By DECLAN ROONEY
Dublin 1-10 Cork 1-5
Dublin won their fourth TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship-in-a-row as a powerful second-half display and Carla Rowe’s penalty got them past Cork at Croke Park.
A goal from Áine Terry O’Sullivan early on gave Cork a brilliant start, but despite leading by three points at the interval, they could only add two second-half points as Dublin took charge.
Rowe’s 35th minute penalty gave Dublin a lead they never relinquished and Mick Bohan’s side finished strongly to reclaim the Brendan Martin Cup.
Both teams finished with 14 players following late sin-binnings for Doireann O’Sullivan and Lauren Magee, but there was no denying Dublin.
The champions were boosted with Sinead Aherne shaking off the effects of the hamstring injury that ended her semi-final involvement against Armagh, but she was uncharacteristically off target with a first-minute free.
Cork showed their cutting edge at the other end two minutes later when Ciara O’Sullivan and Doireann O’Sullivan linked up well, before Áine Terry O’Sullivan cut in from the right and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the top corner in a dream start for the challengers.
Nicole Owens got Dublin up and running with a point after four minutes, but Bohan’s side were guilty of some wayward shooting in that first half with six wides to their name by the interval.
At the opposite end Cork were efficient and Áine Terry O’Sullivan added to her early goal with a point laid on by Hannah Looney.
Orla Finn shot one of two Cork wides in that opening half, but she rounded off a superb move by the Cork forwards with a score that put them 1-2 to 0-1 clear.
With the Cork wing forwards providing excellent width there was a lot of space for runner like Ciara O’Sullivan to attack, and they came close to adding to their tally on a couple of occasions.
But Dublin were getting success running at Cork too, and when Martina O’Brien denied Owens and Noelle Healy shot inches wide, two goal chances went unclaimed by Dublin.
An Aherne free and a Healy point closed the deficit to two points 12 minutes before the break, but Cork finished the half well with a Finn free following some patient play, which was launched by Saoirse Noonan’s interception in her own half-back line.
Cork were 1-3 to 0-3 ahead at half time and a Finn free crashed back off the post early in the half as they sought to stretch their advantage, but instead a score from Aoife Kane cut Dublin’s deficit to two points.
Three minutes later Dublin reclaimed the lead when Rowe converted a penalty, after she was fouled by O’Brien as she closed in on goal.
With Jennifer Dunne and Lauren Magee making a big impact in the third quarter Dublin continued to dominate, and a free from Rowe pushed them two points clear.
That lead was three after another driving run from Kane earned a free, which Rowe scored, but Cork finally got their first point of the second half in the 44th minute following a quick free by Doireann O’Sullivan, which Ciara O’Sullivan pointed.
Kate Sullivan, who replaced Aherne at the interval, got on the scoresheet with a good point after 50 minutes following a powerful turnover from Sinead Goldrick, and although Finn hit back from a free, Owens restored Dublin’s three-point lead.
Cork lost their captain Doireann O’Sullivan to the sin bin four minutes from time and Magee followed her shortly after, and the champions made sure of victory when Healy landed her second point a minute later.
Dublin: C Trant, A Kane (0-1), N Collins, M Byrne, L Caffrey, S McGrath, S Goldrick, L Magee, J Dunne, N Owens (0-2), N McEvoy, C Rowe (1-3/1-0 pen/3f), S Aherne (c, 0-1f), N Healy (0-2), L Davey. Subs: K Sullivan (0-1) for Aherne (h-t), S McCaffrey for McEvoy (47), O Nolan for Kane (47), C O’Connor for Owens (58), S Aherne for Davey (60).
Cork: M O’Brien, M Duggan, R Phelan, E Meaney, E O’Shea, A Hutchings, S Kelly, M O’Callaghan, H Looney, E Kiely, Á O’Sullivan (1-1), O Finn )-3/2f), C O’Sullivan (0-1), D O’Sullivan (c), S Noonan. Subs: N Cotter for E Kiely (43), S O’Leary for Finn (53), L Coppinger for Noonan (53), A Kelleher for Meaney (60), M Cahalane to Kelly (60).
Referee: Jonathan Murphy (Carlow).
‘A WORK IN PROGRESS’ – EPHIE FITZGERALD
“We were under big pressure and Dublin had their tails up. The penalty gave them a lot of oxygen, a lot more energy,” said Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald after the game.
“We missed a few chances in the first half. We had a few goal chances and a free at the start of the second half that would have put us four up. The penalty was a turnover from us.
“There’s a whole range of little things, but they got 1-2 or 1-3 without reply which meant we were under pressure then. We lost our shape a little bit, but that’s understandable.
“We felt if we didn’t concede a goal in the first 10 or 12 minutes of the second half, it would have been tit for tat. But that’s just the way it goes. I can’t fault them in fairness.
“We’re still a work in progress, they’re a seasoned, hardened, fantastic football team. The level of conditioning and pace they can play at is very, very high,” the former Nemo Rangers and Cork star concluded.