Cork-Tipperary legend won’t survive many days like this

The day hadn’t decided yet. In Cork, optimism leaked through the curtains early. On Twitter, Jerry Buttimer used new Senate powers to annoint Tipp-Cork the start of summer.
Cork-Tipperary legend won’t survive many days like this

Summer was playing ball.

Played Sunshine On Leith five times on the way up in the car.

Once they got the bit of rioting out of their systems, the choral performance of their Proclaimers anthem by the Hibs faithful at Hampden Park on Saturday stirred something.

A beautiful, communal release of longing.

Proof again of sport’s time-shifting ability to squeeze decades of hopes and dreams and glories and culture and life into 90 minutes or 70 minutes.

Or in the case of the Hibees, to distil 114 years of sorrow and sorrow and sorrow and love and the odd merciful release of emotion. Suddenly, Bocelli at the King Power seemed a bit forced. Maybe the Leicester crowd hadn’t longed enough. Had no reason to.

There wouldn’t be a display of communal longing in Thurles, but with the sun blazing, you could somehow feel connected to the generations of legend that might be packed into 70 minutes. That we were unfurling the tapestry, stitched by deeds and ploys and strokes of Ring and Doyle and O’Donoghue and Reddin and Fenton and Fox and JBM and Nicky and the rest.

When legend assured us the sun always shone.

Cue antidote. Nosing through the Square, the first deluge scattered the colours and shrunk the fixture to a low-key first-round clash with a dubious prize.

In early, Nicky English wondered about the Tipp team, wondered what use was winning.

“As a manager you can’t engineer a loss but…. You might be hung tomorrow but you might be in a better position…”.

Into the Dome for shelter and reboot. A gathering of 250 people — a share from Cork — were marking the 1916 Munster final between the counties and ready to revel in a century of shared history and disputed glory.

“Today is testament to great friendship and great memories,” offered Tomás Mulcahy.

Outside, the clouds parted briefly as Nicky and Tomas talked of what it meant and what it means. And remembered what the Canon said, what Babs said, what Hennessy said.

Mulcahy revelled in the centenary heist of ‘84, when Tipp’s late five-point lead made sure a fair portion of the Cork crowd only got the good news when they stepped off the train at Kent Station. English preferred to dwell on the end of the famine in ‘87 or on ‘91, when, as Mulcahy protested, “ye cut the wire.”

Another downpour battered the Dome and shattered the reverie. Reality bit. Ger Ryan of the Munster Council was fretting. “Won’t encourage the walk-up crowd.” By the throw-in, the clouds had made the call to stick around.

The few gowls marred a long silence for the late Joe McDonagh and minds wandered to another song, another emotional catharsis that released decades of sorrow and sorrow and love and longing.

Another game that packed decades into the 70. How much would they fit into today’s?

The communal outbreak of flaking and jostling triggered by the first whistle suggested buy-in. You didn’t get this in the league.

The opening minutes were punctuated by several outbreaks of what Ger Canning was undoubtedly calling ‘pleasantries’.

Quarter-of-an hour later, the purpose had hissed out of Cork fury. And a gorgeous first-time flick from Callanan to McGrath, who rifled over, capped a five-minute Tipp masterclass.

One of that sequence of scores, lofted by Callanan from under the New Stand, might even be recalled one day when his legend is told. Tipp were doing a fair impression of a team interested in the direct route through Munster. Cork seemed to be doing an impression of what we must now call ‘modern hurling’.

The ploy of gathering in conclave under puck-outs, then splitting late as if keen to spread a rumour, confused Tipp a while, but offered little profit. While the sweeper swept, Tipp hurled. And time and again efforts to carry and pass brought slippage and spillage. By the half-hour, people were mourning Cork, were mourning Cork-Tipp, were mourning hurling.

As the lead swelled, the stadium just took it in.

It was left to debutant Hawkeye to inject suspense, taking an age to deny Dan McCormack. Hawkeye was called three times over the hour, and three times said ‘Nil’, in its own sweet time.

A Harnedy wide deflated brief Cork resistance. And only the rain intensified, scattering the half-time hoardes early, with Tipp nine up.

Only late flourishes of trademark Tipp exuberance, a little unnecessary embroidery on yesterday’s tapestry, had promised a prolonged contest.

A horrible early second-half wide from Patrick Horgan didn’t. Then Callanan spun away from Damien Cahalane and arrowed another. This looked done.

The game settled into torpor. And Tipp all but declared.

Cork were creating a few rucks, were profiting at breakdown, you might say, if you were to betray all that is sacred. Somehow, they trailed by only seven with 20 left. “If they were to get a goal,” men worried, because they had always worried.

“Rebels, Rebels, Rebels” got a brief airing, for history’s sake. Horgan went for goal, when he might have prolonged the worry by taking a point.

From there it petered out to a full-time murmur.

“Brutal, wasn’t it,” one man summarised. “For Tipp-Cork. Jesus.” Online, on Premierview after, they weren’t even glorying in it. Someone had got word of the sizeable Cork contingent who landed into Thurles station with 10 still to go and jumped straight on the train. The news would be no better when they landed. It was the Dublin train.

At the finish of the Intermediate, they played Slievenamon. They didn’t after the senior. It wouldn’t have a sparked a communal singalong.

Sometimes, you pack decades into 70 minutes, sometimes you don’t even get 70 minutes.

It won’t go on the tapestry, but the legend of Cork-Tipp will survive days like this.

Though maybe not too many of them.

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