2024 TG4 All-Ireland Finals tickets

Cork 1-7 Armagh 1-6

Cork 1-7 Armagh 1-6

TG4 All-Ireland

Ladies SFC final

IT WAS only by the narrowest margins and came after
a rollercoaster hour which included a controversial sin-binning
and another hotly debated wide. But Cork didn’t care as they wildly
celebrated retaining their TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football
title in Croke Park yesterday.

Breezy American sportscasters would no doubt dream up a natty phrase
– ‘the couble’ perhaps – for what seven of them (Briege Corkery,
Angela Walsh, Rena Buckley and Mary O’Connor of the starters) achieved
in completing the All-Ireland camogie and football double for the
second year running.

But there was nothing easy or happy-clappy about this one.

At half-time the defending champions sat dazed and confused after
an early Armagh blitz that rocked them to the core.

Last year’s junior champions, who had remarkably reached their first
senior final within a year, showed that was absolutely no fluke
by explosively scoring 1-3 to 0-1 in the first quarter.

Their 17th minute goal was a stunner, a training ground move from
a short ’45 that Alma O’Donnell took to Maggs McAlinden.

She quickly laid it off to Mairead Tennyson whose high shot dipped
lethally at the last minute to beat Cork ‘keeper Elaine Harte who
was otherwise rock solid under a first-half barrage of high balls.

For the first 25 minutes the Ulster champions’ brilliant harrying
tactics and support play was everything that had been expected and
a perfect doppelganger of their men’s game.

Alma O’Donnell and Caroline O’Hanlon were immense at midfield, as
was O’Donnell’s twin Bronagh at centre-back.

Daughter McAlinden, daughter of former player Brian, started at
corner-forward and played a key roving role as their forwards hunted
down a Cork defence who could suddenly only see orange.

When Cork managed to get upfield they were wasteful, shooting short
or wide (six by the break), with half-forward Nollaig Cleary only
pointing a great goal chance thanks to Valerie Mulcahy, in the 28th

There were louder groans then when a deflected long-range shot from
Mary O’Connor fell to Amanda Murphy who was only stopped goaling
by a brilliant save from goalkeeper Fionnuala McAtamney.

Net result? Cork went in four points down (0-3 to 1-4) with their
double dream in serious tatters.

They re-opened equally inconsistently, with points from captain
Juliet Murphy and Caoimhe Creedon while brilliant corner-back Briege
Corkery yielded only wides from two trademark bursts upfield.

But then came the game’s turning point when Caoimhe Marley (daughter
of Noel) was yellow-carded in the 40th minute for a late tackle
on Geraldine O’Flynn.

Many thought it harsh and while Cork were obviously already fighting
back, it was undoubtedly a big fillip.

Within three minutes wing-forward Nollaig Cleary got a chance to
goal again and while her first shot came off the woodwork she had
the presence to place the second chance.

Suddenly the Rebelettes had only their second lead of the game and
a life-line they so badly needed and from then on it was not for
the faint-hearted.

Defender With the brilliant Corkery as a spare defender for the
next 10 minutes, they dominated possession but squandered chance
after chance, shooting seven of their eight second-half sides in
the third quarter.

Armagh, to their credit, hung on for dear life.

They hadn’t scored since their first-half goal but an inspirational
point from Caroline O’Hanlon finally ended a 34-minute scoreless
spell to level it with 15 minutes remaining.

Points from Amanda Murphy and wing-back Geraldine O’Flynn put Cork
two clear with eight minutes left before Mairead Tennyson got the
margin back to a point with four minutes remaining and Armagh shot
three wides in those dying minutes.

But Cork’s experience and never-say-die attitude closed it out and
ladies football chiefs will be mightily relieved the one-point margin
was not reversed because, in an embarrassing repeat of their semi-finals
controversy, Cork appeared to have a legitimate point (from Val
Mulcahy) ruled incorrectly wide by an umpire just before half-time.

Cliona Foley of The Irish Independent

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