by Mike Finnerty
Katie Quirke’s late goal was vital as Cork got their Lidl NFL Division 1 campaign off to a winning start against Mayo at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence in Bekan.
Shane Ronayne’s new-look side looked set to win comfortably when they led by eight points in the second half after Melissa Duggan’s early strike. However, Mayo came roaring back and pushed the visitors all the way to the finish line.
Six points from All Star attacker Shauna Howley, and an impressive contribution from substitute Lisa Cafferky, were the main catalysts for Mayo’s second half comeback.
But Cork kept their composure and a goal from substitute Quirke in the 61st minute sealed victory.
In a repeat of last year’s TG4 All-Ireland Senior quarter-final Cork were completely dominant in the opening half and led at the break by 1-6 to 0-2.
But the second half was a different story as Mayo took charge with veteran defender Fiona McHale, Clodagh McManamon and Lisa Cafferky all playing leading roles.
Cork did most of their damage though in the first half and looked very impressive when they moved the ball at pace.
Their goal arrived in the 24th minute from wing-back Duggan who finished a flowing move with a brilliant shot that gave Mayo goalkeeper Laura Brennan no chance.
The visitors came flying out of the blocks and early points from 2022 minor star Abigail Ring (two), Aoife Healy (two) and Libby Coppinger put them in the driving seat after 18 minutes.
Two minutes later Mayo finally opened their account through Tara Needham, but they were finding it extremely difficult to break down Cork’s well-organised defence.
The Munster outfit could have been much further ahead at the break but missed a plethora of good chances. However, Duggan’s goal and a point from Daire Kiely meant Cork were still in a strong position.
Mayo’s second score of the half came from All Star attacker, Rachel Kearns, in the 28th minute and they trailed by 1-6 to 0-2 at half-time.
Mayo regrouped afterwards and they came with a late onslaught but despite the heroics of Shauna Howley it was left for Quirke to have the final say.
Scorers - Cork: K Quirke 1-1, M Duggan 1-0, A Ring 0-2 (1f), A Healy 0-2, D Kiely 0-2, L Coppinger 0-1, H Looney 0-1, R Leahy 0-1, L O’Mahony 0-1.
Mayo: S Howley 0-6 (3f), L Cafferky 0-2, M Cannon 0-2 (2f), T Needham 0-1, R Kearns 0-1.
Cork: M O’Sullivan; S Kelly, E Meaney, D Kiniry; A Healy, H Looney, M Duggan; S Leahy, E O’Shea; E Cleary, R Leahy, D Kiely; L Coppinger, E Kiely, A Ring.
Subs: L O’Mahony for S Leahy (HT), A O’Mahony for D Kiely (37), K Quirke for E Kiely (45) A Ryan for M Duggan, S McGoldrick for Cleary (55), E Jack for O’Shea (55), B O’Sullivan for Ring (55), O Cahalane for Coppinger (56).
Mayo: L Brennan; É Ronayne, R Flynn, D Caldwell; C Needham, F McHale, K Sullivan; C McManamon, H Reape; E Reape, S Cafferky, S Howley; M Cannon, T Needham, R Kearns.
Subs: L Cafferky for E Reape (ht), S Tierney for H Reape (50), L Wallace for C Needham (50), M Reilly for T Needham (58).
Referee: S Curley (Galway)Tweet