by Daragh Ó Conchúir, at UPMC Nowlan Park
Cork ended a run of eight consecutive losses against Galway, including three this year alone, to emerge victorious in a fiercely fought Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior camogie semi-final at UPMC Nowlan Park.
In front of a strong overall attendance for the televised double header of 7,257, the Rebels held the upper hand for most of proceedings but they found it difficult to shake off their doughty opponents.
With Waterford in the opposite corner for a unique derby final pairing, Cork will be looking to end another losing record, having fallen short in the last four national deciders stretching back to the 2021 All-Ireland.
This was a game that was less elemental than the first semi-final, cagier, with a little more testiness between players who know each other well.
Cork could find their go-to players more easily than Galway, and whereas Matthew Twomey could introduce Laura Hayes, Cliona Healy, Orla Cronin, Ashling Thompson and Orlaith Cahalane off his bench, Cathal Murray has been shorn of the talents of Niamh Kilkenny, Sarah Dervan, Sarah Healy, Catriona Cormican and Heather Cooney to name just five this year.
The westerners, who got the better of the duel between the counties in the Very League Division 1 final, battled all the way to the line, with Aoife Donohue driving them forward and Róisín Black a resolute presence in defence, but Cork would not be denied.
Libby Coppinger and official player of the match Saoirse McCarthy had huge second halves and with the subs having a big involvement, the Cork victory was merited.
It was 0-6 to 1-2 at half-time of this arm wrestle, Mackey slotting two points and O’Connor three on her way to a tally of seven.
Siobhán McGrath buried the first of her two goals in the 17th minute however, thanks to a real bit of magic by Donohue to somehow get a pass off to Rachel Hanniffy, who in turn supplied the Sarsfields finisher who drove low beyond the advancing Amy Lee.
Donohue brought the teams level but half-time sub Hayes and O’Connor pushed Cork clear, while Healy also hit the first of her two points from the bench as Matthew Twomey’s crew moved four clear.
Back came Galway with McGrath’s second goal, after Lee failed to gather, but with so much experience and talent to call upon, as well as vast reservoirs of grit, the Cork response was notable.
Healy lofted her second and when McCarthy, who had powered into the fray in the second half, pointed gloriously from a tight angle, after taking the return from a quickly-taken sideline and making ground up the left before cutting in, felt significant.
With O’Connor bringing her tally to seven and Orlaith Cahalane making it a fourth point from subs for Cork, they would not be pegged back.
SCORERS FOR CORK: A O’Connor 0-7(5fs, 1 45); K Mackey, C Healy 0-2 each; L Hayes, O Cahalane, C Sigerson(f), S McCarthy 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR GALWAY: C Dolan 0-4(3fs); S McGrath 2-0; A Donohue 0-2
CORK: A Lee, M Murphy, L Coppinger, P Mackey, M Cahalane, L Treacy, I O’Regan, A Healy, H Looney, C Sigerson, F Keating, S McCarthy, S McCartan, K Mackey, A O’Connor. Subs: L Hayes for Murphy (ht), O Cronin for McCartan (40); A Thompson for O’Regan (49)
GALWAY: F Ryan, S Healy, R Black, D Higgins, R Hanniffy, E Helebert, A Keane, A Donohue, S Gardiner, S Spellman, C Dolan, N Hanniffy, N McPeake, S McGrath, A O’Reilly. Subs: S Rabbitte for McPeake (33), O McGrath for Gardiner (50)
REFEREE: Ray Kelly (Kildare)Tweet