TIPPERARY brought 16 years of Munster minor football heartache to an end in glorious fashion at Fitzgerald Stadium yesterday.
After losing three of the last five provincial deciders, this was a momentous triumph for the Premier County.
The Killarney venue was also the scene for their last minor success in 1995, with a team which featured attacking legend Declan Browne. And the Kingdom venue was again to the liking for the latest batch of underage talents who emphatically dismissed the 2010 champions.
“It’s hard to put it into words how much it means,” a delighted Tipperary manager David Power admitted. “You wouldn’t believe the huge effort these lads have put in this year. It has been tough with the Leaving Cert and having six dual players. But we kept at it. We’ve won U15, U16 and U17 Munster titles last year, and today we showed desire, passion and skill which won us the game. What a way to win a Munster championship.
“We’ve beaten Limerick away, then beaten Kerry and now Cork. No one can argue with that.”
A match that was finely balanced at the interval (1-7 apiece) was settled decisively after the break by Tipperary.
Their defence, in which Conor O’Sullivan and 16-year-old Colin O’Riordan were magnificent, restricted the Cork attack to two points in the second half — and only one of those was from play. Around the middle Stephen O’Brien, Ian Fahey and Philip Quirke were towering figures as they controlled the aerial exchanges.
The scores subsequently flowed. Wing-forward Greg Henry burst through for a game-breaking goal in the 38th minute with a brilliant shot to the net and when Michael Quinlivan raised Tipperary’s third green flag from a 50th-minute penalty, they were 3-10 to 1-9 to the good.
The match was wrapped up then with Tipperary so resilient in defence, so strong at midfield and so dangerous in attack. But for the heroics of Cork netminder James McDonnell, the gap between the teams could have been greater.
Ironically, Cork impressed in the opening stages. Despite the early loss of wing-back Kevin Crowley, who suffered a serious shoulder injury, they responded impressively with Brian O’Driscoll in dominant form at the heart of the defence and attacking talisman Dan MacEoin posing plenty problems for the Tipperary rearguard.
MacEoin goaled in the 24th minute after a good delivery by Darragh Murphy and by half time the Ilen Rovers man had claimed 1-3. MacEoin’s free-taking and O’Driscoll’s prowess from 45-yard kicks propelled Cork into a 1-7 to 1-4 advantage as the game inched towards the interval.
However, Tipperary kept battling. They were boosted by a sublime Liam McGrath goal in the 15th minute when he capped off a searing run with a composed finish. In addition corner-forward TJ Ryan was in sensational form in the first half as he fired over five points.
A brace by Ryan and another by Henry helped Tipperary critically gain parity at the break. The introduction of dual star John Meagher to their defence was a shrewd move as he helped curb the threat posed by MacEoin.
Tipperary took confidence from that late first-half scoring rally and in the second half began to dominate the tie.
Cork boss Brian Cuthbert had no qualms afterwards in accepting his side’s defeat. “There are no complaints from us today. They could have beaten us by more than that. At half-time when it was 1-7 apiece, I was happy enough but we conceded three easy points just before the break.
We were put under huge pressure then in the second half and they attacked us in waves. It’ll be difficult in the All-Ireland quarter-finals but we’ll be drumming into them that it’s a new competition and a chance for a new start.”
Scorers for Tipperary: TJ Ryan 0-6 (2f); M Quinlivan (1-0 pen), G Henry 1-1 each, L McGrath 1-0, C O’Riordan 0-2, I Fahey 0-1 (1 45).
Scorers for Cork: D MacEoin 1-4 (0-3f); B O’Driscoll 0-2 (2 45); T Brosnan, C O’Sullivan, D Harrington 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY: G Slattery; N Sullivan, C O’Sullivan, A McGuire; C O’Riordan, D Fitzell, S Kennedy; S O’Brien, I Fahey; B Maher, P Quirke, G Henry; L McGrath, M Quinlivan, TJ Ryan.
Subs: J Meagher for McGuire (31), C Kennedy for Ryan (54), J Lonergan for Henry (55), D Lonergan for Quinlivan (61), D Butler for Maher (61).
CORK: J McDonnell; J Davis, K Fulignati, S Cronin; K Crowley, B O’Driscoll, T Brosnan; S Kiely, S O’Mahony; C Vaughan, M Sugrue, D Murphy; D MacEoin, C O’Sullivan, A Cadogan.
Subs: C Dorman for Crowley (3), D Harrington for Cadogan (ht), K Kavanagh for Dorman (36), K McIntyre for Brosnan (42), J Corkery for O’Sullivan (50).
Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).
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