Going into the decider as reigning champions and favorites, Galway failed to live up to their reputation as Cork took home the silverware for the first time in the county’s history to complete what’s already being termed the “Rebel Treble,” after earlier successes in the All Ireland senior men’s hurling and All Ireland senior camogie finals.
For five of the players who had tasted glory in the camogie final, this latest victory was especially sweet as they came from a point behind at the interval to overpower Galway with a highly impressive second half performance.
While just over 23,000 spectators showed up, and there was a good atmosphere in the stadium, such an attendance poses the question of the viability of Croke Park being opened for future finals.
However, that topic was of no concern of Cork’s as they played some glorious football after the changeover. Trailing by 0-4 to 0-3, the winners pressed forward with the fleet — footed Valerie Mulcahy helping herself to 1-5 which included a superbly taken penalty after substitute Deirdre O’Reilly had been fouled, and Nollaig Cleary adding 0-3.
With the Cork defense ably led by Angela Walsh — although Niamh Fahey, who had just returned from Estonia where she was representing Ireland’s under 19s in soccer, was a constant threat — Briege Corkery in particular was able to push upfield on occasions, while captain Juliette Murphy was influential at midfield.
“I thought if we got any bit of a run at them in the second half we’d have a very good chance,” said Cork coach Eamonn Ryan, himself a beaten All Ireland finalist in 1967. “Nollaig Cleary wasn’t in the game in the first half, and I knew if she came good there were some scores there.
“We’ve been working on every player becoming a defender when the opposition has the ball, and so we did a lot of blocking and crowding so they couldn’t get their shots in,” Ryan added.
Fahey top-scored for Galway with 0-3, although the Connacht county’s disappointing total of just eight points was due in some measure to their decision to bring Rebecca McPhilbin back to midfield to mark Murphy.
Meanwhile, Armagh should probably have been made to pay the penalty for a total of 25 wides as they claimed the All Ireland women’s junior title with a 0-12 to 0-9 victory over Sligo also at Croke Park. In their defense, they had a legitimate goal by Patricia McEvoy disallowed and were the stronger team in the closing stages.