By Declan Rooney at Croke Park
Dublin saved their best performance of the season for when they needed it most, but Mick Bohan’s side brought the ladies game to another level to claim consecutive All-Ireland titles in front of a record attendance at Croke Park.
A crowd of 50,141 were treated to a remarkable game that ebbed and flowed, but following Carla Rowe’s first goal four minutes before half-time Dublin never trailed again and inflicted a first ever All-Ireland final defeat on a Cork side who have won it 11 times.
Ephie Fitzgerald’s side also played their part in their cracking decider and twice closed to within two points of the champions in the second period, but despite eight Orla Finn frees, they couldn’t grab hold of Dublin and fell agonisingly short.
“We’re incredibly proud because realistically we have been building for this for 18 months since we came in,” said Bohan.
“When we came in we felt that they (Cork) were the standard bearers and to take the crown we would have had to take them out. And that’s said with massive respect to them because they brought the game to that level and it has been our goal to set a standard higher than them.
“You’d have to take your hats off to the contest out there today from both teams. For anyone trying to promote women’s sport, it was brave, honest, relentless.
“I think the rules of the game went out the window, rightly so, because it just became an absolute white heat of battle contest. It was absolutely fantastic to see – I hope you enjoyed the spectacle because I thought both teams were absolutely fantastic.”
The early stages of this final were laced with big hits and excellent tackling from both sides, but after a couple of Sinéad Aherne points, Cork’s Finn kicked three frees in a row to give her side the lead.
Dublin levelled through Nicolle Owens, but they reclaimed the lead when Aherne converted a penalty following a foul on Lyndsey Davey after 17 minutes.
Cork were soon level though when Áine O’Sullivan found the top corner of Ciara Trant’s net following a mix up in the Dublin defence – Sinéad Goldrick says she thought she heard the referee’s whistle – but by half-time Dublin had pulled 2-6 to 1-5 ahead thanks to Rowe’s first, a classy finish that was the perfect signature to a flowing move.
A coupe of early second-half Finn frees pulled Cork to within two points before Aherne restored Dublin’s interval cushion, but when Rowe stepped on to her left side for the second time and hit the net, Dublin were five clear with 11 minutes to go. There was no way back.
“You lose an All-Ireland it's going to be raw for a few days,” said Fitzgerald. “I've the utmost respect for the Dublin girls, and in their defeats they took it very graciously and that's what we have to do as well.
“And we have to put our hands up and say Dublin were better than us on the day and salute them. We'll get on with it and we will re-group.”