Before this game last night, the Tipperary seniors did their last hard training session for the Wexford match before arriving into Semple Stadium in their training gear. Liam Sheedy must have left the place buzzing because if Tipperary were looking for an example of what will be required to beat Wexford, their U20s emphatically provided it.
On the overall balance of play, Cork were probably that little bit better but the heart, fight, and character shown by Tipperary was grade-A stuff.
Similar to last year’s All-Ireland U21 final, Jake Morris’ late goal had an element of larceny about the outcome again but, while Tipp may have robbed Cork once more, they fully deserved it too.
This was a typical mid-week U20 (formerly U21) game where the hurling just makes your heart soar. The hurling at this age-group has long been the purest form.
There was tactical elements to the match, especially in how Cork used Dáire Connery, but it was mostly off-the-cuff stuff.
And there is something magical when young players just go out and play hurling with freedom of expression and with complete abandon. This was high-stakes stuff but the incredible battle between Craig Morgan, the Tipperary captain, and Ryan Turnbull encapsulated so much of how pure this game really was.
Turnbull got two class points. There were times when Turnbull looked capable of cutting loose but Morgan, who was left to survive on his own, with no cover, just manned up and battled heroically to do his job.
The atmosphere was electric. They were forced to open the Kinnane Stand, which they hadn’t planned to, and the crowd were treated to an epic.
Some of the best games I’ve ever seen have been at U21 level and, while this is a year below that age, this was one of the best underage matches I’ve seen in a long time.
There is nearly a case on an evening like last night for water-breaks midway through both halves, such was the intensity and effort by both groups in such intense humidity.
It’s another sickening defeat for Denis Ring and many of these Cork players but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if what happened last year happens again and both sides meet in successive All-Ireland finals.
Tipperary’s big guns looked to be struggling for a while but then they thundered into the match, especially Paddy Caddel at centre-back and Jerome Cahill at midfield.
Morris was brilliantly held by Ger Mellerick throughout but he still came up with the match-winning goal.
Conor Bowe was outstanding because he was such a constant threat throughout, brave and always taking the right option, while you also have to give massive credit to Aaron Browne for an outlandish save from Shane O’Regan in the 21st minute. You couldn’t call it a turning point so early in such an oscillating game but Browne’s stop wasn’t far off earning that status.
It was fine margins all evening. And if the sides meet again, which is more than possible, it will be more fine margins again.