Cora unstoppable in Connacht decider

Cora unstoppable in Connacht Final



Mayo 3-16 Galway 3-15 (After Extra-Time) MIKE FINNERTY TUAM

Article submitted by the Mayo News

EXPECT the unexpected. The phrase
should be written in great bold letters in the match programme
the next time these teams cross swords and continue their
epic rivalry. Last Sunday at Tuam Stadium they took us on
a fascinating journey that ebbed and flowed for seventy minutes
before ending in a manner that befitted the occasion.

As Mayo’s long-serving captain, Christina Heffernan, hoisted
the CBE Cup towards the cloudy heavens, she reflected on the
match that had just ended. She thanked Galway for the part
they had played and paid tribute to her team-mates too. Nobody
could have put it any better. The teams were level six times
during an absorbing match. Mayo led by five points after nine
minutes yet Galway were nine clear with twenty minutes left.
And still the defending champions had to dig out an equaliser
with only six seconds remaining. And the difference between
the teams in the end? Well, Cora Staunton of course whose
nerveless place-kicking defied logic. Despite missing a couple
of frees here and there she still ended with the magnificent
tally of 2-13, including the winning score that was swung
over with typical nonchalance in the final minute of extra-time.
All of Cora’s points came from frees while one goal was a
freakish score and the other came from a rebound after her
penalty kick had been saved. It was as if she took a break
from the rigours of single-handedly beating defences and decided
to concentrate on the not-so-simple matter of kicking match-winning
scores. But if Cora drilled the points and earned the headlines
there was no shortage of willing and able foot-soldiers either.

Cora Staunton and fan club

In defence, Helena Lohan, Marcella Heffernan, Martha Carter and
Caroline McGing were competitive throughout and seldom paused
for breath. Lohan provided stability and grace under fire like
only she can while Martha Carter subdued Galway’s leading light,
Niamh Fahey, as well as anybody has in recent times. Elsewhere,
Claire Egan toiled honestly in the face of Galway’s totemic midfield
partnership before eventually imposing her will on the match in
the latter stages. Her abrasive style and strong running were
also instrumental in Mayo’s recovery in the final quarter. Up
front, link-play and free-flowing moves were all too rare for
the most part but Fiona McHale, Ciara McDermott, Lisa Cafferkey
and sub’ Aoife Herbert all showed flashes of ingenuity. Diane
O’Hora also proved an anchor-like figure at full-forward until
her departure and remains an integral figure. In keeping with
subsequent events, the match itself began frantically with Lisa
Cafferkey side-footing a loose ball to the Galway net on six minutes
after Fiona McHale had split the defence with an exquisite pass.
Cafferkey then tagged on a neat point to leave Mayo 1-2 to 0-0
clear and eleven minutes had elapsed before Galway opened their
account through Niamh Fahey. But the homeside gradually established
a vice-like grip at midfield where Annette Clarke and Lisa Cohill
used their strength, height and experience to good effect.

The duo became the game’s most influential figures and by half-time
had helped Galway into a 1-7 to 1-5 lead. Points were reeled off
from Patricia Gleeson and Clarke (free) before Niamh Fahey’s pile-driver
was adjudged to have crossed the Mayo line despite the best efforts
of Helena Lohan in the 21st minute. An Ann-Marie McDonagh point
a minute later drew Galway level and three further scores from
Clarke (free), Lisa Cohill and Geraldine Conneally saw them edge
head by the change of ends.

Connacht Cumann na mBunscol players who
played at half time in the Senior Decider

The early stages of the second half saw Galway make a break for
the finish line as they rattled off 2-1 inside four minutes to
streak eight points clear. The purple patch was dazzling; Lisa
Cohill drilling in a 25 yard thunder-bolt that flew past Yvonne
Byrne before Edel Concannon deftly flicked the ball into the net
as Mayo’s defence was torn apart at the seams. Those goals were
still being celebrated in the stand when Martha Carter was sent
to the sin-bin and it felt like it might be one of those days
for Mayo. Cora Staunton did stop the rot with a free (her fifth
of the game) in the 38th minute but when Niamh Fahey clipped a
point in response, Galway were nine clear (3-9 to 1-6) with twenty
minutes left. Mayo’s cause seemed lost. Little did we know that
in the space of fourteen unbelievable minutes Cora Staunton would
outscore Galway by 2-5 to 0-1. It was a real one-woman band performance
and was illuminated by her first goal in the 51st minute that
changed the course of the game. It came when her shot for a point
took a deflection and looped over the head of Tina Hughes and
into the Galway net. Four minutes later and her well-struck penalty
was saved by Hughes but Cora gobbled up the rebound and buried
it. A couple of superbly-struck frees later and she had dragged
Mayo level. The madness continued when she swung over the lead
score in the 58th minute.

Galway seemed shell-shocked. To their credit they came roaring
back, Niamh Fahey putting Ann-Marie McDonagh in for the equaliser,
six seconds from the hooter, to send the match to extra-time.
The twenty minutes that followed flew by. A brace of sweet scores
from Ciara McDermott and another Staunton free had Mayo ahead
by 3-14 to 3-13 by the break. The home straight was a tense affair,
Annette Clarke levelling the game before trading frees with Cora
to restore the status quo. We wondered would we have a winner.
Predictably, the answer came from a familiar source, Claire Egan’s
barnstorming run earning the free that would decide the match.
Cora’s kick from 45 yards was sublime, never wavering as it sailed
over. Some days are diamonds and this was one of them.

Mayo Y Byrne; S McGing, H Lohan, M Kelly; M Heffernan, M Carter,
C McGing; C Egan, N O’Shea; C Staunton (2-13, 1-0 pen, 13fs),
F McHale, C McDermott (0-2); C Heffernan, D O’Hora, L Cafferkey
(1-1). Subs used: J Moran for O’Shea; A Herbert for O’Hora; C
O’Hara for Kelly; N O’Shea for C McGing.

Galway T Hughes; M Glynn, E Flaherty, S Noone; M O’Connell (0-1),
A Daly, AM McDonagh (0-1); A Clarke (0-4, 4fs), L Cohill (1-1);
P Gleeson (0-1), N Fahey (1-4, 2fs ), G Conneely (0-1); E Concannon
(1-0), S Cosgrave (0-2, 1f), R McPhilbin. Subs used: S Fitzgerald
for Glynn; B Hannon for McPhilbin; C Molloy for Concannon. Referee:
L McDonagh (Sligo)


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