Dublin reign supreme, rivalry renewed in a game of two halves, and where do we go from here?

September 14, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

1. Dublin reign supreme once more 

More Dublin delight the weekend before Christmas as Mick Bohan’s side made it four-in-a-row in Croke Park.

Dublin celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

These two great teams have dominated the ladies football landscape over the past decade and-a-half. The Brendan Martin Cup has wintered in the capital or on Leeside every year since 2005: Cork lifted the silver 11 times in 12 years between then and 2016, with the Sky Blues winning their first in 2010 to break the chain.

And it’s been blue ever since, the hurt of three consecutive decider defeats at the hands of Cork between 2014 and 2016 driving them on, and surely erased by now. While they’ve locked horns many a time in the business end of the league and championship of late, this was the counties’ fifth All-Ireland meeting in seven years, and sixth in total (2009 the other). The score now reads Cork 4 — Dublin 2.

And while the scenes at the final whistle showed just how much this one meant to Mick Bohan’s side in a year like no other, captain Sinéad Aherne hammered that home in her speech as she became the first four-in-a-row winning captain in ladies football.

2. Another ferocious battle 

As a rivalry no like no other was renewed on the biggest stage, we were served up yet another ferocious battle. Over the past few years, nothing but a point or two has separated these sides and while there was five in it in the end today, it was another nail-biting affair.

Jennifer Dunne and Hannah Looney battle for the ball.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

There was a fierce pace and intensity to the game, paving the way for another epic contest between two exceptional teams. And while it was a far-from-perfect spectacle by any means or manner, and not exactly high-scoring, it was hugely entertaining. 

Cork came out and put the game to Dublin, leading to a very open first half. Both play really attacking football, and today was no different. While the champions’ conditioning, physicality and athleticism has been on another level over the last few years, we saw the importance of that once again with Lauren Magee and Jennifer Dunne the epitomy in midfield.

The Rebels did their utmost to match that with players like Melissa Duggan really excelling, but they couldn’t keep it up, tiring in the second half. 

3. Second-half surge wins a game of two halves

It’s an old cliché at this stage, but this really was a game of two halves. 

Dublin weren’t at the races in the first period, looking rattled at times and converting just three of their 13 chances. Cork would have went in much happier after driving on from Áine Terry O’Sullivan’s superb third-minute goal. They worked incredibly hard, defending in numbers and finding far more space in attack.

Noelle Healy on the ball.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

After an error-ridden first half, Dublin trailed 0-3 to 1-3 and an injury-hampered Aherne came off at the break before Carla Rowe stepped up in her absence once again. The Clann Mhuire star forward didn’t have a great first half, but she made up for it with 1-3 (1-0 pen, 3f) in the second.

Aherne’s replacement, her young clubmate Kate Sullivan, chipped in with a vital score while Nicole Owens, Noelle Healy and Aoife Kane also kicked important points as Dublin powered down the home straight outscoring Cork 1-7 to 0-2.

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We’ve seen them turn it on time and time again, and kill a game with goals, and they did just that with their second half game management supreme — led impeccably by Player of the Match Sinéad Goldrick, who does it time and time again.

4. Cork left to rue missed chances

While it looked like it could have been Dublin doing so at half time after clocking numerous wides and missing goal chances, it’s Cork whose shooting will come back to haunt them.

Orla Finn had an off day on the frees, several early on in the second half not going to plan. Saoirse Noonan and captain Doireann O’Sullivan also had no joy from the placed ball when they took over, while the side clocked several poor misses from play too.

Ciara O’Sullivan at the end of the game.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The frustration etched across the players’ faces mid-game summed it up, and that shone through in their indiscipline when the match was in the melting pot.

They conceded frees in scoreable positions, and they scored just two points in the second half — a Finn free and one from play through Ciara O’Sullivan — with three scorers throughout, while Dublin had a spread of six.

5. Where do we go from here?

Well Dublin certainly proved once again that they are the best team in the country at the moment, and were deserved winners today. While questions were raised about them not firing on all cylinders against Donegal, Waterford and Armagh along their path to the final, they certainly provided the answers in that second half. As they always seem to do.

Post-match media seems to have passed without any major announcements of players or management teams stepping away, but things could change over the shortened break.

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For Cork, it’s back to the drawing board once more. This team are on a journey, and certainly have youth on their side. Ciara O’Sullivan, one of their eldest players at 30, told The42 last week that she plans on going again in 2021, with the group expected to stick together. Fitzgerald made a dramatic U-turn on stepping away from the helm last year, so it remains to be seen whether he’ll definitely go again.

Nicole Owens and Sinéad Goldrick celebrate.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Likewise with Bohan, will he continue on with this dynasty he has built? Aherne, with the icing on top of her 17th season, fielded questions post-match about her future but she gave little away. Will other members of the old guard like Lyndsey Davey and Siobhan McGrath go again with the Drive for Five on the cards next year?

That’s certainly an incentive, and they’ll also have welcome company in Leinster after Meath won promotion to the senior ranks today.

Dublin may have reigned supreme once more in 2020, but there’s no doubting another chapter to this remarkable rivalry — and strong mutual respect — lies ahead in 2021 

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