Cork 0-14 Kilkenny 0-13
It was the battle of the free takers as Cork retained the O’Duffy Cup and claimed their 28th All Ireland title with a nervy, one-point victory over Kilkenny, the same margin as last year’s final.
There was nothing to separate the sides at the break after a scrappy and disjointed first half, dominated by frees. Chloe Sigerson opened the scoring with a placed ball after less than a minute as Cork hit their stride early on. They could have pulled away when Denise Gaule was deemed to have fouled Amy O’Connor in the box after much consideration. Goalkeeper, Aoife Murray drove the resulting penalty over the bar.
Kilkenny’s set up worried their fans early on. They played a sizeable portion of the first half with only one player in the full forward line as the rest played deep, trying to cut out the Cork attack. But the whistle was kind to them and through the accuracy of Gaule, they slowly gathered momentum and crept their way back into the game.
They almost had a goal opportunity of their own when a long-range effort from Shelly Farrell was saved by Murray who then pulled off another stop to prevent the rebound from passing her. Two points in a row from Gaule, one free and one superb effort from play saw Kilkenny lead by two for the first time in the game but in additional time, Cork sparked back into life and Orla Cronin was on the receiving end of two well-worked balls, both of which she pointed, to leave the sides level at half-time.
The game continued to be dominated by frees in the second half as Orla Cotter and Gaule traded points from placed balls. The former extended her side’s lead to two points with a further free as Kilkenny’s discipline began to slip and their game became more defensive. With little options inside, Kilkenny were forced to shoot from distance and Meighan Farrell did just that superbly as she reduced the gap to one with 14 minutes remaining. Gaule followed that with another free to level the game for the sixth time.
As the game cried out for a goal, Kilkenny were presented with another opportunity. Anna Farrell ran at the Cork defence and losing her hurley, she kicked the ball at goal but Murray produced another magnificent save to send it to a 45′ which Gaule subsequently pointed. Amy O’Connor soon cancelled out their one-point advantage with a crucial point as the minutes ticked away with last year’s hero, Julia White setting her up. To the delight of the Cork fans, Chloe Sigerson quickly followed that up with a point from play. Under huge pressure, Gaule, once again, levelled the game with the announcement of two additional minutes.
With the heartbreak of 2017 to the forefront of Kilkenny minds, Orla Cotter sailed a free between the posts. Though Kilkenny tried desperately to find the equalising score, the experience and desire of Cork won out as they ran down the clock and retained the O’Duffy Cup.
Cork: Aoife Murray (0-1, 0-1 pen); Leanne O’Sullivan, Laura Treacy, Pamela Mackey; Libby Coppinger, Gemma O’Connor, Chloe Sigerson (0-3, 2f); Julia White, Ashling Thompson; Amy O’Connor (0-1), Orla Cronin (0-2), Orla Cotter (0-5, 5f); Katrina Mackey (0-2), Linda Collins, Hannah Looney.
Substitutions: Lauren Homan for Collins (50) Niamh McCarthy for O’Connor (62)
Kilkenny: Emma Kavanagh; Collette Dormer, Catherine Foley, Grace Walsh; Claire Phelan, Anne Dalton, Davina Tobin; Anna Farrell, Meighan Farrell (0-1); Julie Ann Malone (0-1), Katie Power, Denise Gaule (0-10, 7 1 45′); Shelly Farrell, Michelle Quilty (0-1), Edwina Keane.
Substitutions: Miriam Walsh for Quilty (HT)