Premier punch puts Cork on the canvas

Tipperary’s ambitions of retaining their All-Ireland MFC crown remain intact after they staved off the determined challenge of Cork in an engaging Munster semi-final clash in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last night.

With several survivors from the side that claimed national success last September, Tipperary required all that experience to emerge with the honours in front of 2,221 patrons. Victory also set up a final showdown on July 8 against a Kerry team they defeated in the opening round.

The critical score in this tight tie arrived just after the interval. Only two minutes had elapsed in the second-half when Tipperary’s John Martin punted in a cross from the left wing and the towering figure of Philip Quirke availed of the new square ball rule to steal in and fist the ball to the net. That proved the only green flag of the game and was the centrepiece of a fine performance by the Moyle Rovers man who posed a significant threat throughout for the Cork rearguard.

Quirke was helped in the attacking department by John McGrath who pulled the strings from centre-forward and scored four points, divided evenly between open play and placed balls, while Ian Fahey, unable to start due to an injury, made a massive impact when introduced at the break. He kicked two brilliant long-range points and enhanced Tipperary’s prowess in claiming aerial possession.

“Coming down to Cork and beating a well-prepared team is massive,” enthused Tipperary manager David Power afterwards. “Ephie Fitzgerald had them in great shape and they were super fit.

It was probably the toughest game we’ve played over the two years. It’s a pity for Cork that they’re out as I think they’re one of the top eight teams in the country. It wasn’t a pretty performance and we can play better football. Cork restricted us though.”

Defeat here confirmed Cork’s exit from this season’s minor championship and after thrashing Limerick in their opening fixture, it was their misfortune to be handed such a tricky assignment here. They battled furiously throughout. Corner-back Stephen Cronin gave an excellent defensive display in nullifying the threat of Colman Kennedy, Ian Maguire was an energetic force at midfield while Kevin Crowley made several rampaging runs forward. Substitutes Aidan Moynihan and Killian McIntyre shone when drafted on at half-time in improving Cork’s attacking play.

But Cork were left to rue their shooting in front of goal as they amassed 13 wides over the hour that included three misses from scoreable close-range frees. The close attentions of the Tipperary rearguard ensured the Cork forwards never received any clearcut goal-scoring opportunities in open play and their best chance to raise a green flag came with last kick of the game from the penalty spot. Yet Brian O’Driscoll’s injury-time shot was expertly palmed away by Tipperary netminder Evan Comerford, whose accurate kickouts and composed fielding were frequent facets of the play.

The teams were locked together at 0-5 apiece at the break. Tipperary had made the early running with Steven O’Brien and Martin giving them a foothold in midfield, and they led 0-5 to 0-3 by the 23rd minute. However Cork made an encouraging revival before the break with Killian O’Connor and Cathal Vaughan ensuring parity by half-time. Tipperary almost found the net late on when Kennedy lobbed in a cross but O’Brien flashed a shot wide at the far post. The clashes between the respective sets of players in the tunnel as they headed for the dressing-rooms indicated the feisty nature of the action at that juncture.

Tipperary received an early second-half fillip when Quirke found the net but Cork moved back into contention. Moynihan and McIntyre both looked menacing in attack which was reflected in the white flags they raised while Maguire galloped forward to lob another shot between the posts. With ten minutes remaining they were still in contention as they trailed by 1-8 to 0-8.

However Tipperary, principally through the twin attacking forces of Fahey and Quirke that contributed a combined total of four points in the second-half, were always able to stay ahead on the scoreboard.

Two points was the smallest deficit that Cork ever faced and the sense grew during the second-half that they needed a goal to overhaul their opponents. But a Tipperary defence where James Feehan, Kevin Fahey and Bill Maher produced strong second-half showings held out to triumph.

Scorers for Tipperary: P Quirke 1-2, J McGrath 0-4 (0-2f), I Fahey 0-2, S O’Brien, C Kennedy (0-1f) 0-1 each.

Scorers for Cork: C Vaughan (0-1f), I Maguire 0-2 each, A Moynihan, K McIntyre, K Crowley, A O’Donovan, K O’Connor 0-1 each.

TIPPERARY: E Comerford; D Cass, J Feehan, L Egan; K Fahey, D Fitzell, B Maher; S O’Brien, P Quirke; J Lonergan, J Martin, G Henry; C Kennedy, J McGrath, J Shelly. Subs: TJ Ryan for Shelly (half-time), I Fahey for Henry (half-time), J Maher for Lonergan (60)

CORK: M Martin; S O’Leary, T O’Rourke, S Cronin; J Davis, C Hyde, K Crowley; B O’Driscoll, I Maguire; S T O’Sullivan, A O’Donovan, P Fitzgerald; C Vaughan, C Horgan, K O’Connor. Subs: A Moynihan for Horgan (half-time), K McIntyre for O’Sullivan (half-time), C Ryan for O’Rourke (57)

Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).

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