Ciaran Fitzgerald was captain of the Ireland rugby team back in 1985 when they were going for the Triple Crown. Ireland and England were deadlocked at 10 points apiece and a draw would have ended Ireland’s ambitions. Fitzgerald famously asked his teammates “where’s your ‘effing’ pride” before an important lineout.
You can be sure that the word ‘pride’ was used many times by players and management in the Tipp dressing room when the Blue and Gold went in at half-time yesterday. They were nine points down and looked dead and buried.
However, they fought back impressively in the second half and a point in the final minute of added-time from substitute Jake Morris brought them level at the finish.
There is a fine photograph by James Crombie of Tipp manager Michael Ryan at the final whistle, leaping high into the air with arms raised.
Cork manager John Meyler looks very disappointed in the background. I’m sure that Ryan would gladly have settled for a draw at the interval. He will see this result as a point gained and almost a victory.
The second half display will instil some much needed confidence for their next two winnable games. On the other hand, Meyler will view the outcome as a precious point lost.
Tipperary made personnel changes at half-time. They looked a more balanced team in the second half. Paudie Maher went to centre-back, his brother Ronan went to midfield. Jason Forde moved to centre-forward, ‘dropping off’ a lot into midfield and the Premier became far more competitive and combative in the middle third.
As well, they altered their tactics and used the short ball a lot more from their defence to pick out good targets up front. They relied on long deliveries and puckouts in the first half but the Cork defence defended these easily. John McGrath was a peripheral figure in the first half but his influence grew in general play and on the scoreboard (5 points) as the second half progressed. His brother Noel was more effective at corner-forward and the attack in general benefited from more accurate service.
Tipp played with a determination and commitment that was largely absent in the first half, reducing the deficit to four points after just five minutes of the second period. They were aided by the strong wind and the arrival of heavy rain altered the playing conditions.
The Rebels looked less assured and the momentum swung quickly in Tipp’s favour. Only for a superb save and equally important ground tackle on John O’Dwyer by Anthony Nash, the game would have swung completely in Tipp’s favour.
In the first half Tipp allowed Cork to go short with puckouts.The Rebels then moved the ball forward with quick hand-passes and clever stickwork. Daniel Kearney and Luke Meade swapped wings continuously. This created width in attack and good scoring opportunities for Kearney, who knocked over four points.
Darragh Fitzgibbon and Bill Cooper lorded the midfield area and Cork were feeding their attackers with a good quality supply. As well, Cork built a strong attacking platform by winning the long puck-outs favoured by the Tipp keeper Brian Hogan.
Hogan struck 16 puck-outs in this first period to his half-forward line.The Premier only won one of these. Cork then ran the ball through midfield and angled in good deliveries to their inside attack. Cork’s work-rate, tackling, first touch and energy threatened to blow Tipp completely out of the water and the only blight on their first half performance was some poor wides. However, apart from Shane Kingston’s goal five minutes before half-time they also failed to trouble the tall Tipp netminder.
Cork’s full-forwards, Seamus Harnedy, Shane Kingston and Patrick Horgan, were constantly on the move and were well on top in the first period. In contrast they got no supply in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
The Tipp defence as a whole were under severe pressure and one goal was a poor return for their dominance. This is an area that Cork need to improve on. Patrick Horgan gave some work to Hawkeye when he fired a bullet of a shot for a point from a narrow angle in the first half. However, there was some separation between him and defender Micky Cahill and he might have attacked Cahill on the inside and tried for a goal.
Cork seem to be content with tap-overs rather than going for the jugular. When your foot is on the throat of the opposition it is important to drive it home.
There are some lessons to be learned by the Rebels from this outing. After their poor display in the first half, Tipp were bound to force the pace in the first 10 minutes after half-time. Would Cork have fared better if they had withdrawn their troops, condensed the play and made it an ultra defensive low-scoring game for the first 15 minutes of the second half.
This might have created a stalemate and provided Cork with an important victory.
Sean O’Donoghue, Cork’s young corner-back also learned a valuable lesson. When conditions are wet and greasy and an important pick up is to be made, it is best to use both hands on the stick. This is as true today as it was 50 years ago.
Tipp will now be very confident facing Waterford next weekend while Cork have a tricky assignment against a rested Limerick.
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