for Leanne O’Sullivan and Linda Collins. But these four players have shared the starting positions over the campaign, so you couldn’t say anyone was dropped. Cork’s panel just have options which is fantastic.

It was like a scene from Dancing with the Stars before the ball was thrown in with six to eight players shadowing each other almost on top of Aoife Murray. 

Referee Eamonn Cassidy had to hold up throwing the ball in so the appropriate number of players were in their own halves. I’ve never seen that before. Did we really expect an open game with a start like that?

It was a strange opening half. Many of Cork’s players didn’t get on much ball. Katrina Mackey scored their first point from play on 23 minutes to go two ahead before Denise Gaule struck four on the trot, one from play.

Level at the break wasn’t a surprise. It was a poor opening half which had opened up in the last five minutes. The referee! To be honest, they are just too much a focal point in our game. 

It’s fine to say that it’s an amateur game and that you shouldn’t have a go at the referee, but you can’t ignore it. Fussy, inconsistent, not allowing advantage. There’s something wrong.

I fully expected Kilkenny to change tactics and attack this game from the outset. Playing a sweeper and then opting at times to deliver long puck-outs which Cork dominated, was surprising. 

It was obvious Kilkenny were trying to isolate Katie Power in at full-forward, Pam Mackey marshalling her. Why then overdo the short passing out the field? I at one stage saw Power the only Kilkenny player inside the 60-metre line. Mackey had an excellent game on her.

Kilkenny attacked the game more in the second half and the only goal chance in the game fell to Katie Power, but Aoife Murray made an astute save. That was a difficult save to make at a critical stage.

I thought Laura Treacy was excellent, so too Pam, Gemma O’Connor, Orla Cotter and Leanne O’Sullivan. Chloe Sigerson hit three mighty points. Up front, Orla Cronin again struck two great points to bring the sides level at half time and that was vital. Katrina Mackey struck two and really put herself about.

Was it a great final? No. But who cares. 

Amy O’Connor and Grace Walsh of Kilkenny in action. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Amy O’Connor and Grace Walsh of Kilkenny in action. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

I’d prefer to win this one than lose a thriller. It was tension stuff all through as we’ve come to expect from these finals. A cagey, intense affair, we were hopping again in the press box with anticipation of what was going to come next. 

Mental strength and coolness were two crucial attributes of Cork’s win yesterday. A goal was going to win this game, but one didn’t look like coming from either side (Power’s attempt aside), so every point was crucial. 

Denise Gaule missed two fairly simple frees, always looking uncomfortable when taking a slight angled shot from the right on her left-hand side. She missed one on 43 minutes to draw Kilkenny level, Cotter responded with a beauty to put Cork two up. Cotter missed one herself on 51 minutes, Gaule pointed a 45 straight after, Kilkenny again ahead by one.

It really was such a tension-filled game that every mistake was greeted with a groan. And Cork made some under pressure but that doesn’t matter now.

What a killer point from Orla Cotter. She made Julia White’s winner 12 months ago. She was the hero yesterday. 

She won the ball twice before winning that free out on the sideline. The free was sticking in Kilkenny's throats after the game, strongly feeling it wasn’t one. 

The referee post the game said it was for a ‘trailing leg’. There are days decisions go for you and others they don’t. We’ll take it! Cotter was immense. 

There was a lot of tears in the Kilkenny dressing room after the game. It’s a hard one to take for them losing two in a row by a point. But from a red and white perspective, it’s the sweetest. 

A double for Cork in Croke Park. Minor, intermediate and senior titles in 2018. 

I think the last time Cork did that was in 1985. What a wonderful day!

Gemma O’Connor and Hannah Looney share their joy. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Gemma O’Connor and Hannah Looney share their joy. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

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