O’Halloran stands tall for Cork

ONLY 29 days have elapsed in the first month of the 2012 season and the Cork senior footballers got their hands on silverware at the Clonmel Sportsfield yesterday.

Yet the muted post-match reaction suggests they will not pause too long to reflect on this McGrath Cup final triumph.

There were only 915 present to watch Cork trudge past Tipperary in testing underfoot conditions and much of the crowd had dispersed by the time Ray Carey, standing in for regular captain Graham Canty, lifted the trophy.

The competition served its purpose for Cork, feeding them a diet of three games during January and allowing Conor Counihan put players under the microscope.

Having picked up a few minor knocks over the past week and putting another side together for a workout with Dublin last Friday night in Abbeyleix, Counihan was forced to shake things up before throw-in yesterday.

Six names were scratched off the original teamsheet, with Sean Kiely, Micheal Ó Laoire and Paul Honohan amongst those pushed into action.

“It’s a competition we decided to enter this year and, having entered it, we wanted to win it,” reflected Counihan.

“We’ve had good ground up to this in our games but that pitch was very tough to play on there. We had a number of new players out there again today and it was an opportunity to have a look at them. It was pleasing.”

Tipperary’s efforts to land a first McGrath Cup crown in eight years were undone by their poor shooting. Points by Phillip Austin in the 32nd minute and Conor Sweeney in the 49th minute were the only occasions when they found solace from play as the Cork defence thwarted Tipperary. In the finale Tipperary managed to crack the codes to unlock the Cork rearguard but found it an impossible task to smuggle the ball past goalkeeper Ken O’Halloran.

The Bishopstown man produced breathtaking saves to twice deny Barry Grogan before showing the agility to flick away a Peter Acheson shot en route to the bottom corner injury-time. After also watching Austin smack a left foot shoot narrowly wide in either half, Tipperary manager John Evans was entitled to wonder what would have transpired had his team found the net.

“From a Cork point of view, Ken O’Halloran was man of the match, as he made a few absolutely superb saves,” said Evans. “The shots were just inside the post but he still managed to tip the ball away. That doesn’t mean we’d have won the game but it does show we can create chances. I’m disappointed we didn’t put up a bigger score. There were a few chances we had from frees that you’ve got to put over the bar. But it was good preparation for the league and very honest commitment from both sets of teams in trying conditions.”

Cork’s experience and strength were key facets in their victory with both Michael Shields in defence and Pearse O’Neill commanding midfield. They led 0-6 to 0-3 at the break and looked capable of upping their game. It materialised early in the second-half.

Wing-backs Kiely and Conor O’Driscoll showed up well with their range of foot-passing, and both Paul Kerrigan and Fintan Goold displayed the guile to create point-scoring chances as Cork raced 0-11 to 0-4 clear by the 50th minute.

Tipperary shored up their rearguard with Ciaran McDonald and Robbie Kiely to the fore while Austin and Acheson found greater joy weaving their way through the Cork defence. The closing stages saw Tipperary press forward incessantly yet they could not make further inroads on the scoreboard.

Cork were indebted to the heroics of O’Halloran in goal and coped with the deteriorating surface to preserve their advantage. But Counihan has injury concerns over Colm O’Neill, Patrick Kelly, Donncha O’Connor and Eoin Cadogan ahead of next Sunday’s league trip to the Morgan Athletic Grounds to face Armagh.

“It was tough going out there,” admitted Goold. “If it wasn’t for Ken in goal, it could have been hairy.”

Scorers for Cork: P Kerrigan 0-4 (1f), F Goold 0-3 (2fs), C O’Driscoll, P O’Neill, M Ó Laoire, F Lynch, L Shorten, S Cahalane 0-1 each.

Scorers for Tipperary: B Grogan 0-4fs, P Austin, C Sweeney 0-1 each.

CORK: K O’Halloran; M Shields, R Carey, K Harrington; S Kiely, P Kissane, C O’Driscoll; P O’Neill, M Ó Laoire; F Goold, F Lynch, L Shorten; S Cahalane, P Kerrigan, P Honohan.

Subs: L Connolly for Ó Laoire (ht), A O’Reilly for Harrington (51), J Fitzpatrick for Honohan (53), N O’Leary for Shields (63).

TIPPERARY: M O’Donnell; R Costigan, C McDonald, P Codd; R Kiely, T Ryan, L Egan; B Jones, E Ryan; H Coghlan, S Grogan, P Acheson; C Sweeney, P Austin, B Grogan.

Subs: B Fox for Egan (47), S Carey for S Grogan (47), D Heffernan for Jones (54), S Ryan for Coghlan (61).

Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).

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