By Denis Hurley
The reigning TG4 All- Ireland Ladies SFC champions Cork took a while to get going in seeing off Cavan in Saturday’s quarter-final in Birr, but manager Ephie Fitzgerald believes that the eventual 20-point victory will bring on his side.
Cork, without a game since beating Kerry in the Munster final on August 10, led by 0-7 to 1-3 at half-time after playing into the win, but they produced a comprehensive second-half performance in which Cavan were held scoreless.
“I think the long lay-off affected us more than anything,” Fitzgerald said.
“They scored the goal from the throw-in, which probably set us back a bit but it kind of sharpened the minds a little bit too.
“It took us a while to peg that back, we were three points down for a lot of it. “Cavan defended well, they were very committed and supporting each other, I felt they could probably have been a point or two more ahead but I wasn’t ever that worried either.
“I know that the team were full of character but we were just that bit rusty, I think it was a six-week layoff.
“No matter how many training sessions you have, you can’t beat a championship match.”
Cavan were impressive for much of the first half, getting a huge boost as Caitríona Smith scored a goal inside 13 seconds. Though points from Orla Finn, Bríd Stack, Briege Corkery and Áine O’Sullivan had Cork in front, Cavan responded through Neasa Byrd and Smith to lead again, but by half-time Cork had edged ahead.
At half-time, Fitzgerald sought an upping of standards and sub Rhona Ní Bhuachalla made an instant impression with a goal.
“We needed to do a lot of things,” he said, “we had to push up on their kickouts and contest the breaks a bit more, we needed to move the ball quicker and I think we did all of those.
“There’s great competition for places. Rhona came on there and got a goal with nearly her first ball, the keeper made a great save initially and she got the rebound. I think that that game will bring us on a good bit in terms of our sharpness.”
Captain Ciara O’Sullivan and Finn added further goals while subs Hannah Looney, Orlagh Farmer and Eimear Scally all made their presence felt, displaying the strength in depth available. Monaghan are next up for the champions as the quest for a sixth All-Ireland in a row continues.
CORK: M O’Brien; R Phelan, B Stack, M Ambrose; S Kelly, D O’Reilly, V Foley; B Corkery, A Walsh; R Buckley, C O’Sullivan, J O’Shea; L Coppinger, Á O’Sullivan, O Finn. SUBS: R Ní Bhuachalla for Á O’Sullivan (half-time), O Farmer for O’Shea (34), H Looney for Coppinger (41), E Meaney for Ambrose (45), E Scally for Finn (52).
CAVAN: C Doonan; S Lynch, R Jordan, J Moore; S Greene, L Fitzpatrick, S Reilly; D English, R Crowe; N Byrd, S O’Sullivan, R O’Keeffe; N Halton, A Doonan, C Smith. SUBS: A Kiernan for Lynch (35) R Doonan for Byrd, R Talbot for Smith (injured) (both 43)