Pre-season score-quake but Tipp go extra mile

The Waterford Crystal Tournament is meant to be an early-season warm-up competition, an opportunity for teams to shake loose the winter cobwebs.

Given the competitive nature of this semi-final in Templemore yesterday, Tipperary establishing their superiority only after extra-time, one wonders if anyone has informed the players because this was one hell of a battle.

Tipperary lined out with a very strong side, nine of the starting 15 from last year’s All-Ireland final loss to Kilkenny, while Cork, though they did feature Sean Óg Ó hAilpin in his first game for Cork since his superb performance against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat of 2010, had a largely experimental team.

It showed too, in the first half especially, as Tipperary time and again cut through the heart of the Cork defence only to squander several gilt-edged goal chances. As it was, with inside forwards Brian O’Meara (especially) and John O’Brien impressing, they led at the break by just a single point, 0-7 to 0-6.

The second-half was a far more even affair, Cork getting some fine performances from several newcomers, most notably centre-back Ross Cashman (Kilbrittain) and midfielder Darren Sweetman (Dohenys).

“Darren Sweetman is only 18, doing his Leaving Cert,” said manager Jimmy Barry Murphy.

“We’re thrilled with him, did a very good job; Ross Cashman played very well at centre-back — we’re casting the net wide to see if we can get players who are up to the standard.”

Brian Corry too made a welcome return to the big stage, and though up against no less a defender than Padraic Maher, still managed three fine points from play.

At the end of that second half, Tipperary having managed to botch another couple of goal opportunities (though Martin Coleman in the Cork goals was an alert and imposing figure), the scores were level at 0-18 apiece. Then wing-forward Adrian Ryan had three fine points for Tipp, midfield sub James Woodlock had two, Brian O’Meara continuing to impress, while sub Luke O’Farrell was looking very sharp for the visitors.

Into extra-time then. The first half again was even enough, Tipp edging ahead by a point, 0-20 to 0-19 but again — as in the first half of regular time — hitting a slew of wides.

The final period, however, was the real difference, five points in-a-row for the home team, two of those from sub Sean Curran, veteran Eoin Kelly also prominent, and though Tracton’s Michael O’Sullivan did manage a goal for Cork, a low grounder past the unsighted Brendan Cummins, that was mere consolation.

A good contest, and two satisfied managers — first up, Tipp’s Declan Ryan: “We missed a few goal chances but it’s nice to come out of a tight game and win it. It’s early days and the boys are in heavy training at the moment.”

A few individuals caught his eye, most notably Brian O’Meara, but there were others.

“Brian played well, he’s a ball winner and a very physical guy. He’s put in a big effort since January 1, training with WIT as well — I’m delighted with the way he played today. Adrian Ryan has been there or thereabouts for the last couple of years and played U21. It was a very workmanlike performance from Adrian today – he too has been putting in a huge effort, he’ll give you everything that he has.”

As for Jimmy Barry Murphy, equally satisfied. “We could have done without the extra-time to be honest but we’re very pleased with the workout. Over the last couple of years Tipp have gone a little ahead of us and we’re working very hard to close that gap. I was very pleased with the attitude of the lads, I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.”

Scorers for Tipperary: B O’Meara 0-5; E Kelly 0-4 (0-3f, 0-1 65); A Ryan 0-3; J O’Brien 0-3; P Bourke 0-3 (0-2f); J Woodlock 0-2; S Curran 0-2; G Ryan 0-2; C O’Mahony, J Ryan, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Cork: M O’Sullivan 1-0; C Naughton 0-3; P Cronin 0-3; B Corry 0-3; J Coughlan 0-3 (0-2f); R Cashman 0-3 (0-2f, 0-1 65); L O’Farrell 0-2; R Clifford, N McCarthy, 0-1 each.

TIPPERARY: B Cummins; C O’Brien, P Curran (c), M Cahill; S Maher, C O’Mahony, Padraic Maher; J Ryan, S McGrath; G Ryan, Patrick Maher, A Ryan; P Bourke, B O’Meara, J O’Brien.

Subs: J Woodlock (McGrath inj. 29); D Young (J Ryan 51); E Kelly (Bourke 51); S Curran (Maher 66); P Bourke (Patrick Maher inj. 68); J Ryan (A Ryan 73).

CORK: M Coleman; B Murphy, E Dillon, C O’Sullivan; J Gardiner, R Cashman, S O hAilpin; D Sweetman, P Cronin (c); B Corry, N McCarthy, C Naughton; J Coughlan, E Murphy, R Clifford.

Subs: M O’Sullivan (McCarthy 42); C Joyce (Ó hAilpin 48); L O’Farrell (Clifford 48); B O’Connor (E Murphy 54); S O’Neill (O’Sullivan 58); N McCarthy (Corry 70); R Clifford (Sweetman 70); E Murphy (Cronin inj. 77).

Referee: S Hourigan (Limerick).

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