Tipperary 5-19 Cork 2-13
Make no mistake about it, this was annihilation in Thurles last night in the Munster U21 HC semi-final, with Tipperary the better team by some distance.
In fact, were it not for the outstanding effort of midfielders Brian Murray and Rob O’Shea (especially) in the first half, this would have been ever worse for the visitors.
With two points each from play, those two had kept Cork in this game and when the visitors went on a six-point streak before the break, it took Cork from a 10-point deficit and a seemingly hopeless position in the 27th minute (2-9 to 0-5), to a situation where they trailed by just four as the teams headed for the dressing rooms, 2-9 to 0-11.
It got even better for Cork just after the resumption, a goal by substitute Mark Sugrue (he had also scored one of the six Cork points before the break) bringing them within a point of Tipp, bringing hope to their vocal travelling support in the estimated 3,500 attendance.
Soon, however, that hope was extinguished, and how.
Led by the hard-working O’Meara and the sharp-shooting senior player Jason Forde, Tipp had looked menacing in the first half. Full-forward Bill Walsh (from the famed Carrick Swans club) had their first major as early as the third minute, a good catch and layoff by Aidan McCormack setting him up; Forde notched the second, a right-handed ground shot from the multi-talented and ambidextrous Silvermines golden nugget.
That Sugrue goal though really seemed to light a spark in Tipp, in their midfield especially, who began to take control, Justin Cahill and Brian Stapleton stepping up their game.
The defence, anchored well by Cathal Barrett, Andrew Ryan and Michael Breen at the back, Tomas Hamill controlling the centre, again got to grips with the Cork attack. But those forwards — in the remaining 28 minutes Tipp outscored Cork 3-10 to 1-2, one-way traffic all the way to the end.
Their third goal was scored by Walsh again, on 41 minutes, after he was put in by sub John McGrath (major impact); the fourth goal was a penalty converted by Forde after a foul on the same Walsh (46 minutes); the fifth (53 minutes) the icing on a now very rich cake, wing-forward Tommy Heffernan capitalising on a defensive error to goal from a narrow angle.
Nine scorers in all from play for Tipperary, both midfielders and all six starting forwards on target, sub McGrath also getting in on the action.
Hope then for Tipperary supporters, with their senior side already on holidays for the rest of the season, several potential stars of the future could join Forde next year.
For Cork? Major disappointment, no question, a major blow also to Jimmy Barry-Murphy — who from this panel could he promote?
Seniors Christopher Joyce looked threatening when moved forward, Jamie Coughlan never gave up and did well, but Conor Lehane is a player who looks at odds with himself, lacking confidence.
Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde (2-8, six frees, 1-0 pen); B Walsh (2-1); N O’Meara (0-4); T Heffernan (1-0); L McGrath (0-2); J Cahill, B Stapleton, A McCormack, J McGrath (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: M Sugrue (1-1); J Coughlan (0-4, three frees, one 65); C Buckley (1-0); R O’Shea (0-3); B Murray (0-2); C Joyce, C Lehane, J Wall (0-1 each).
TIPPERARY: D Mooney; C Barrett, A Ryan, M Breen; S Kennedy, T Hamill, J O’Dwyer; B Stapleton, J Cahill; J Forde, N O’Meara (c), T Heffernan; L McGrath, B Walsh, A McCormack.
Subs: J McGrath for McCormack (35); C O’Riordan for L McGrath (50); C Kenny for Walsh (55).
CORK: P Collins; C Spillane, P O’Mahony, D Lester; D O’Mahony, C Joyce (c), D Cahalane; R O’Shea, B Murray; D Lordan, J Coughlan, C Lehane; A Cadogan, J Wall, B Hartnett.
Subs: M Sugrue for Lordan (27); N Kelly for Cadogan (38); S Murphy for O’Mahony (44); K Kavanagh for Murray (49); C Buckley for Hartnett (52).
Referee: S Hourigan (Limerick)
Ulster U21HC semi-final: Antrim 1-17 Down 1-14; Derry 2-13 Armagh 1-13.