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'Absolutely thrilled' - 11-time champions Cork back in showpiece after absence

‘It was disappointing last year we lost a close semi-final and we were determined this year that we’d go one step further.’

Ephie Fitzgerald talks to his side.
Ephie Fitzgerald talks to his side.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

11-TIME ALL-IRELAND CHAMPIONS Cork are back where they want to be after a year-long hiatus.

After a semi-final exit at the hands of Mayo last year, Ephie Fitzgeralds’ charges missed out on the biggest day in the ladies football calendar for the first time in years.

But they safely secured their Croke Park date on Saturday as they beat Donegal by six points at Dr Hyde Park as their quest for a 12th All-Ireland title in 14 years continues.

Orla Finn and substitute Saoirse Noonan hit the all-important goals in the 2-11 to 0-11 victory at the Roscommon venue, while Player of the Match Doireann O’Sullivan was beyond influential with three massive points from play.

The Munster champions now face holders Dublin in a mouth-watering decider for the fourth time in five years — Cork won in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Nemo Rangers clubman Fitzgerald was more than pleased with his Rebels side afterwards, but it was his defence — led admirably by Róisín Phelan at full-back — that he had extra praise for.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” he said.

“It was disappointing last year we lost a close semi-final and we were determined this year that we’d go one step further. We’re here now so we’re absolutely delighted.

“I must compliment our backs because we were under a lot of pressure. People were saying to me that Donegal had a much vaunted forward line, which they do have.

Cork v Donegal - TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Semi-Final Player of the Match Doireann O'Sullivan. Source: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

“But I thought the girls did exceptionally well today when you consider the talent of the likes of Geraldine McLaughlin, Yvonne Bonner and these girls.”

He added: “Once we kept it open and we worked the channels we were most successful. The two goals were the difference at the end of the day.

“I won’t say we were comfortable, but I thought all through we were the better team, in the sense that we always had a lead and they never really looks like taking it off us.”

McLaughlin did her utmost to spark a second-half comeback and finished with 0-5 herself but ultimately Cork’s green flags were the difference.

They were more clinical when it mattered while Donegal’s often wayward shooting let them down.

Cork v Donegal - TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Semi-Final Geraldine McLaughlin is chased down. Source: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

And manager Maxi Curran noted that afterwards.

“I think we probably missed too many scoring opportunities and kicked too many wides and squandered possession inside the 45,” he said. “I think that will probably be the biggest tale of today.

“We were up against a seriously top class outfit in Cork and they’re very experienced. They are laced with quality and we just came up short today.

“They took their chances and took some wonderful scores and we didn’t. On reflection that may have been the difference between the two teams.”

- With reporting from Declan Rooney for the LGFA. 

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Emma Duffy

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