Cork hold firm despite Donegal comeback to start All-Ireland series with a win

First-half goals from Orla Finn and Doireann O'Sullivan were crucial for the Rebels who next face Waterford
Cork hold firm despite Donegal comeback to start All-Ireland series with a win

Cork's Marie Ambrose gets the pass away despite an attempted block by Donegal's Shelly Twohig. Picture: Moya Nolan

Cork 2-12 Donegal 1-10

A blistering start put the Cork ladies footballers on their way to victory over Donegal in their TG4 All-Ireland group clash at Clane, Kildare.

Cork would have been favourites going into this encounter but the Ulster side are never easy to beat, but 1-1 in the first two minutes put the Rebels in front and by half-time, they looked well in control.

But the second half was another matter as all credit to Donegal they upped their game considerably as they outscored Cork by eight points to one and with five minutes to go there was only a goal between them.

However, the experience of Cork, led by the outstanding Doireann O’Sullivan saw them over the line in the end as they now head to Portlaoise next Saturday in their second round-robin game.

A win there for the Rebels will see them top the group, which should mean an easier draw in the knock-out stages, but like this one that will be another tough outing for Cork.

There was a concern before the game when they had to line out without Aisling Hutchings and Shauna Kelly, their midfield duo, but Brid O’Sullivan and Sarah Leahy slotted in and it didn’t upset the side in any way.

Marie Ambrose came in at corner-back, where Leahy was due to start and alongside all the defence kept Donegal quiet in the first half.

Bríd O'Sullivan of Cork is tracked by Donegal's Shauna McFadden. Picture: Moya Nolan
Bríd O'Sullivan of Cork is tracked by Donegal's Shauna McFadden. Picture: Moya Nolan

By half-time, thanks to superb performances from the likes of Laura O’Mahony, Ciara O’Sullivan, Leahy, Aine O’Sullivan and Libby Coppinger, in particular, Cork were well in control as they led 2-9 to 1-2.

Donegal’s blanket defence wasn’t working with O’Mahony, Coppinger and Maire O’Callaghan running at them with pace they simply couldn’t deal with it.

But Donegal were never going to go away easily and they were a much-improved side on the resumption, getting the first three points as they started to push up and put the Cork defence under pressure.

Cork certainly won’t have been happy with some of the decisions made by referee Barry Redmond in the second half when he seemed to give Donegal a number of easy frees, much to the frustration of both the players and management.

They also had Meabh Cahalane sin-binned with 51 minutes gone which put them under pressure but they weathered the storm to come through in the end.

Coppinger raised the first white flag for Cork before Ciara O’Sullivan set up Orla Finn for their first goal in the second minute.

Straight from the restart, Donegal worked the ball down the pitch as Yvonne Bonner raised the green flag at the other end.

Despite this, the Rebels were still playing much the better football, with points from Ciara O’Sullivan and O’Mahony increasing their lead.

Laura O'Mahony of Cork is tracked by Donegal's Amy Boyle Carr. Picture: Moya Nolan
Laura O'Mahony of Cork is tracked by Donegal's Amy Boyle Carr. Picture: Moya Nolan

Donegal were finding it hard to move the ball out of defence, with Áine O’Sullivan adding Cork’s fourth point before they got their second goal.

Ciara O’Sullivan took on the Donegal defence and her ball across the goal was finished to the net by her sister Doireann, to make it 2-4 to 1-0.

Doireann and Finn added points, with the former on target again before Geraldine McLaughlin got Donegal’s opening point with 24 minutes gone.

Karen Guthrie got their second, but late points from Leahy and Ciara O’Sullivan made it 2-9 to 1-2 at half-time.

Three frees, two from Guthrie and one from McLaughlin gave Donegal the perfect start to the second half, with Doireann O’Sullivan replying for her side.

But Donegal were now playing much better with three frees from McLaughlin making it 1-8 to 2-10. Niamh and Geraldine McLaughlin put only a goal between the sides before Cahalane was sin-binned.

Doireann O’Sullivan pointed for Cork to ease the pressure before Niamh McLaughlin went close with a goal effort for the Ulster outfit.

Doireann rounded off the scoring as the Rebels ran out winners after the expected tough tussle with Donegal, a game that will stand to them before their clash with Waterford next Saturday.

Scorers for Cork: D O’Sullivan 1-5 (3f), O Finn 1-1, C O’Sullivan 0-2, L Coppinger, L O’Mahony, A O’Sullivan, S Leahy 0-1 each.

Donegal: Y Bonner 1-0, G McLaughlin 0-5 (4f), K Guthrie 0-4 (4f), N McLaughlin 0-1.

CORK: M O’Sullivan; R Phelan, E Meaney, M Ambrose; M Duggan, M O’Callaghan, L O’Mahony; B O’Sullivan, S Leahy; E Cleary, C O’Sullivan, L Coppinger; Á O’Sullivan, D O’Sullivan, O Finn.

Subs: M Cahalane for M Ambrose, (38), E Scally for A O’Sullivan (42), K Quirke for B O’Sullivan, R Leahy for L Coppinger (both 45), A Hutchings for E Cleary (56).

DONEGAL: R McCafferty; N Carr, E McGinley, T Kennedy; S Twohig, Nicole McLaughlin, A Boyle Carr; Katy Herron, Niamh McLaughlin; Y Bonner, N Hegarty, N Boyle; S McFadden, K Guthrie, G McLaughlin.

Sub: R Rodgers for S McFadden (60).

Referee: Barry Redmond, Wexford.

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