Galway 3-15 Cork 2-11
Deprived of the ultimate gaelic sporting experience at under 14 level in 2015 due to a registration technicality, a highly motivated group of supremely skilled and superbly drilled Galway under 16 footballers have returned with a vengeance two years on to plunder the spoils of battle. The rebel resistance was typically resolute, spirited and defiant but it was apparent from early on that the girls in maroon and white had simply too many aces in their pack to fall at the final hurdle on this occasion.
Galway seized the initiative early on with two early points from wing forward Aoife Lynagh and corner forward Ailish Morrissey. Cork custodian Sarah Murphy somehow managed to deflect Morrissey’s pile driver over the bar when it seemed destined for the top corner. Moments later Cork full forward Kate Dennehy turned provider for corner forward Aoife Twomey only for the latter’ s goalbound drive to be diverted by Karen Connolly who spread herself superbly at the feet of the onrushing insurgent. Cork centre forward Katie Quirke converted a close range free on 6 minutes to reduce the deficit to the minimum but Aoife Lynagh restored Galway’s two point lead on 8 minutes when she collected a short free from corner forward Aoife O Rourke, evaded the Cork cover and dispatched her second confident finish from an acute angle on the right wing.
It was becoming increasingly apparent at this early stage in the proceedings that Laura Aherne and Aoife Coen were in the ascendancy at midfield and that the Connacht champions half back line of Sophie Healy, Kate Geraghty and Hannah Noone were growing in stature and influence with every passing minute. Indeed, this trio’s collective ability to effect turnovers and launch counter attacks was central and integral to Galway’s triumph in the final analysis. Full forward Andrea Trill capitalised on a misdirected Cork clearance on 11 minutes to open up a three point gap but Katie Quirke kept Cork in touch with her second close range free two minutes later.
The Galway response was immediate and emphatic, a cracking shot from Andrea Trill which rattled the Cork crossbar merely served to delay the inevitable first major which duly arrived on 15 minutes and it was all down to wing back Hannah Coen who initiated the best move with an incisive run, offloaded to Chloe Miskell, ran off the shoulder to collect the return before presenting it on a plate to Ailish Morrissey who was clinical in her execution.
Galway now led by 1-4 to 0-2 and drove on relentlessly over the next few minutes in a ruthless bid to bury their opponents. Andrea Trill was a real tour de force at this juncture, extracting two extraordinary saves from Sarah Murphy which left gasps of astonishment and appreciation among the large and vociferous attendance. The first was a one on one double save on 17 minutes but the second on 20 minutes was well worth the admission fee, a fantastic full length finger tip around her left hand post after Trill unleashed a perfectly placed low drive into the bottom right hand corner. Sandwiched in between these two moments of high drama was a second goal chance for Cork on 19 minutes when a beautifully timed reverse hand pass from corner forward Jenny Murphy put Katie Quirke clean through on goal only for the latter to spill the possession at the pivotal moment as she was about to pull the trigger. It was a timely reminder to Galway that their southern counterparts had plenty of offensive creativity up front if given time and space.
Cork’s response to the concession of that opening goal couldn’t have been more positive, a searing run down the left channel from wing back Sally McCarthy, a subsequent one two with wing forward Faye Ahern and then a sublime finish for her side’s first point from play on 21 minutes. Galway’s next attack culminated in the awarding of a 45. Aoife Lynagh took on the responsibility and picked out Ailish Morrissey with a perfectly flighted placed ball. The Kilkerrin/Clonberne stalwart who was a major selection doubt leading up to the match, duly demonstrated the delightful art of high fielding to devastating effect, as she rose majestically to gather possession, turned deftly inside the danger zone and unleashed a proverbial pile-driver into the roof of the Cork net. The gap was now seven points but the once again Cork responded in the best possible fashion by firing over the next two points on 24 and 26 minutes respectively, the first a converted close range free courtesy of Katie Quirke and the second a lovely effort from play from Jenny Murphy after she latched on to a perceptive pass from midfielder Aine Keating. Galway countered on 28 minutes when a probing run through the middle by Aoife Coen presented lively centre half forward Lorraine Meehan with a pathway on goal and she duly split the posts to restore the tribeswomen’s two goal advantage on a scoreline of 2-5 to 0-5. Cork’s wing forward Fiona Keating had the final day of this enthralling opening period however when she took advantage of some excellent approach play to open her account on the stroke of half time with a neat point from play. While both sides were guilty of some errant shooting in that first half, the Corribsiders were full value for their five point lead on the balance of goal chances created and percentage of possession secured. Galway were setting the pace and controlling proceedings for the most part but Cork were hanging in despite being on the back foot and were well within striking distance on the scoreboard. Five points was not an insurmountable mountain to climb if they could seize back the momentum and dictate matters on the resumption.
Cork improved immeasurably in the third quarter in terms of conviction, self belief, attitude and application but their trojan efforts at reducing the deficit were ultimately to no avail. Eve Mullins and Aine Keating really upped the ante in the midfield stakes and full forward Kate Dennehy showed tremendous leadership with a hat trick of points but these were cancelled out at the other end by two converted frees from Andrea Trill allied to Lorraine Meehan’s second point from play. Cork really needed a goal to ignite their challenge but the Galway full back line of Siobhan Fahy, Chelsea Crowe and Louise Coen tightened up considerably after the interval restricting their immediate opponents to shots from distance. Indeed, it would have been a lot worse from Cork during this period if Andrea Trill had converted two further gilt edged goal chances created for her by the increasingly influential Chloe Miskell. The crossbar intervened on Cork’s behalf for the first one on 36 minutes and four minutes later Sarah Murphy repeated her first half heroics injuring herself at the feet of Trill in the process.
Galway led by 2-9 to 0-9 by the fortieth minute and further points by Chloe Miskell, Sophie Healy and Andrea Trill over the course of the next five minutes appeared to leave them in a commanding position. A misdirected Cork kickout on 47 minutes then led to the concession of a third goal and ultimately put paid to their ambition of winning a first national title at this level since 2014. The aforementioned kickout was intercepted by the vigilant Andrea Trill who transferred immediately to the overlapping Aoife Lynagh and the LGFA Player of the Match capped a wonderful individual display with a stunning strike into the far corner. Galway now led by 2-12 to 0-9 but Linda Barry’s charges refused to cave in under their impending fate and tore into their opponents with a new found ferocity in the run in. Aoife Twomey cancelled out Aoife Lynagh’s goal inside a minute.Katie Quirke added a pointed free on 49 minutes and then blasted another close range free to the back of the Galway net on 52 minutes to bring her side right back into contention with eight minutes remaining. Galway were temporarily shaken and looking vulnerable for the first time in the match. The next score would be crucial and it went the way of the westerners, a third pointed from the unerring boot of Andrea Trill on 55 minutes. Chloe Miskell followed suit one minute later on and suddenly the large contingent of Galway supporters were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Katie Quirke converted her final free for Cork on 58 minutes before Galway substitute Mollie Hynes landed a beautiful long range effort in the final minute to confirm Galway’s overall superiority on the day. Galway Manager Kieran Collins and his management team of Annette Clarke, Johnny Lynagh, Rebecca McPhilbin, Maura Burke and Marion Reynolds will take tremendous satisfaction from this well deserved victory over the Munster champions. The Kilconly native has nurtured and moulded a squad of talented individuals into an awesome collective unit that play a brilliant brand of breathtaking football which makes for compulsive viewing for the purists, and therein lies the most satisfying aspect of Galway LGFA celebrating its first All Ireland Under 16 title since 2012 and only the third in its thirty three hist