By Larry Ryan
Cork must use their pace to go after Tipperary early on Sunday and turn the Thurles crowd against an unsettled home team, says former Rebels star Diarmuid O’Sullivan.
The three-time All-Ireland winner and former Cork selector urges John Meyler to capitalise on unrest among the Tipp hurling public following last weekend’s opening Munster Championship defeat by Limerick.
Talking to Paddy Power News, O’Sullivan said: “Tipp supporters are as fickle as the Cork fans could be.
"If Cork can dictate the pace of the game in the first 10 minutes and keep Tipperary on the back foot, there’s a great opportunity to go after them from the start. I’d encourage Cork to go for the throat here. They’d be foolish not to. There’s no manager that wouldn’t take them on from the get-go.
“Speed is king and Cork’s pace will not only worry Tipperary, although it will trouble most teams in the Championship.
“Sean O’Donoghue is lightning quick, Damien Cahalane is no slouch, Mark Coleman can move and then further up the field you add in Darragh Fitzgibbon, Robbie O’Flynn, Conor Lehane and Seamus Harnedy has a good burst. Then you have Shane Kingston coming off the bench as well for 20, 25 minutes. Any team with that kind of pace has a real advantage.”
And he believes that fear of a Tipperary backlash will banish any complacency in the Cork camp after a win over a Clare side he believes to be a “pale shadow” of previous Banner sides.
“It will help Cork avoid complacency. They beat a Clare side that won only one game in the Munster Championship in the last five years, which is a poor record for Clare. From an outsider’s perspective, I’d be more inclined to wonder if there’s issues in the Clare camp? That’s an abysmal record.
“They will be meeting a different type of team to what they met last week. It was a pale shadow of Clare teams from the past. They are completely lacking any leaders.”
O’Sullivan accepts that Cork are not yet established winners guaranteed to boss Tipperary on their own patch.
“They may have won a Munster title and got to an All-Ireland semi-final last year, but we’re after pretty poor innings in recent times. So, until Cork gets its own house in order, I don’t think it would be fair for us to go into anyone’s front room and start rattling cages.”
And he refused to criticise the short-lived media silence imposed by Tipperary manager Michael Ryan following the defeat at the Gaelic Grounds.
“I’m not in Michael Ryan’s shoes and I don’t know what his rational was for doing that. He’s the manager of the Tipperary senior hurling team and he’s entitled to do it, and I’m not going to criticise him for it. He has his own reasons and his own agenda.
“Ultimately it made people ask is there something wrong in the Tipp camp, but that was unfair to Limerick.
“For people to focus on this thing, it just took from Limerick’s performance last Sunday and it did them a serious injustice because they won the game fairly by six points on the day.”
He expects Ryan to restore experienced stars such as Brendan Maher, Seamus Callanan and Patrick Maher to his starting lineup for Sunday’s game.
“I absolutely expect Tipperary to bring back all their big guns for Sunday, without doubt. Michael Ryan is going to set his stall out and really go after this because he knows if Tipp win, they are right back in the hunt. If they pull off a victory, I’d fancy Tipp to be in the Munster Championship Final, that’s how much momentum they’ll get from it.
“It’s very simple, if you want to come and have a shootout with Cork, you better have the guns. Cork have forwards who can hurt you. If you give them the space, room and time, they have the firepower, so you better make sure you have the armoury to take that on.
"They’ll revel in the opportunity to go to Thurles on Sunday, knowing a win up there could put them in a comfortable position.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.