All-Ireland Senior Final: Cork vs. Kilkenny. Croke Park, Dublin. Sunday, 9 September 2018.
Final Score: Cork 0-14 Kilkenny 0-13
Cork broke Kilkenny hearts by the smallest of margins for the second year in a row. When Orla Cotter stepped up to take the last-minute free, there was a sense of inevitability in the air. Having missed an earlier scoreable free, she wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. Cotter stepped up, struck the sliotar sweetly and it flew over the bar to put the Rebels ahead by 1 point.
It promised to be an intriguing competition, and that’s exactly what the c.21,000 strong crowd were treated to. What no-one was expecting was the unusual start to proceedings that saw the sliotar thrown-in 4 minutes later than scheduled. Both teams huddled together after the national anthem, neither eager to line out. Was it mind games or was it simply a desire to get the last team chat in? It could have been either, it could have been both. Aoife Murray and Cork broke away and Kilkenny found the Cork forwards swarming the Kilkenny square. The confusion of the teams’ set up caused the referee, Eamon Cassidy, to direct the players to the correct line out before he was happy to get things underway.
It was a somewhat bizarre start to a game in which neither team were willing to give an inch. Kilkenny were playing into Hill 16 and with the wind at their backs powered into the match with the first point from Michelle Quilty after 15 seconds. Anna Farrell then sent a shot wide, before Chloe Sigerson and Orla Cotter put the Rebels ahead 2 points to 1 after 5 minutes. After Kilkenny’s bright start, Cork were starting to exert some pressure. Gemma O’Connor sent a pass into the right corner for Amy O’Connor to run on to. O’Connor was bearing down on goal when Anne Dalton flicked the sliotar away just as O’Connor was about to pull the trigger. O’Connor clashed with Denise Gaule who had been running back to help out her defence. There didn’t look to be a whole lot in the challenge other than two people running into each other. However, after a consultation with his umpires, the referee decided to give a penalty to Cork.
Aoife Murray was called forward to take the penalty, and perhaps because her lift wasn’t ideal, she decided to take a point. With Cotter scoring another free, Cork were up by 4 points to one. Kilkenny started to draw themselves back into the game when Katie Power, often the sole Kilkenny forward at the edge of the square, was fouled after fielding a high ball from Julie Ann Malone. Gaule pointed that free and a 45 following a Kilkenny goal chance, while Malone added a score of her own to level the match. Cork went 2 points up again to lead by 6 points to 4. However, Kilkenny got the next 4 scores including a contender for score of the match from Denise Gaule, about 67m out from the goal on the Hogan Stand side. This time, Kilkenny were in the ascendency and it appeared the Cats would go in 2 points up at half-time. Cork denied them the opportunity and Orla Cronin who scored 2 points in the additional minute, to send the teams level in at the break.
This match was pendulum-like, swinging back and forth between the two sides over the course of the 62 minutes. Demonstrated yet again in the second half, with the battle of the free-takers really taking off. Cork, playing with the wind in the second half, went a point ahead through Katrina Mackey, then Gaule reigned them in with a free. Cotter then put 2 points between the teams through excellent free-taking. Dalton was unlucky not to score after combining well with Grace Walsh, both of whom were constantly looking to drive forward for Kilkenny. The Cats scored 2 in a row with a point from play from Meighan Farrell and another free from Gaule and the teams were level for the sixth time on 11 points apiece. 3 minutes later Kilkenny had another goal chance diverted out by Murray for a 45. Gaule dispatched this and Kilkenny were up by 12 points to 11 with 8 minutes left. Chloe Sigerson missed an attempt from distance, and moments later Kilkenny had a very scoreable free in for a high tackle on Denise Gaule. After receiving treatment, Gaule took the free which dropped short of the goal.
Amy O’Connor stepped up for the Rebels to level the match yet again on 12 points each. Cork edged ahead when Davina Tobin was deemed to have been charging and Siguerson brilliantly dispatched the free from about 70m out. 13 points to 12 with 2 minutes left, plus extra time. There was still time for Kilkenny to come back, and come back they did.
Anna Farrell was fouled after collecting a crossfield ball from Dalton. Gaule once again stepped up to the plate and coolly slotted the sliotar over the bar as we went into additional time. The teams were level for the eighth time and the audience wondered were we watching the first drawn camogie final in 37 years. The referee then spotted an infringement that no-one else did and awarded a free to Cork in the 61st minute. Orla Cotter once again demonstrated her skill and composure in scoring what was to be the winning free for Cork. There was time for a final shot on goal for Kilkenny, but it just wasn’t to be. The Rebels retained the title of All-Ireland Champions for the second year in a row.
The Cork Intermediate team also brought glory to the Rebel county, securing a win of 1-13 to 0-09 over Down. Catch the teams along the way for the homecoming.