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Dublin: 1ยฐC Friday 5 March 2021
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A rivalry like no other, renewed on the biggest stage, to round off a year like no other.

The final final, and it has all the makings of a Christmas cracker in Croke Park. For the 16th year in-a-row, either Dublin or Cork will finish up as All-Ireland champions. But who will it be this time? 

Throw-in is 3.30pm, with the action live on TG4 and Sky Sports. We’ll keep you up to date right here, though.

We’re coming down the home straight of the intermediate final, Meath in control as they lead Westmeath 2-17 to 4-5. It’s been a thoroughly entertaining game, but it looks like the Royals will get their hands on the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup after back-to-back decider defeats.

Third time lucky! Meath are All-Ireland intermediate champions for 2020 after back-to-back final defeats. The emotion at the final whistle and as Máire O’Shaughnessy lifted the silverware said it all. 

Vikki Wall was named Player of the Match after an outstanding performance. Emma Duggan, and many more, were fantastic too. Fully deserved for Meath, who controlled the game in the second half and kicked some quality scores. A special moment after the game as Wall helped her injured sister, Sarah, over to the jubilant celebrations.

The Royals will join Dublin in the 2021 Leinster senior championship, while Westmeath — who were relegated last year — stay intermediate.

mick-bohan-with-ephie-fitzgerald-after-the-game Dublin manager Mick Bohan with Cork boss Ephie Fitzgerald after the 2018 final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

And now over to the senior showpiece.

Mick Bohan’s Dublin are chasing four-in-a-row, while Ephie Fitzgerald’s Cork seek a first senior crown since 2016 having won 11 in 12 years up to that.

Whatever way it goes, the Brendan Martin Cup will winter in either the capital or on Leeside for the 16th consecutive year, Dublin having won their first title in 2010 to break Cork’s reign of terror.

Their rivalry, and mutual respect, has been well documented this week and through the years, and this is their fifth All-Ireland final meeting in seven years — their sixth in total, with the score reading Cork 4 — Dublin 1 so far.

Over 56,000 fans watching on last year, none this year and while we’re in the depths of December, conditions are perfect at Croke Park.

It’s a start contrast to last year’s final, where heavy rain played a huge factor in the low-scoring at, at times, drab, final the Sky Blues and Galway played out. Expect a rip-roaring contest this year, a given every time Cork and Dublin lock horns. They’ve undoubtedly been the best two teams in the country over the past decade and-a-half, combining to lift the game of ladies football to new heights.

A special one today, too, as we mark 20 years of ladies football coverage on TG4.

Here’s the teams for this afternoon’s showdown.

Dublin

1. Ciara Trant (St Brigid’s)

2. Martha Byrne (Cuala)
3. Niamh Collins (Foxrock-Cabinteely)
4. Aoife Kane (Kilmacud Crokes)

5. Leah Caffrey (Na Fianna)
6. Siobhan McGrath (Thomas Davis)
7. Sinéad Goldrick (Foxrock-Cabinteely)

8. Lauren Magee (Kilmacud Crokes)
9. Jennifer Dunne (Cuala)

10. Noelle Healy (St Brigid’s)
11. Lyndsey Davey (Skerries Harps)
12. Carla Rowe (Clann Mhuire)

13. Sinéad Aherne (St Sylvester’s)
14. Niamh McEvoy (St Sylvester’s)
15. Nicole Owens (St Sylvester’s)

Cork

1. Martina O’Brien (Clonakilty)

2. Eimear Meaney (Mourneabbey)
3. Roisin Phelan (St Brigid’s – Dublin)
4. Shauna Kelly (Araglen Desmonds Bui)

5. Melissa Duggan (Dohenys)
6. Ashling Hutchings (Fermoy)
7. Erika O’Shea (Macroom)

8. Máire O’Callaghan (Mourneabbey)
9. Hannah Looney (Aghada)

10. Eimear Kiely (Valley Rovers)
11. Ciara O’Sullivan (Mourneabbey)
12. Orla Finn (Kinsale)

13. Áine O’Sullivan (Beara)
14. Doireann O’Sullivan (Mourneabbey)
15. Saoirse Noonan (Nemo Rangers).

Dublin’s team shows one change from the side that started against Armagh in their semi-final victory, with Niamh McEvoy replacing Sarah McCaffrey and coming into the full-forward line alongside her St Sylvester’s team-mates Sinéad Aherne and Nicole Owens.

Three-in-a-row winning captain Aherne sustained a hamstring injury that day, but it appears she’s won her fitness race.

Cork start as named on Friday — unchanged from their semi-final win over Galway — but there’s one change to their bench with Sarah Leahy replacing the injured Clare O’Shea.

Good interviews from Bohan and Fitzgerald on TG4 there. Expect a cracker, with both teams fond of playing free-flowing attacking football.

Cork are full of belief and hunger, looking to overwrite the hurt of their 2018 defeat and reach the promised land for the first time since 2016, while Dublin’s physicality, athleticism and big-match experience has been key of late, though maybe they haven’t been firing on all cylinders through the shortened season.

Winner on the day, who will it be?


Poll Results:

Cork. (89)
Dublin (82)


We’ve had plenty of articles and features on The42 over the past few days, and you probably won’t squeeze in any pre-match reading before throw-in.

Anthem time, let’s go. It’s all about the 60 minutes-plus now.

THROW-IN: Game on.

2 mins – Dublin 0-0 Cork 0-0 

Dublin captain Sinéad Aherne misses her first free at the posts after a foul on Carla Rowe. 

GOAL! Cork 1-0 Dublin 0-0 (3 mins)

What a finish from Áine Terry O’Sullivan after excellent work from Ciara O’Sullivan in the build-up. Cork will be happy with that start.

5 mins – Cork 1-0 Dublin 0-1

Nicole Owens pulls a point back at the other end to get Dublin off the mark.

7 mins – Cork 1-0 Dublin 0-1

This is already nice and fiery, both sides running at each other with possession so, so valuable. Dublin were nearly in for another score there but the ball got away from Carla Rowe, the same happened Doireann O’Sullivan at the other end moments later.

8 mins – Cork 1-0 Dublin 0-1

Owens kicks Dublin’s third wide there, Cork haven’t scored since that O’Sullivan goal in the third minute. Both sides need to settle, with Dublin’s physicality epitomised by midfield pair Lauren Magee and Jennifer Dunne. 

9 mins – Cork 1-1 Dublin 0-1

1-1 for Cork, 1-1 for Áine Terry O’Sullivan, the Beara forward adding an excellent point to her early goal after great support in the build-up from Hannah Looney.

10 mins – Cork 1-1 Dublin 0-1

This really is a war of attrition already, like every other Cork-Dublin meeting has been of late. The Rebels have settled best and are comfortable in possession, while Dublin dropped their last effort short through Rowe.

12 mins – Cork 1-2 Dublin 0-1

Orla Finn adds another point for Cork. A deadly accurate free-taker, this one comes from play.

12 mins – Cork 1-2 Dublin 0-1

That’s four wides and one dropped short for Dublin, the latest coming from Niamh McEvoy. Cork’s half-back line are having a huge say here, their driving runs causing Dublin serious problems.

14 mins – Cork 1-2 Dublin 0-1

Orla Finn’s first free drops just short, Niamh Collins sweeping up but Áine O’Sullivan’s work rate inside is immense and she gives the Dubs a scare.

Martina O’Sullivan comfortably stops a Nicole Owens goal chance from the other end, while it looks like Noelle Healy is in for a dead cert one herself but her close-range one-on-one effort drags wide.

17 mins – Cork 1-2 Dublin 0-1

In for the water break we go, the tempo of this really open game on another level. 

Just beforehand, Cork were almost in for a goal of their own but Finn just fails to release captain Doireann O’Sullivan.

19 mins – Cork 1-2 Dublin 0-2

Aherne makes no mistake with her second free of the day after Melissa Duggan fouls Owens. That should settle Dublin nicely for the second quarter.

 

21 mins – Cork 1-2 Dublin 0-3

Noelle Healy adds another after a direct attack from the Dubs, led by Sinéad Goldrick. The Cork defence are doing trojan work, it must be said — Dublin were looking for a goal there.

22 mins – Cork 1-2 Dublin 0-3

Scares at both ends there. First, Martina O’Brien does well to manage a drop ball, while at the Hill 16 End, Melissa Duggan almost gets in for a goal after stellar, quick link-up play between herself, Ciara O’Sullivan and Saoirse Noonan. Ciara Trant dealt accordingly.

24 mins – Cork 1-2 Dublin 0-3

Two in it, with scores at a premium. It’s a really physical battle, challenges and collisions coming in left, right and centre. Niamh McEvoy limps out of the most recent one on the sideline, but she seems to be okay. Healy is struggling after a previous one.

25 mins – Cork 1-2 Dublin 0-3

Another poor wide for Dublin through Rowe, and she knows it’s not good enough. Áine O’Sullivan follows it up with one of her own at the opposite end.

27 mins – Cork 1-3 Dublin 0-3

Textbook defending from Róisín Phelan, the full-back showing her strength to intercept at a vital moment. Cork go on the attack but Ciara O’Sullivan veers her effort wide at the other end. 

Interesting tactic from Cork here: half-back Melissa Duggan is in full-forward and she wins a valuable free in, which Finn points.

29 mins – Cork 1-3 Dublin 0-3

Goldrick playing with her heart on her sleeve as always, but her challenge on Erika O’Shea is dismissed. Interesting to see Cork aren’t exactly challenging the Dublin kick out, which Armagh got great joy out of in the semi-final. 

Cork will certainly be happier at the break, they came out and took the game by the scruff of the neck, putting it up to Dublin — and Áine Terry O’Sullivan’s third-minute goal put them in the driving seat.

Dublin looked rattled, converting just three of their 13 chances, but we know all about how they can turn it on and kill a game with goals.

Sinéad Aherne off, Kate Sullivan on for Dublin.

SECOND HALF: Cork 1-3 Dublin 0-3

We’re underway once again.

32 mins – Cork 1-3 Dublin 0-4

The first chance of the second half is a Cork free after Lauren Magee fouls Doireann O’Sullivan. Finn’s effort comes off the post. 

Corner back Aoife Kane grabs Dublin’s first of the second half. Goldrick kicks a wide just after.

PENALTY for Dublin!

GOAL! Dublin 1-4 Cork 1-3 (33 mins)

Carla Rowe makes no mistake from the spot after she’s adjudged to be hauled down by Cork — seems Martina O’Brien is the guilty party after a goalmouth scramble. Great work from Jennifer Dunne in the build-up.

37 mins – Dublin 1-5 Cork 1-3

Rowe steps up to point a free in the absence of Aherne. Dublin have certainly upped it after the break, Cork look to be tiring.

40 mins – Dublin 1-5 Cork 1-3

Finn has the chance to settle Cork with a long-range free, but it drops just short. Saoirse Noonan has a go from play just after, and the disappointment etched across her face after it goes wide says it all.

Those two Cork chances come after a confidence-boosting turnover from Ashling Hutchings on Nicole Owens.

43 mins – Dublin 1-6 Cork 1-3

Cork are playing on the edge here, the referee being kept busy with ticks. The latest comes as Aoife Kane is fouled, and Rowe fires another free over. She, and the Dubs, have certainly found their rhythm.

Niamh Cotter, who plays her club football in Dublin, comes in for Eimear Kiely.

45 mins – Dublin 1-6 Cork 1-4

An excellent Ciara O’Sullivan point off her left after a quick free-kick link-up with Saoirse Noonan. Cork needed that one.

47 mins – Dublin 1-6 Cork 1-4

Cork have found their second wind as the second water break comes, but their latest offering — a Saoirse Noonan free — veers wide. She looks disappointed heading in for the break. A big, big 13 minutes to come.

48 mins – Dublin 1-6 Cork 1-4

We’re off again, neck-and-neck down the home straight. Anything could happen here. 

Orlagh Nolan comes in for Aoife Kane, Sarah McCaffrey in for Niamh McEvoy as the Dubs look to fresh legs to see them home.

49 mins – Dublin 1-6 Cork 1-4

The speed of the game is bringing uncharacteristic mistakes, which could prove costly in the grand scheme of things. Jennifer Dunne driving Dublin on.

50 mins – Dublin 1-7 Cork 1-4

A really important score for Dublin there, courtesy of half-time substitute Kate Sullivan. The youngster replaced her clubmate Aherne, and that effort really showed her huge potential.

52 mins – Dublin 1-7 Cork 1-5

Finn finds her range with a free to make it a two-point game, just Cork’s second score of the second half. It all came from an excellent Niamh Cotter turnover, and a furious Ciara O’Sullivan won the free after being surrounded by a blue wave.

53 mins – Dublin 1-8 Cork 1-5

Owens tags on a super score to make it a three-point battle once again. Libby Coppinger and Sadhbh O’Leary in for Noonan and Finn as Cork chase the game.

56 mins – Dublin 1-8 Cork 1-5

Another Cork wide from a free, Doireann O’Sullivan this time. The’ll likely be left to seriously rue these missed chances in the second half. Goldrick and Rowe have been immense in the second half, as has the evergreen Lyndsey Davey.

58 mins – Dublin 1-9 Cork 1-5

Lauren Magee, too, has been outstanding, and she wins an important free for Dublin — Cork reduced to 14 for the last few minutes after captain Doireann O’Sullivan sees yellow.

They go short and throw the ball around, looking for the right player in the right place — that’s Noelle Healy, who slots over a superb offering. Can Cork somehow, someway, find a way back?

59 mins – Dublin 1-9 Cork 1-5

Cork win a scoreable free, but they go short and it seems they’re going for the jugular. Super work from full-back Róisín Phelan as she dances around Dublin defenders, but her shot goes wide — Libby Coppinger was free outside her, she really should have gave it off.

Caoimhe O’Connor replaced Nicole Owens just beforehand.

60 mins – Dublin 1-10 Cork 1-5

O’Connor makes immediate impact, winning a late free on the endline which Rowe taps over. Sinéad Goldrick named Player of the Match on TG4.

Maebh Cahalane replaces Shauna Kelly as the clock runs down. Seconds left now.

Lauren Magee sees yellow, but she doesn’t care. Sinéad Aherne brought on for the last few seconds and that’s that.

FULL-TIME: Dublin 1-10 Cork 1-5

Four-in-a-row! Dublin are All-Ireland champions once again.

noelle-healy-with-shauna-kelly Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

So there we have it, more Dublin delight just a few days before Christmas. Another incredible battle between two great footballing sides, but the four-in-a-row champions showed their class and drove on in the second half.

Sinéad Aherne giving a brilliant speech now after lifting the Brendan Martin Cup once again and becoming the first four-in-a-row winning captain in ladies football.

So, that’s that. Four-in-a-row, and a fifth All-Ireland senior crown in total, for Dublin as the Brendan Martin winters in the capital once again. It’s back to the drawing board for Cork, who were last champions in 2016. But no doubt about it, this isn’t the last we’ll see off this great rivalry.

I’m going to leave you with Kevin O’Brien’s match report from Croke Park:

Thanks so much for reading, and there’ll be plenty more reaction, analysis and colour on The42 this evening and over the next few days to keep you busy. Have a lovely evening, and an even nicer Christmas.

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Emma Duffy

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