Having played twice since Cork beat Limerick, Tipperary were bound to be the sharper team at the outset. Not, as it transpired, for the vast majority of the game. The tag of Munster champions appeared only a millstone around Cork’s necks, the five-week hiatus a killer.
In front of a 68,728 mostly made up of their own supporters, Cork didn’t show up yesterday. Their lack of focus was evident from the time Shane O’Neill fumbled an easy ball and allowed Seamus Callanan in for a sixth minute goal to Paudie O’Sullivan’s vain attempt to lift the ball on three occasions in the 58th minute.
This wasn’t going to be Cork’s day. The tell-tale signs stood out even at half-time when they trailed by just two points, 1-7 to 0-8. They had posted nine wides at that stage and half of their scores came from frees. Then there were the misplaced balls and their slackness in hunts for 50-50 balls.
When Mark Ellis failed to gather another comfortable possession on the hour mark, allowing Callanan to send over his fourth score of the game, it would have dawned on even the most optimistic of Cork players that there would be no coming back.
As Eamon O’Shea rightly said afterwards, this wasn’t made easy for Tipperary. They had more than a supporting role in their success. From one to 15, there were scarcely any below-par displays. Lar Corbett wasn’t at his best but remained a pest to the Cork defence.
Darren Gleeson gave his most accomplished performance yet since taking Brendan Cummins’ mantle. He made three point-blank saves, deflecting over a Conor Lehane shot for a point in the 55th minute and two from Patrick Horgan at the death. On top of that, his puckouts were of a high quality.
Having marked Henry Shefflin so impressively in the Division 1 final earlier this year, Cathal Barrett added Patrick Horgan to his list of considerable scalps. Shane McGrath had been threatening to be the forgotten man of this group but here he provided his best show for Tipperary since 2010, he and midfield partner James Woodlock each scoring three points.
All three Mahers who started were excellent although Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher took longer to get to grips with the game having sustained a rib injury. When he did, following a switch into the full-forward line joining Callanan, few matched his effectiveness.
The quality of Callanan’s strikes for the goals were top drawer. Coming off his right in the first half, Anthony Nash was blinded by bodies in front of him but there were no mitigating reasons for his second off his left in the 47th minute after ‘Bonner’ Maher had claimed the ball and set him up.
He did have a chance to make it three shortly afterwards but miscued a pick-up and the chance was gone. It was a let-off for Cork but their race had been run. In the next seven minutes, Tipperary sent over five points while Conor Lehane returned with one.
The margin was 11 in the 54th minute and rose to 13 in the 63rd before Rob O’Shea scored a consolation goal three minutes later.
There was even time for Tipperary supporters to turn their attentions to Kilkenny when Brian Cody’s face appeared on the big screens although the boos that greeted it were unbecoming. Nothing like the honest toil from the Tipp players. John O’Dwyer’s third of six points on the half hour mark, when he blocked Damien Cahalane before sending his shot over, was a perfect example of same.
“It’s what they demand from themselves,” said O’Shea. “When you talk to a player and he’s telling you he wants to do blockdowns. Bubbles (O’Dwyer) tells me, he says ‘I want to do blockdowns.’ And then you see it happening. Then you can go back to him next week and say, ‘it happened – you blocked down.’ And it’s easier for the next guy to do it.
“It’s a question of just talking them through the things you think are necessary to get a performance. Not that the ball went over the bar, per se, although it’s nice to go over the bar. But that he blocked down and got a break.”
O’Dwyer greeted his fifth point in the 53rd minute with a fist pump to the crowd. He could afford the celebration. Everywhere Tipperary were winning their individual battles.
Cork, in the end, registered 16 wides. Jimmy Barry-Murphy regarded Cork’s first half count as “shocking”.
“It was very, very poor at times,” he said. “In situations that we’ve normally taken our chances. We would have been in a much healthier position at half-time if we’d taken our chances. That eroded confidence certainly.
“Free-taking was a problem as well. Different things didn’t help us today. I thought two points down at half-time flattered us. The wides eroded confidence, heads seemed to drop because of that.”
They did and never rose. Tipp’s, on the other hand, were and are directed ahead to September 7th.
S Callanan (2-4); J O’Dwyer (0-6); S McGrath, J Woodlock (0-3 each); N McGrath (0-2).
C Lehane (0-4); R O’Shea (1-0); A Nash, P Horgan (0-2, frees each); A Cadogan, S Harnedy, A Walsh (0-1 each).
D Maher for G Ryan (57); E Kelly for L Corbett (60); J Forde for Patrick Maher (inj, 65); M Cahill for S McGrath (inj, 65); C O’Brien for J Woodlock (69).
P O’Sullivan for A Cadogan, S Moylan for P Cronin (both 46); R O’Shea for A Walsh (55); J Coughlan for S Harnedy (64).
D Gleeson; P Stapleton, J Barry, C Barrett; K Bergin, B Maher, Padraic Maher; S McGrath, J Woodlock; G Ryan, Patrick Maher, N McGrath; J O’Dwyer, S Callanan, L Corbett.
A Nash; C Joyce, D Cahalane, S McDonnell; D Cahalane, M Ellis, L McLoughlin; D Kearney, A Walsh; S Harnedy, B Cooper, C Lehane; P Horgan, P Cronin, A Cadogan.
J Owens (Wexford)