Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Dublin lost 2-8 to 2-13 out to Cork in Mallow on Saturday, in a game that ensures the two will meet again in the ladies football national league semi-finals.

Mick Bohan fielded a much changed team as he looked to run the rule over his bench, with Dublin having already confirmed their place in the last four.

Meetings with Cork, though, are never without the weight of history: Dublin’s All Ireland win against the Rebelettes last year came off the back of years of dominance from the Munster girls, a substantial-feeling backdrop.

Noelle Healy is now a familiar figure in Cork, playing with their ladies’ powerhouse Mourneabbey, but familiarity doesn’t seem to have blunted her impact. A fantastic pass from the Dub in the opening seconds played in Carla Rowe for a goal for Dublin almost from the off.

Any hint that the Dubs were in for any comfort as they pushed for a rare third successive victory against Cork was quickly washed away, however.

Cork were an attacking threat throughout, and were level after 11 minutes, when Marie O’Callaghan ran in behind the Dubs and fired home. Prior to the goal, Cork had already had a clear sight of the Dublin net, but hooked just wide.

It was nip and tuck for most of the remainder of the first half, though Cork’s 1-4 to 1-3 lead flattered Dublin, who had seen the home side fail to convert at least four strong goal chances as the half wore on.

Cork were edging away in the early stages of the second half, and looked like they’d put the game to bed when Niamh Cotter fired home a second goal, but this Dublin side – even in weakened form – don’t give up easily. They were already on their way back when Eimear Meaney was sent to the sideline for 10 minutes.

That prompted a Dublin revival, with the gap narrowed to just 2-8 to 2-7 when Clontarf’s Siobhan Killeen hit a goal for the visitors and brought the game back to life.

As it turned out, that was the push Cork needed to see the game out, and they wrestled back control with a run of 0-5 to 0-1 in the closing stages to send Bohan’s side back to the capital for two weeks of thinking ahead of a more-meaningful rematch.

“It was a good chance for some of our players to test themselves against one of the top sides in the country,” Bohan said after the game. “We don’t like to lose any game and it always hurts when you do so we are hurting a bit now.”