By Tomás McCarthy
Cork's super sub could prove Cork's super starter in 2019. Full forward Saoirse Noonan fired 2-3 from play in Fraher Field as the Rebelettes captured back-to-back TG4 Munster Ladies SFC titles and their 13th in total.
The Nemo Rangers star netted six championship goals off the bench last summer but her claims for a starting berth are becoming hard for Ephie Fitzgerald to ignore. She shot 1-2 against Kerry in the previous round and was Cork's go-to forward again in a convincing final win. Melissa Duggan, Aishling Hutchings, Daire Kiely, Niamh Cotter and Orla Finn also featured prominently for the victors.
Waterford started brightly but rued two missed goal chances from Katie Murray in either half. Maria Delahunty sent over five points while Karen McGrath and Mairead Wall were strong at the back.
The home side, who haven't won a provincial title since 2002, played with a stiff wind at first and Maria Delahunty kicked their opener after just 45 seconds. Michelle Ryan then flicked over a Delahunty free, while Niamh Cotter got Cork off the mark in the fifth minute before Orla Finn levelled from a free. Chloe Fennell and Kelly Ann Hogan restored Waterford's two-point advantage.
Waterford manager Ciaran Curran packed 12 players inside their 45 to curtail Cork and it paid off when Karen McGrath made a vital intercept as Saoirse Noonan advanced on goal. The Rebelettes broke through the blanket on the quarter hour however, as Aishling Hutchings put Noonan in the clear and she slipped the ball past Rosie Landers for a 1-2 to 0-4 advantage.
A Delahunty double edged the Déise county back in front, before Delahunty then sent Katie Murray in one on one with Martina O'Brien but she blazed over the bar, which kept Waterford a point ahead.
Cork's deadly inside duo ensured a narrow half-time lead though. Noonan set up Finn to level matters for the fourth time. Then Noonan shrugged off two Waterford backs to increase her tally to 1-1. It was then Daire Kiely’s turn to capitalise from a Cork counter attack to make it 1-6 to 0-7 at the break.
Finn, Noonan and Cotter extended Cork's lead to five, four minutes into the second period. At the other end, Katie Murray struck the post with the goal at her mercy. The shot crashed off the inside of the post and somehow stayed out.
On 41 minutes, a slick passing move involving Cotter and Libby Coppinger was palmed to the net by the unmarked Noonan, which put Cork 2-11 to 0-7 ahead.
Finn, Ciara O'Sullivan and Noonan put the icing on the cake and a couple of late frees from Delahunty only softened Cork’s winning margin.
Scorers – Cork: S Noonan 2-3, O Finn 0-4 (2f), D Kiely 0-2, N Cotter 0-2, E Kiely 0-1, C O'Sullivan 0-1, L Coppinger 0-1. Waterford: M Delahunty 0-5 (3f), K Murray 0-1, KA Hogan 0-1, C Fennell 0-1, M Ryan 0-1.
Cork: M O’Brien; H Looney, E Meaney, M Duggan; S Kelly, A Hutchings, E Kiely; N Cotter, O Farmer; C O'Sullivan, E Scally, D Kiely; L Coppinger, S Noonan, O Finn.
Subs: M O'Callaghan for Farmer (h-t), A O'Sullivan for Cotter (43), E Spillane for D Kiely (43), R Ní Bhuachalla for Coppinger (45) C O'Shea for Kelly (55).
Waterford: R Landers; Kate McGrath, C McGrath, M Wall; R Tobin, Karen McGrath, S Dunphy; E Murray, K Murray; K.A. Hogan, C Fennell, M Delahunty; E Fennell, M Ryan, A Wall.
Subs: L McGregor for E Fennell (44), B Valuntaite for Tobin (53).
Referee: S Mulvihill (Kerry).Tweet