By Daragh Ó Conchúir, at Croke Park
A hat-trick of goals from Amy O’Connor in less than two minutes at the start of the second half left Waterford reeling and assured Cork of a 29th Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior title in front of a record attendance of 30,191.
In all O’Connor finished 3-7, registered from ten shots, in a sensational performance.
It was Cork’s first success since 2018 but having claimed the scalps of Kilkenny and Galway teams that had denied them in the last two All-Ireland and League finals, they were fancied to finally get over the line.
They did so with a wonderful performance, marrying the velvet glove with the iron fist, speed with physicality.
Their ability to mix it up in possession, from running to hitting their inside forwards directly was too much for Waterford, though the Déise were dealt a key early blow with the loss of their best marker, Vikki Falconer, through injury after three minutes.
Falconer has been among the most effective defenders in the land and though Seán Power could call on the vastly experienced Iona Heffernan, they needed the limpet-like Tramore player.
Waterford also needed to take most of their opportunities and it just didn’t happen, with the brilliant Beth Carton unfortunately astray with some frees.
They had two outstanding goal chances too, the first in the 20th minute, when the deficit was just four points. And you wouldn’t have wanted anyone else other than the consummate artist, Lorraine Bray running onto Niamh Rockett’s ball across the goal. With Amy Lee advancing however, the Waterford captain failed to get a touch.
Then with almost the first half’s last action, Libby Coppinger dragged back Annie Fitzgerald for a penalty. Carton hit her shot powerfully and with an undercut, causing the sliotar to slide away from Lee but too far, inches the wrong side of the upright.
It was 1-9 to 0-3 at the interval and a goal there would have put a different complexion on matters. Cork had been very good however, in particular O’Connor, who had put her hand up for player of the match even before the second-half heroics.
She had four of her team’s first five points, four from frees, and after a Looney point, illustrated what this team is about by forcing a turnover and snaffling her fifth.
Sorcha McCartan, who was adding a senior medal to the intermediate one garnered with her native Down in 2020, doubled to the net after Katrina Mackey timed her hand-pass perfectly. The 31-year-old, who along with her twin Pamela was winning a sixth medal, showed that she still possesses the pace that marked her out when garnering her first in 2009, showing Kate Lynch a clean pair of heels before providing the assist.
Waterford would have talked about working themselves back into the game during the break but instead, they were playing for pride before they knew where they were.
Fiona Keating set up O’Connor for her first goal little more than two minutes after the restart. The St Vincent’s star was in oceans of pace to score her second and less than two minutes after her first, she was sliding another home, Katrina Mackey again drawing the last defender.
Keating provided Cork’s fifth major.
It had to be difficult but Waterford kept on even though their dreams had been dashed. Carton led that resistance, scoring as good a point as you’ll ever see with a lightning run, hop of a sliotar off the sod and finish under pressure.
Niamh Rockett, who had been bidding to add senior success to intermediate and premier junior triumphs in 2015 and 2011, also landed a fine score, as did this year’s minor skipper Laoise Forrest.
It was a first All-Ireland in 78 years for Waterford and they will aim to return but the day was all about Cork, who are back at the summit of camogie again.
SCORERS FOR CORK: A O’Connor 3-7(0-5fs); S McCartan 1-1; F Keating 1-0; K Mackey 0-1; H Looney, C Sigerson (f), O Cahalane 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR WATERFORD: B Carton 0-7(5fs); N Rockett, L Forrest 0-1 each
CORK: A Lee, P Mackey, L Coppinger, M Cahalane, A Healy, I O’Regan, L Hayes, H Looney, C Sigerson, F Keating, S McCarthy, A O’Connor, K Mackey, S McCartan. Subs: C Healy for Hayes (44), O Cronin for McCartan (47), A Thompson for McCarthy (51), O Cahalane for Sigerson (52), M Murphy for P Mackey (53)
WATERFORD: B O’Regan, L Forrest, K Lynch, K Corbett Barry, V Falconer, O Hickey, C Carroll, A Flynn, L Bray, M O’Brien, M Power, B Carton, N Rockett, R Walsh, A Fitzgerald. Subs: I Heffernan for Falconer inj (4), B Bowden for Power (ht), T Power for O’Brien (41), C Griffin for Carroll (42), S Fitzgerald for Lynch (54)
REFEREE: John Dermody (Meath)