Waterford stuns holders Cork to book place in Munster Ladies SFC final

Waterford 3-11;
Cork 1-11.
Waterford pulled off a spectacular win in the Munster Ladies championship over reigning All Ireland champions Cork to qualify for the Munster final on July 8th. From the word go the Déise girls were not overawed by a star studded Cork team who have won 10 All-Irelands in the last 11 years and took the fight to the Cork girls from the very first attack.
Waterford had the first score on the board after only 19 seconds with a well taken point from Aileen Wall to give Waterford a lead that ultimately they would never surrender during the game.
Waterford’s second attack resulted in a wonder goal well taken by Róisín Tobin after some really slick passing in the Waterford forward line in the 3rd minute. A 9th minute injury to Mairéad Wall disrupted the rhythm of the Waterford team somewhat and Cork seized the initiative to record three quick points in a row from captain Bríd O’Sullivan, Lilly Coppinger and Áine O’Sullivan to narrow the gap by the 12th minute.
In the 14th minute Maria Delahunty steadied the Waterford ship with a well taken free from almost 45 metres and almost immediately from the kick out, a Waterford move led to Gráinne Kenneally rattling the back of the Cork net for a second time to leave the score Waterford 2-2; Cork 0-3.
Katie Murray stretched the lead with a point in the 16th minute and a wonderful finish and a point by Michelle Ryan left Waterford seven points to the good after 20 minutes. Áine O’Sullivan’s 25th minute goal hauled Cork back into contention but Waterford’s response was quick and decisive with points from Aileen Wall and Michelle Ryan just before half time leaving the Déise ahead at the break by double scores Waterford 2-6; Cork 1-3.
There was a buzz around the ground during the half-time break with the large crowd in attendance expecting a second half onslaught from the Cork girls. Bríd O’Sullivan opened their account in the first minute of the second half but two brilliant points from Michelle Ryan continued Waterford’s momentum along with a point from Róisín Tobin left nine between the teams with five minutes of the second half gone.
Cork’s manager Ephie Fitzgerald rung the changes and it seemed that the game was swinging ominously in Cork’s favour with five unanswered points courtesy of three from Eimear Scally and two from the other corner forward Orla Finn to leave Cork only four points down with 51 minutes on the clock. Waterford refused to wilt and a move out of defence started by Caoimhe McGrath in the full back line ended with Aileen Wall hitting the back of the Cork net to leave Waterford five points in front and sensing a major victory.
Michelle Ryan tacked on another point in the 56th minute and while Cork had the majority of possession in the last few minutes the Waterford defence was resolute and the only reward for their efforts were two long range points from mid-fielder Jessica O’Shea to leave the final score Waterford 3-11; Cork 1-11 in a game that will be remembered long in Waterford’s minds.
This victory, Waterford’s first in senior championship over Cork since 2003, was well deserved and it was evident to all that Waterford played the better football on the day.
It was a great team performance with each of the girls playing their part. The defence was outstanding and made life very uncomfortable for the Cork attack who were being pressurised at every turn.
In the full back line Caoimhe McGrath was a tower of strength and on many occasions helped turn defence into attack. Michelle McGrath was outstanding in the half back line and ran up and down the pitch all day making scores at one end and preventing them at the other.
All six starting forwards scored and the accuracy of their attempts was brilliant to watch – only one wide in the first half.
The three goals were all expertly taken by Róisín Tobin, Gráinne Kenneally and Aileen Wall who was a thorn in the side of the Cork defence all day. Michelle Ryan had an outstanding game, one of her best ever in the Waterford jersey seeing off four different Cork markers.
This was a great performance by a well organised Waterford team, well prepared by Pat Sullivan and his back room team.
Waterford now advance to the Munster final on July the 8th.
Waterford lined-out as follows: Jessica Fitzgerald, Megan Dunford, Caoimhe McGrath, Kate McGrath, Dearbhaile Ní Aodha, Karen McGrath, Michelle McGrath, Mairéad Wall, Emma Murray, Róisin Tobin (1-1), Gráinne Kenneally (1-0), Katie Murray (0-1), Aileen Wall (1-2), Maria Delahunty (0-2) and Michelle Ryan (0-5)
Subs used: Eimear Fennell, Aoife Murray, Nicola Fennell and Lauren McGregor.

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