By DARAGH SMALL
Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald believes his young side have the potential to return to past glories, as they clung on for an inspirational victory over champions Dublin in the Lidl National Football League Division 1 semi-final.
Cork haven’t contested a league final since they won five-in-a-row between 2013 and 2017, but they returned to another decider after a gruelling encounter in the sweltering heat at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.
Orla Finn scored 0-13 and Melissa Duggan’s goal was crucial in the end. Niamh McEvoy and Sinéad Aherne scored the Dublin goals. The teams were level 2-9 to 1-12 at the end of normal time but Cork ran down the clock and claimed the win.
Cork had already defeated Dublin in the last round of the league, but in the league semi-finals it took two periods of extra-time to separate the two heavyweights of Ladies football.
“It was some spectacle,” said Fitzgerald.
“I am very, very proud of the girls. We beat Dublin two weeks ago and people were telling us they were short (of players).
“At the end of the day, we will probably be meeting them later on in the championship, but this is a big lift for our girls.
“We are in another national final in two weeks’ time, and that is something for our girls to look forward to.
“Dublin are a very formidable side, with top class players, particularly in the forward line. So from our point of view, it’s a confidence builder as much as anything else.”
Galway await in the final, and having topped the standings with six wins from their seven games, Donegal’s conquerors will be a tough proposition.
But Cork have now beaten Dublin in back-to-back games in the league and they will head into the final full of confidence and backed by the momentum of a colossal success.
Dublin will take a step back and prepare for their Leinster final with Westmeath, while their manager Mick Bohan says this loss has hurt his side.
“The last defeat wouldn’t have bothered me but today bothered me,” said Bohan.
“But there is nothing between the two teams and we would have known that going into the All-Ireland final last year. A kick of a ball and on another day the kick of the ball could have gone our way.”
Dublin had to do without Sinéad Goldrick who pulled out with a broken hand that she suffered during a tackling drill in training. Bohan says she will be back fit in four to six weeks.
“She is a huge player and has been a warrior for this team for many a year. On a day like today she would have made a huge difference but that’s the nature of sport,” said Bohan.
Scorers – Cork: O Finn 0-13 (12f), M Duggan 1-1, N Cotter 0-1, C O’Sullivan 0-1, O Farmer 0-1, E Scally 0-1.
Dublin: S Aherne 1-4 (1-0 pen, 2f), N McEvoy 1-4 (3f), N Healy 0-1, L Magee 0-1, S Killeen 0-1, N Owens 0-1, N Hetherton 0-1, K Sullivan 0-1.
Cork: M O’Brien; M Duggan, H Looney, C O’Shea; S Kelly, A Hutchings, E Kiely; N Cotter, M O’Callaghan; C O’Sullivan, O Farmer, L O’Mahony; L Coppinger, A O’Sullivan, O Finn.
Subs: E Scally for O’Mahony (21), S Noonan for Finn (50), D Kiely for Kelly (53), E Meaney for O’Shea (53), S O’Leary for E Kiely (61), O Finn for A O’Sullivan (60), L O’Mahony for O’Leary (70), S Kelly for Cotter (74), C O’Shea for Duggan (81).
Dublin: C Trant; E Rutledge, N Collins, R Ruddy; A Kane, S Finnegan, O Carey; J Dunne, M Byrne; C Rowe, S Aherne, L Davey; N Owens, N McEvoy, N Healy.
Subs: L Magee for Rutledge (35), S Killeen for Davey (50), N Hetherton for Dunne (51), S Woods for Rowe (60), K Sullivan for Owens (f-t), N Owens for Healy (70), J Dunne for Magee (78), H O’Neill for Owens (80).
Referee: N McCormack (Laois)