Saturday 7 December 2019

Dubs forced to dig deep: O'Connor's second half goal crucial as Cork rue miss

Dublin 2-11 Cork 0-11

Dublin’s Niamh Collins is fouled by Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien resulting in a penalty. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Dublin’s Niamh Collins is fouled by Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien resulting in a penalty. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Dublin finished on the up. They make a habit of that. Finding their second wind as the last bend comes into view.

And now they'll prepare for the All-Ireland final against Galway.

Beating Cork will inject a slice of confidence. And, for much of the way, they had to dig deep to do it.

On a day that witnessed Croke Park host the Ladies football semi-finals for the first time. And which attracted a crowd of over 10,000 on a warm afternoon.

Following the match, the Cork manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, came out into the corridor and announced that he was stepping down.

"I have had four years in the job. I had made my mind up before today, win or lose," he revealed.

Dublin won the game in the second half as they attacked the Hill 16 end. They saw more of the ball. Winning the dirty ball, time and again. And they looked more relaxed in possession.

Picking the right pass.

Noelle Healy coming off the bench for the second half added much to the mix. Dublin were running more and more at the Cork defence.

And the All-Ireland champions were working so hard all over the turf. Siobhán McGrath got the Player-of-the-Match. And it was richly deserved.

In the second period, the midfielder was only a couple of yards away from her own goal as she made a vital block on Niamh Cotter.

Caoimhe O’Connor scores Dublin's first goal of the game. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Caoimhe O’Connor scores Dublin's first goal of the game. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The introduction of Caoimhe O'Connor was also a telling factor. The Clontarf forward always makes an impact when she enters the action. And she scored the crucial opening goal.

At that stage, Dublin just led by a point. And seconds before O'Connor's goal, Áine O'Sullivan came within inches of a Cork goal.

Ciara O'Sullivan played her through, and Áine, on the left, saw her shot with the outside of the right boot edge past the right-hand post.

The first half kept to the script that has followed these teams through the years. Nothing in it. Tit for tat.

Seven times they were level before the break. And it was seven points each when they ran down the tunnel of the Hogan Stand.

The game finished early for Dublin forward, Nicole Owens, who had battled so hard to regain fitness after suffering a knee injury against Monaghan.

Cork had half a chance of an early goal when Doireann O'Sullivan's strike brought a save from Dublin 'keeper, Ciara Trant.

But clear-cut openings were rare. Both sides had plenty of energy in the boots. Coming from deep. Constructing attacks.

Cork's centre half-back, Melissa Duggan, made a couple of surging bursts. As did Dublin's Sinéad Goldrick.

They were level just once in the second half. Carla Rowe's point put Dublin 0-9 to 0-8 ahead, and they held the lead from then on. Rowe had a fine match.

O'Connor's goal came 13 minutes into the restart. It had a lovely, little build-up, with Niamh McEvoy and Healy supplying the bricks.

They opened the door for O'Connor and her composed finish was as cool as her celebration.

Dublin got a breath of belief after that. Jennifer Dunne fisted over a point. The excellent Orla Finn converted yet another free for Cork that saw four points between them coming to the end.

Then Dublin broke for home. Another sweeping move that saw full-back, Niamh Collins, venture all the way up the pitch and kick the ball to the net.

But, in the process, she had been fouled by goalkeeper, Martina O'Brien. Referee, Maggie Farrelly, had blown for a penalty.

Up stepped the skipper, Sinéad Aherne. She guided her right-footed shot low to the right corner. And the Jackies had booked their ticket for September 15.

Scorers - Dublin: S Aherne 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-3f), C O'Connor 1-0, C Rowe 0-3, N McEvoy, L Davey, N Healy, J Dunne, O Whyte 0-1 each. Cork: O Finn 0-9 (8f), D O'Sullivan, E Scally 0-1 each.

Dublin: C Trant; E Rutledge, N Collins, M Byrne; A Kane, S Goldrick, O Carey; L Magee, S McGrath; C Rowe, N McEvoy, L Davey; S Aherne, N Hetherton, N Owens. Subs: O Whyte for Owens (inj, 5); N Healy for Hetherton (ht); C O'Connor for Whyte (38); J Dunne for Kane (52).

Cork: M O'Brien; H Looney, E Meaney, S Kelly; A Hutchings, M Duggan, E Kiely; N Cotter, M O'Callaghan; O Farmer, C O'Sullivan, D O'Sullivan; S Noonan, E Scally, O Finn. Subs: A O'Sullivan for Cotter (38); E Spillane for Kelly (45); L Coppinger for Noonan (47); R Ní Bhuachalla for D O'Sullivan (52); D Kiely for Kiely (52).

Wides: Dublin: 6 (3); Cork: 4 (0).

Yellow: Dublin 1 (N Collins) Cork 2: (E Meaney, C O'Sullivan).

Ref: M Farrelly (Cavan)

Attendance: 10,886

Player of the match: Siobhán McGrath (Dublin)

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