Galway 2-14 Cork 1-13
HUGE disappointment for Cork and a big boost for Galway as the All-Ireland champions turned a six-point deficit into a four-point victory with a sparkling second-half display to take the Littlewoods National league title in Croke Park on a cold April evening.
Galway’s experience showed. They never panicked when Cork raced ahead by six points with a goal in the first minute of the second half. The introduction of impact subs, three getting scores and Carrie Dolan collecting Player of the Match, was also vital for Cathal Murray's side.
A hugely entertaining opening half saw Cork lead by three points at the interval 0-10 to 0-7 after a half where all but two of the total from both sides came from play.
From the throw-in Cork looked sharp. Niamh Kilkenny opened the scoring firing over a Galway point from play after just 26 seconds but Aishling Thompson had the sides on level inside two minutes after good work by Saoirse McCarthy.
As play swung from end to end the sides swapped points on three occasions and at the end of the first quarter, it was level at 0-5 apiece with Laura Hayes turning defence into attack firing on 15 minutes.
Cork were playing well and matching Galway in all sectors. Up front, Fiona Keating was operating at full-forward and with their corner-forwards leaving plenty of space inside they showed they had plenty of pace with Amy O’Connor and Cliona Healy showing well.
McCarthy and Aoife O'Donoghue swapped points and with Chloe Sigerson taking over the free-taking duties Cork edged back in front and they went three clear with Aishling Thompson and Katriona Mackey hitting two in a row.
Ailish O’Reilly's free cut the deficit and with Fiona Keating replying Cork went to the dressing room with a three-point interval lead.
Cork grabbed the game’s opening goal inside a minute of the restart. Winning possession Laura Hayes drove forward and with Katriona Mackey on her shoulder in support she drew the Galway defence and passed to Mackey who fired a superb ball across the square to O'Connor who slotted it to the net.
Amazingly Cork failed to build on the goal and they went until the three-quarter stage before they scores again as Galway tore into the game. Orlaith McGrath and Ailish O'Reilly had points to cut the lead to four before Galway played their trump card introducing Carrie Dolan to the attack.
Dolan announced her arrival with a free while another sub Catherine Finnerty had the sides level after 43 minutes; gathering possession she side-stepped three cork defenders and finished to the net.
Saoirse McCarthy edged Cork back in front but it was short-lived after a Dolan free tied the game for the eighth time.
Galway were now winning all the possession around the middle and they kept the pressure on as they sprayed the ball around well. When Dolan grabbed a dropping ball out of the air on the edge of the square she blasted to the net to give Galway the lead for the first time in the second half with 11 minutes remaining.
From the puck-out, Emma Murphy’s shot for goal went narrowly wide of the upright at the other end.
Dolan continued to cause havoc pointing twice as Galway went five points clear as the game went into the injury time.
Katriona Mackey clipped over two Cork frees but there was no late drama, sub Sabina Rabbitte striking at the other end to make it a four-point gap again.
A Thompson, S McCarthy 0-3 each, K Mackey 0-3 (0-2 f), A O’Connor 1-0, F Keating 0-2, L Hayes 0-1, C Sigerson 0-1 f.
Sarah Healy; R Hanniffy, S Dervan, Shauna Healy; R Black, E Helebert, D Higgins; A Donohue, N Kilkenny; N Hanniffy, A O’Reilly, Á Keane; O McGrath, R Hennelly, S McGrath.
C Finnerty for Keane (38), C Dolan for S McGrath (38), S Rabbitte for O’Reilly (59), S Spellman for Hanniffy (62), T Kenny for Black (62).
A Lee; L Coppinger, L Tracey, M Cahalane; S McCarthy, M Murphy, L Hayes; K O’Mahoney, A Thompson; K Mackey, C Sigerson, I O’Regan; C Healy, F Keating, A O’Connor.
E Murphy for Healy (30), M Ring for Sigerson (52), A Smith for Keating (62).
John Dermody (Westmeath)