Rowe repels Rebel rising in inspired second half

by Stephen Findlater
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Carla Rowe’s ice-cool nerve propelled Dublin to a glorious fourth successive Brendan Martin Cup title, providing the big scores to overturn Cork in Croke Park last Sunday. 

A “Walking in the Air” bellowed out in the all-but-empty stadium during half-time, manager Mick Bohan was plotting his crucial changes to get Dublin flying.

Where the first half was error-strewn and off-kilter, the second was immaculate with the sky-blue hordes hunting in packs, and it crucially turned the tide.  

The midfield triangle of Jennifer Dunne, Sinead Goldrick and Lauren Magee pierced hole after hole in the Rebels’ rearguard; Lyndsey Davey was insatiable, Nicole Owens tireless to chase down every scrap. 

And there was Rowe to step into Sinead Aherne’s boots – laid low by injury and withdrawn on the half hour – to win and score the pivotal 34th minute penalty and then tack on three more frees for good measure. 

20 December 2020; Dublin players, from left, Nicole Owens, Jennifer Dunne and Lauren Magee celebrate following the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship Final match between Cork and Dublin at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It was a far cry from a horror start as Aherne missed a shocker of a free by her standards. 

Within two minutes, Cork had a goal; Áine O’Sullivan provided a definitive finish over Ciara Trant’s dive off the back of Mourneabbey sisters Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan’s deft sleight of hand.  

By contrast, nothing was coming for Bohan’s Dubs as several wides pock-marked their half. 

Some gorgeous interplay between Dunne, Davey and Goldrick ended with a pass slipping just beyond Rowe with a goal in the offing.  

Noelle Healy stormed onto a clever inside pass from Niamh McEvoy but, with the goal beckoning, her low shot was too delicate and slipped slowly and agonisingly wide of the left post. 

In the end, they were only able to record a trio of points from Aherne, Owens and Healy by the break, trailing 1-3 to 0-3. 

20 December 2020; Carla Rowe, left, and Jennifer Dunne of Dublin celebrate at the final whistle of the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship Final match between Cork and Dublin at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

But the second half was a major sea change, initiated by a shake-up around midfield, offering more license for Goldrick to bomb on with Siobhan McGrath sitting in deeper.  

After Aoife Kane’s cracking point, Rowe was dragged down in the parallelogram before sending Martina O’Brien the wrong way to net a 34th minute goal. It gave Dublin the lead for the first time and they never looked back with Orla Finn enduring serious travails at the far end with her frees. 

A further Rowe free and a point for Aherne’s teenage replacement Kate Sullivan, created by Goldrick’s immaculate turnover, strengthened their grasp going into the final 10 minutes, a three-point lead. 

Cork did nick one back with just their second score of the half but Dublin were relentless as Owens flipped one over before Healy added a classy score, Goldrick again influential. 

And Rowe added some extra insurance with her third free, allowing Bohan the luxury of bringing captain Aherne back on to enjoy the final seconds.

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