Tipperary left Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday with a deserved win over Cork, having trailed at one stage by four goals before storming to victory with seven unanswered points. A good result in a relatively inconsequential league game.
Relatively. If Cork had held out it would have served to draw a line under the drubbing in last year’s All- Ireland semi-final; as it stands, it underlines Tipp’s favourite tag for the All- Ireland itself.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Cork boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy afterwards.
“We seemed to lose our shape completely after playing so well to get such a good lead up. It’s very disappointing to lose like that in front of our home supporters, I’m disappointed from that point of view.
“It shows what a learning curve it is for us to get back to where Tipperary are, when they turned on the style like that in the last few minutes we just didn’t handle it very well.”
Unsurprisingly, his opposite number was a good deal happier.
“We’ve been through a far bit over the last 18 months or so,” said Eamon O’Shea.
“I thought the team responded well, I was happy with the response.
“The subs made a difference, but I think the mental resolve of the team had not buckled even though we were down by 12. The resolve of the team is strong, even if we hadn’t managed to have won the game I’d have been happy.
“They’re an experienced team, so you’d expect them to be able to do some of that. It was an interesting game because Cork were buzzing for various parts of it and they can take something from it.”
A first-half that was redolent of a pitch opening ended with Cork two ahead, 0-15 to 0-13, but the game cracked to life with two Cork goals after the break. A Shane O’Neill clearance was moved through Walsh and Harnedy to Lehane, who goaled well; a minute later Horgan went down the middle before shortening his grip to goal.
Noel McGrath hit two good points to rally his side but Cork then hit two more goals in a minute - Paudie O’Sullivan collected a rebound and finishing well, then Horgan soloed up the middle before finding the net, 4-19 to 0-19 and Cork looking good.
Tipp responded with two goals of their own, from Kieran Bergin, overlapping and getting a Callanan pass, and a good Forde finish.
They were two goals down at that stage but roared from there to the finish line led by McGrath and Callanan, hitting seven unanswered points: McGrath’s last drilled score was a deserving winner.
O’Shea’s point about Cork being able to take something from the game was interesting: the Leesiders certainly learned a harsh lesson about their defence, which lost its shape when Mark Ellis pulled a hamstring on 50 minutes, just as Tipperary hit fifth gear.
For Tipperary supporters it won’t be a shock to learn that the team is better with James Woodlock driving through the midfield and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher winning the ball on the forty. It will soothe those in Knocknagow to know those two players are reintegrating into the team at the right time, and captain Brendan Maher’s first-half injury, a nasty gash to the cheek, shouldn’t stop him from lining out next week.The other side of yesterday for Tipp was conceding four goals, three of which came from the direct route through the middle of the field. Padraic Maher hit a lot of ball at centre-back for Tipperary but his man, Seamus Harnedy, ended the game with five points from play: is the big man from Thurles better on the wing and coming infield to dictate the play?
For Cork a lengthy injury list wasn’t what Barry-Murphy and his selectors wanted, and they’ll also have noted the three point-blank saves Anthony Nash was forced to produce, which you could call the fine print in yesterday’s defeat. Barry-Murphy called the result a setback. He’ll be keen to affix ‘temporary’ to that description.
P. Horgan 2-8 (0-6 fs); S. Harnedy 0-5; C. Lehane 1-1; P. O’Sullivan 1-0; D. Kearney and C. Murphy 0-2 each; R. O’Shea, A. Walsh and A. Cadogan 0-1 each.
S. Callanan 0-10 (0-4 fs); N. McGrath 0-7; J. Forde 1-3; K. Bergin 1-0, N. O’Meara 0-3; T. Stapleton, S. Bourke, C. Kenny, J. O’Dwyer (f) and R. Maher 0-1 each.
P. O’Sullivan for Cadogan, inj, HT; C. O’Sullivan for Ellis, inj, 50; B. Cooper for O’Farrell, 53; Andy Walsh for O’Shea, 60; S. Moylan for Kearney, inj, 64.
Patrick Maher for B. Maher, inj (31); M. Breen for S. McGrath and S. Bourke for O’Dwyer HT; J. Woodlock for , 55; C. Kenny for N. O’Meara, 61.
B. Kelly (Westmeath).
The departure of Mark Ellis saw Cork lose their defensive shape; Tipp punished them ruthlessly.
Over the 70 minutes Noel McGrath contributed hugely, including the winning point.
Eamon O’Shea made two crucial introductions - Patrick Maher and James Woodlock, who both energised Tipperary.
Barry Kelly had a good game but was flashing yellow cards at a thicket of players: once or twice yesterday it wasn’t clear who was being indicted.
The post at the Blackrock End was hit three times; twice the ball flopped down just the right side for a score.
Tipperary play Offaly and Cork face Wexford in the league quarter-finals.