To say that the last couple of months have been difficult for the 2010 Hurler of the Year would be an understatement.
For many, he was the scapegoat following Tipperary’s 19-point defeat against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final back in August. Some don’t even want him back in the blue but when Corbett’s on his game, he’s still one of the finest forwards in the country. And after announcing on television last Friday night that he’s available for selection in 2013, he gave new Tipp boss Eamon O’Shea some food for thought in Kilmallock.
Having been held scoreless in the county final victory over Drom & Inch, Corbett showed flashes of his old brilliance yesterday. He blasted over the game’s opening score after 10 seconds, nailed his side’s opening score of the second half and finished a brilliant 43rd minute move for a second Sars goal.
And like they did in 2010, the Premier county flag-bearers survived a stern test on Kilmallock soil. They march on to face Cork champions Sarsfields on November 11 and this hugely entertaining game will have steeled them for what might lie in store down the line. Sars have won 32 Tipperary SHC titles but have never won a Munster crown — that’s something they want to put right.
And yet it was Kilmallock who got off to a rip-roaring start in front of an official attendance of 3,600. With more than a hint of winter in the air, both sides would go on to make light of the conditions.
With just three minutes on the watch, they were 0-1 to 0-3 behind as Kilmallock midfielder Paudie O’Brien drilled over three long-range points.
A brace of points from Pa Bourke, who collected 1-5 in total, levelled matters and when Robbie Egan and Bourke traded scores, the sides were deadlocked at 0-4 apiece. Then, in the 19th minute, Bourke went for the jugular from a 20m free and struck the game’s opening goal.
It was a strike that helped to open up a 1-7 to 0-5 lead for Sars at half-time as Kilmallock, who registered eight second half wides despite not hitting one in the first half, went 17 minutes without a score after Egan’s point.
A free from leading scorer Eoin Ryan on the half hour stopped the rot but Bourke responded in kind with the final score of the first half.
Kilmallock boss Tony Considine was incensed by the first-half performance of referee Colm Lyons (who flashed eight yellow cards in total). Considine even marched on to the field to remonstrate with the Cork whistler.
Considine explained afterwards: “I felt for a long time we weren’t getting them (calls). I think everyone else in the ground felt we weren’t getting them either. I don’t know how ye felt looking at it from a different position to me. I’d say he looked at himself at half-time, he definitely wasn’t having a good game.
“And that’s not sour grapes. It’s a long time since I went into a referee. I don’t usually do things like that but I did it today. I just felt that frees were very easily conceded and it’s a manly game as well, especially in this weather.”
Three times in the second half Kilmallock got to within a point but they could never draw level as the Sars defence, held together magnificently by Pádraic Maher, repelled them. And Corbett’s goal was such a tonic for the winners as he finished a quite brilliant move that passed through the hands of Bourke, Denis Maher and Mikey O’Brien before Corbett applied the finish.
Having weathered the storm, Sars picked off the late scores to get over the line and delighted boss Seamus Quinn gasped: “People in our own county question the character of this team and we just keep producing it.
“Anybody that was here today would know that. It should go around the county that we have character and we have bottle. That’s what it’s going to boil down to, if you’re going to win these games at this time of the year.”
Scorers for Kilmallock: E Ryan 0-6 (4f), P O’Brien & S O’Donnell 0-3 each, R Egan, P O’Dwyer & K O’Donnell 0-1 each.
Scorers for Thurles Sarsfields: P Bourke 1-5 (1-3f), L Corbett 1-2, J Enright 0-3f, D Maher & M O’Brien 0-1 each.
KILMALLOCK: B Hennessy; L Hurley, P O’Loughlin, K O’Mahony; L Walsh, G O’Mahony, B O’Sullivan; R Egan, P O’Brien; J Mulcahy, P O’Dwyer, E Ryan; G Mulcahy, K O’Donnell, S O’Donnell.
Sub: K Kennelly for J Mulcahy (48).
THURLES SARSFIELDS: P McCormack; S Maher, K O’Gorman, David Maher; D Kennedy, P Maher, M Cahill; M Gleeson, J Enright; P Bourke, J Corbett, L Corbett; M O’Brien, Denis Maher, A McCormack.
Subs: B O’Dwyer for S Maher (inj, 28), G O’Grady for J Corbett (42), J Maher for Enright (47), R Ruth for A McCormack (57).
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).