Little cause for Cork optimism after fluid Tipp enchant in the Park

Explain Cork-Tipperary in thirty words or less? Or even 1,200 words or less?

You either understand or you don’t. Fools give you reasons, but wise men never try.

Either Oscar Hammerstein was a complete stranger to the Munster rivals or they were his specific focus. Mind you, for the 30,000-odd spectators in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday it was less Some Enchanted Evening and more Some Enchanted 45 minutes.

That was as long as it took Tipperary to assert their authority over Cork - in the words of one observer they were “more fluent, sharper, more mobile, (had) better support play”, and the fact the Cork manager said that tells you everything you need to know. 

Tipperary weren’t flattered by the 2-28 to 1-24 scoreline at the end, which could have been significantly higher if they’d taken all the chances they created.

For Cork the concession of 2-24 from play sparks all sorts of questions, but the winners’ display deserves analysis first and foremost.

Up front Tipperary were devastating, causing what might politely termed consternation among the Cork defence whenever they attacked. 

They made space and supported each other and showed early on they meant business, hitting a goal two minutes in thanks to Seamus Callanan. The captain’s ominous run, arrowing in from the right wing, meant calmness and technique were required in equal measure. Callanan produced both and the goal set them on their way.

Before the game even began Cork’s Bill Cooper pulled up in the pre-game warm-up and had to be replaced by Robbie O’Flynn just before the throw-in, with Luke Meade going to midfield for Cork, but even that late reshuffle doesn’t explain the poverty of Cork’s display.

Headlines may focus today on a defence which leaked so many scores, but Meyler noted obliquely after yesterday’s game the need for his players to work harder further up the field. 

No matter how good the defender is, unless pressure is put on the delivery coming from out the field he’s barbecued, and yesterday the three Mahers - Brendan, Ronan and Padraic - had ample time to look up and find men ahead of them.

The lack of physical pressure on Tipperary in the middle of the field allowed them a freedom of self-expression they exploited to the full Tipperary were well in control by the end of the first quarter, 1-8 to 0-6, but Cork hit six on the bounce to nudge ahead by the 23rd minute. 

They needed Anthony Nash to save a Jason Forde penalty, however, and the visitors were still able to put some daylight between the sides either side of half-time.

Then they manufactured a fine goal, helped a good deal by a Cork defence that momentarily, but fatally, lost its shape. 

Noel McGrath found John O’Dwyer in the corner, and he in turn picked out John McGrath, whose terrific strike would come equipped with its own exclamation point if it was sketched in a comic.

That put Tipperary eight ahead turning into the last quarter, and though Seamus Harnedy’s brave solo goal made the closing stages interesting, it was a blue and gold day from start to finish.

True to form, Tipperary boss Liam Sheedy was delighted with the win but looking for improvement as well.

“We’re very, very happy to have got over the line but as I said earlier on, two points is not going to get you anywhere in this championship but to win on the road is a big win. Let’s call it for what it is.”

Asked about the one-point half-time lead, Sheedy added: “Our discipline failed. We just gave away too many placed balls and someone like Patrick Horgan, his radar is always in. Psychologically I thought we deserved to be that point up at half-time and in fairness to the lads they kicked on in the second half. Some of the points we struck were really, really nice scores. I was judging by the crowd on the far side and when I heard the little roars, I said that sounds good to me.”

John Meyler paid tribute to the Premier County’s quality after the game: “They were more fluent, better support play and were just hungrier than us. That’s really it.”

Before the game much was made - well, much in the commentariat sense - of the fact that Tipperary had decided not to lean on last year’s All-Ireland-winning U21 side, preferring to go with experience. 

The Premier had men on duty yesterday who played in an All-Ireland senior final a decade ago, and in the modern game that implies a lot of mileage accumulated in the years since.

But Sheedy signposted work rate as a prerequisite last week, and he got that in spades from his players yesterday.

Warning signs for Tipperary? Their defenders looked vulnerable on the turn and leaked the frees which kept Cork involved in the game, but the sparkle from their front eight would see them home in a shoot-out with most other sides. They’ll be eager to welcome Waterford next week.

Cork’s takeaways are necessarily grimmer. Their puck-out strategy suffered at Tipperary’s hands yesterday, and if the visitors had been more clinical in the final quarter the game might have been well out of sight.

The survival of Niall O’Leary on his debut was one of the few positives, though John Meyler will be keen to see Colm Spillane (his best defender) and Bill Cooper (his best midfielder) return to the field as soon as possible.

His opposite number referred to some unhappy experiences in Páirc Uí Chaoimh during his first tenure with Tipperary, and some in red and white were reminding themselves of 2010, when Sheedy’s Tipperary were well beaten by Cork on Leeside but rallied to win the All-Ireland.

An encouraging omen for Rebel supporters? Give the last word to the man who started us, Oscar Hammerstein. After all, Cockeyed Optimist was another of his compositions.

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