TG4 All-Ireland SFC Final
16 September 2018
A record 50,141 people packed into Croke Park on Sunday to see Cork take on reigning champions Dublin. On a big day for women. the 50,000+ strong crowd also included Sinn Féin’s Presidential nominee Líadh Ní Riada, announced only earlier that day, and leader Mary-Lou McDonald who were spotted mingling with supporters (football, not political) outside the stadium before throw-in. It was a fine, sunny day for the 2018 decider augmented by a wonderful atmosphere from a bumper crowd eager to see what Cork and Dublin had in store.
— Ladies Football (@LadiesFootball) September 17, 2018
And what a game the fans were treated to! Although it took until the 6th minute to get the first score, Dublin were quicker to settle with a free and a point, which could easily have been a goal, from captain, Sinéad Aherne.
Cork responded sharply to level the match and go 1 point ahead after 13 minutes through 3 Orla Finn free kicks. Cork looked threatening when going forward with Ciara O’Sullivan, Hannah Looney and Máire O’Callaghan attacking at pace.
The Dubliners were equal to the task, however, with forwards and midfielders coming back to supplement the likes of Sinéad Goldrick, Leah Caffrey and Sinéad Finnegan in defence. Nicole Owens scored a lovely point from play after Dublin recycled the ball across the 45m line, and the teams were level again. Dublin were awarded a penalty when Lyndsey Davey was fouled in the penalty area. The Dubs worked the ball out of the backs, through Goldrick, Owens and Niamh McEvoy on the left wing, and into the path of the on-running Davey.
Aherne made no mistake from the spot and suddenly the Dubs were a goal ahead after 17 minutes. Moments later, Áine O’Sullivan settled the Cork ship with their first point from play to leave two between them. Niamh Collins cut out a tempting ball that was sent into Eimear Scally in full-forward, an excellent piece of defending that resulted in a remarkable score from Aherne at the far end of the pitch.
Once again there was a goal in the difference (1-4 to 0-4).A mere minute and a half later, the teams were level for the third time. The Dubs were defending another Cork attack when Sinéad Goldrick gained possession on the edge of the penalty area. Goldrick slipped and from the ground attempted to pass the ball to a colleague. The pass was short and Áine O’Sullivan was the quickest to react. Pouncing on the loose ball, she quickly settled her footwork, took the shot and the ball curled around the goalie and into the top right corner. The teams were on an even keel once again.
This was short lived as Aherne put the Dubs ahead with another well-taken free. With 2 minutes to go until half-time, Carla Rowe put yet more distance between the teams with a 2nd Dublin goal after Noelle Healy made a strong run through the Cork backs. Cork got a point back through Ciara O’Sullivan, before Dublin demonstrated intelligent game management, maintaining possession until Niamh McEvoy scored on the stroke of half-time.
Cork registered the first 2 scores of the second half through an Orla Finn point from play and a free. Cork were piling on the pressure in the opening quarter with direct running into the Dublin half. In also shutting down 2 Dublin attacks, the Rebels were playing more positively in the opening few minutes.
After 7 minutes, Owens got her second point for Dublin to put a goal between the teams again, until yet another free from Finn reduced the margin to 2 points (2-7 to 1-8). The Cork forwards put pressure on the resulting kick-out which led to an Eimear Scally goal chance.
The pressure forced the Dubs to make an error and Cork capitalised immediately. Ashling Hutchings and Ciara O’Sullivan combined to send the ball out to Áine O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan then found Scally to the right of the penalty area, who then saw her shot saved on the line by Niamh Collins. Scally was unfortunate not to score the subsequent 45. Aherne calmed things down for the Dubs with her fifth point. Driving towards the Cork goal she found her first shot blocked and subsequently won the free which she duly converted.
It was an evenly matched period of the game, where both defences were constantly on the alert and interfering in any perceived threat. Cork were attacking the Dublin goal through the tireless running of captain O’Sullivan, Hutchings and O’Callaghan.
The play was switching from one end of the pitch to the other at speed. With a further 2 frees from Orla Finn to leave 1 point between the teams with 12 minutes to go, we were in for quite a battle. That is, until Carla Rowe decided one goal in an All-Ireland Final wasn’t enough for one player. Martha Byrne romped up the field in support of her colleagues. On a barnstorming run towards goal, she was fouled. The referee allowed advantage and Rowe didn’t need to be asked twice. Having received the pass from Byrne, she dispatched the ball to the back of the net to give the Dubs 4 points worth of breathing space (3-8 to 1-10).
It was a blow to the Cork challenge, but they rallied 3 minutes later with an 8th free from Orla Finn. However, when Davey was fouled on the right wing, there was no doubt that Aherne would plant the subsequent free firmly over the bar. Áine O’Sullivan missed a chance after Cork moved the ball up the field from the backs. Siobhán McGrath contributed her own point from play when the Dubs displayed great patience in moving the ball around the 45m line for 3 minutes before McGrath saw the opening.
With only a few minutes left and 5 points between them, Cork captain, Ciara O’Sullivan demonstrated some desperation when taking a shot on goal that was easily blocked.
Fittingly, Dublin’s last point was scored by captain Aherne who showed some tricky footwork on the right and sent the ball over the bar to put the Dubs up by 6 points. Doireann O’Sullivan scored the last point of the match for Cork with a dangerous free kick that almost lobbed the Dublin goalie. On a scoreline of 3-11 to 1-12, Dublin retained the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time in their history, and are All-Ireland Champions for only the 3rd time ever.
Dublin are @TG4TV Senior All-Ireland Champions!!
— Ladies Football (@LadiesFootball) September 16, 2018