Cork star Eimear Scally’s second-half penalty helped to see off her former college UCC as UL claimed a 2-05 to 0-08 win and a third O’Connor Cup crown in four seasons.
Scally netted in the 47th minute, converting after she was taken down herself following a driving run, but there was a whiff of controversy surrounding the award of the goal at Elvery's MacHale Park in Castlebar.
Confusion reigned as match referee Niall McCormack and his umpires debated whether the ball had gone through the net or wide.
After much consultation, the goal was given and UL were 2-04 to 0-06 clear in the prestigious Ladies HEC showpiece.
Kerry’s Laura Rogers knocked over a point to move UL into a five-point lead – 2-05 to 0-06 – before Doireann O’Sullivan notched two late scores for UCC, both from frees.
O’Sullivan, captain of UCC, was her team’s sole scorer on the day but a fine individual display that yielded eight points still ended in disappointment.
O’Sullivan had four points on the board by half-time, including three from play, but UL led by 1-02 to 0-04 at the end of a low-scoring first half.
O’Sullivan opened the scoring with a pointed free before adding another from play, and UCC were denied a goal when Maire O’Callaghan’s effort was brilliantly saved by UL goalkeeper Lisa Crowley in the 18th minute.
UL got off the mark in the 20th minute when Mayo’s Shauna Howley pointed, a score that was followed up by Scally’s equaliser four minutes before the break.
UL were warming to the task and after Aisling McCarthy did well to force a turnover, Anna Galvin fed Tipperary’s Roisin Howard for a clinical finish and the game’s opening goal.
UL were 1-02 to 0-02 ahead but O’Sullivan was virtually a one-woman show for UCC from an attacking viewpoint and she kicked two points from play approaching half-time to keep her side in the hunt.
UL were never pegged back in the second half but UCC needed more than O’Sullivan for scoring inspiration if they were to launch a successful fightback.
Scally’s penalty ultimately proved to be the decisive score and UL regained the title after they were foiled in their three-in-a-row quest by UCD last year.
UCC kept going right until the end but a goal proved elusive, with O’Sullivan’s dipping 59th-minute free tipped over the crossbar.
Scorers for UL: E Scally 1-1 (1-0 pen), R Howard 1-0, A McCarthy 0-2f, L Rogers & S Howley 0-1 each
Scorers for UCC: D O’Sullivan 0-8 (3f)
UL: L Crowley (Cork); L Ryan (Clare), A Kelleher (Cork), S Molloy (Galway); M Curley (Tipperary), C McGrath (Waterford), J Cregg (Roscommon); L Ward (Galway), E Fitzpatrick (Tipperary); L Rogers (Kerry), A Galvin (Kerry), S Howley (Mayo); E Scally (Cork), A McCarthy (Tipperary), R Howard (Tipperary)
Subs: E Needham (Mayo) for Fitzpatrick (41), N Gaughan (Mayo) for Howley (51), E McEvoy (Offaly) for Howard (55), A Healy (Laois) for McCarthy (60+3)
UCC: M O’Sullivan (Cork); B Condon (Tipperary), M Ambrose (Cork), S Murphy (Kerry); M Corkery (Cork), R Phelan (Cork), O Devitt (Clare); M O’Callaghan (Cork), N Cotter (Cork); M Dunford (Waterford), H Looney (Cork), E Meaney (Cork); L Coppinger (Cork), D O’Sullivan (Cork), O Farmer (Cork)
Subs: A O’Sullivan for Looney (h.t.), C Condon for Dunford (43), Looney for Coppinger (60)
Referee: N McCormack (Laois)