CAMOGIE: Cork 0-15 Waterford 0-10 (Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Semi-Final)
by Daragh Ó Conchúir, at Croke Park (Cork coach Davy Fitzgerald and manager Matthew Twomey ©INPHO/James Crombie)
Cork survived a titanic tussle with Waterford, overcoming a five-point second-half deficit and only hitting the front for the first time four minutes from the end of normal time to eventually chisel out a five-point victory in a pulsating Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior camogie semi-final at Croke Park.
While it was a relief for Matthew Twomey and his troops that they were able to hit top gear with the last eight points, Derek Lyons and his crew will feel that the final scoreline was scant reflection of their efforts and they will be correct in that assessment.
The game didn’t swing on the availability of Ashling Thompson after the success of her morning appeal against a two-match suspension but it was a huge factor, the Milford powerhouse having a huge impact in terms of breaking up play, doing her best Will O’Donoghue impression around the rucks and her intelligent distribution.
With Libby Coppinger a resolute presence at full-back, Hannah Looney and former Down star Sorcha McCartan storming into it in the final quarter and Amy O’Connor slotting her placed ball opportunities, Cork just had a little too much for their gallant opponents up the finishing straight.
It was a tactically intriguing affair, with Cork’s forwards lining up in a bunch on the 65 for the throw-in and then settling into three up the spine, usually with Iona Heffernan picking up McCartan (daughter of All-Ireland football winner Greg), Keely Corbett-Barry tagging Katrina Mackey and Mairéad Power marking O’Connor.
Both 6s, Clodagh Carroll for Waterford and Laura Treacy for Cork were the plus ones in defence, sweeping and taking short puckouts.
One of the big match-ups saw Katie O’Mahony shadowing up Beth Carton and it was a battle that the second leading scorer in the championship won from the throw-in until O’Mahony’s withdrawal in the 22nd minute.
By that juncture, Carton had three points on the board, two from play, and the free won for forcing O’Mahony to overcarry, though the suspicion was that she may have fouled the Inniscarra player in doing so on that occasion.
It was symptomatic of Waterford’s workrate however, and it completely knocked Cork out of their comfort zone.
Thompson came on for O’Mahony and quickly moved into the role as spare defender, with Treacy picking up Carton.
Cork, having shot five wides from largely low-percentage shots and failed to provide O’Connor and O’Mackey in particular with any quality of ball due to the pressure being exerted further out – though Corbett-Barry and O’Brien were very sticky too whenever the ball did come in – finally got off the mark through a lovely score from Mackey in the 25th minute, and McCartan split the posts three minutes later.
When Chloe Sigerson lofted over a free from the 65, tight to the right touchline, there were incredibly only two points between them. Earlier, Róisín Kirwan had shot inches over the crossbar when put through by Abby Flynn with the goal on, though Amy Lee’s dash from the line deserves credit for rushing the shot.
Waterford’s response was good though, Flynn and Rockett with a sensational score making it 0-7 to 0-3 at the break, the very least Waterford’s dominance deserved.
Rockett clipped over another less than two minutes after the restart but Cork shot four of the next five points through Mackey, Clíona Healy, O’Connor and Fiona Keating, the latter after a brilliant turnover at the other end of the field by Thompson on Bray, when a point looked on for Waterford.
Rockett fed Bray to make it a three-point game in the 46th minute but with Carton’s influence reduced greatly, Cork found another gear, with the spaces opening up and confidence growing.
O’Connor hit three on the trot to bring the sides level, the second of those came from a 45 after Brianna O’Regan made a brilliant double save from sub Emma Murphy. Murphy gave Cork the lead with a super score.
Cork were playing with more energy now as Waterford tired and winning more 50-50s as a result. They were also finding more space in the Déise half and McCartan (two), O’Connor and Keating completed the scoring.
SCORERS FOR CORK: A O’Connor 0-5(3fs, 1 45); S McCartan 0-3(1f); K Mackey, F Keating 0-2 each; C Healy, E Murphy, C Sigerson(f) 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR WATERFORD: B Carton 0-4(2fs); N Rockett 0-3; A Flynn 0-2; R Kirwan 0-1
CORK: A Lee, M Cahalane, L Coppinger, K O’Mahony, L Hayes, L Treacy, S McCarthy, M Murphy, H Looney, C Sigerson, F Keating, C Healy, S McCartan, K Mackey, A O’Connor. Subs: A Thompson for O’Mahony (22); E Murphy for Sigerson (48); O Cahalane for Healy (55); C O’Sullivan for Murphy (60+5)
WATERFORD: B O’Regan, K Corbett Barry, M Power, I Heffernan, O Hickey, C Carroll, A Landers, C Griffin, L Bray, R Walsh, A Flynn, M O’Brien, B Carton, R Kirwan, N Rockett. Subs: T Power for O’Brien (47)
REFEREE: Ray Kelly (Kildare)
Matthew Twomey (Cork manager)
“Massive relief,” the Cork boss asserted in describing his primary emotion. “When you don’t score for so long, it’s hurling suicide. It was mad but you have to give massive credit to Waterford. We’d no answer for them. They brought a lot of energy but I suppose the overriding thing to come away from it is we’re very happy with the character of the team and the way we finished the game.
“At the start of the second half we ended up being five points down and to turn that around, you have to be happy with it. Semi-finals are there for winning. I know it’s an old cliché but it’s a fact. We have to have a serious, serious look at ourselves now before we play one (the final).
“When Ashling Thompson came on, we did settle that good bit. Her first possession, she gave a ball down the wing for (Katrina) Mackey to get her first score. She’s that kind of a player, she’s immense and we missed her when she wasn’t starting.
“When you’re down Orla Cronin, Pamela Mackey, Linda Collins from last year, to lose Ashling then (was a blow).
“At lunchtime yesterday, we got notice that the (appeal) meeting was (Saturday) morning at half-past ten. Obviously, we’d a lot of work to do to get this thing over the line. She had to leave home at six o’clock in the morning to go into that meeting. Didn’t know if she’d be togging out or not, up in the stand or out in the field. She’s different gravy altogether.”
“In all fairness to Waterford, it’s their first time in 60-something years in a semi-final,” Twomey noted. “A lot of them players, it was a first time in Croke Park. When things start going against you, it’s very hard. You need experience to turn the tide. We had it, luckily. They just fell short but Derek Lyons is doing a fantastic job with them and I hope to God they come back again.”
Derek Lyons (Waterford manager)
“We gave Cork energy in the last seven or eight minutes, partly because girls were out on their feet at that stage. We carried a few injuries but that’s a testament to these girls, they were just immense and I’m so proud of them.
“They’ll be disappointed for days and weeks and maybe months but I said to them, all they can do is their best when they go out on the field and that’s what they did today and the county should be so proud on them.
“But we didn’t get it done. I keep talking about moral victories, and we’re great in Waterford to do that, men and women, so we need to move beyond that, and say, this is not about us making a spectacle for people to admire here today.
“Now that is important as well because it raises the profile of camogie in Waterford for young girls here and watching at home wanting to be the next Beth Carton, the next Lorraine Bray or the next Niamh Rockett and the girls carry that responsibility on their shoulders as well as trying to win a game, which is immense.
“We have to get a little stronger, to be better. We won’t beat Cork next year unless we’re better. But I do think the few knocks we were carrying were key. Abby was immense. She wasn’t hearing anything about not playing and she was still so effective. They had to put one of their key players on her (Coppinger). That’s the respect that Cork showed to Abby and a few of our players.
“Yesteryear, that wouldn’t be the case. So there’s another statement there in that regard… there was a day when the Corks, Tipps and Kilkennys of this world maybe just had to mark one or two players. That’s not the case anymore. We’ve made huge strides in that regard so it’s just about tightening things up a bit and moving on a small bit more.”