Allianz FL Division 2; Semple Stadium
It ended with bodies being flung, arms spread wide, legs hacking chaotically, and the general confusion of a final ’45 dropped upon close to 28 players.
Cork deserved their win but it’d been so long in coming, allowing it to end in a goalmouth scramble or two was excusable, if neither desired nor merited.
They saw a seven-point lead whittled down to three by a Tipperary team who lacked imagination before Ruairí Deane’s 67th-minute goal seemed to have sealed the spoils. But three rapid-fire placed balls permitted Tipp a final prayer.
Corner-backs became full-forwards, and corner-forwards became full-backs, but the line of red bodies eventually emerged with the ball, even if a goal looked on for a fraction of a second.
“I thought it was in the net a couple of times at the end of the game,” said Tipperary manager Liam Kearns. “It went all over the place, like a pinball.”
Moments earlier, Conal Kennedy too could’ve had a goal but for Kevin Flahive’s diving intervention.
“I would have preferred if we weren’t in that position. We didn’t need to be in that position coming down the straight. That was poor game management and poor decision-making in the closing 10 minutes of the game. But I think that’s understandable given the pressure that’s on the game,” said Cork manager Ronan McCarthy.
“There’s a lot more in them, and that’s the message we’ll give to them. We’ll excuse the hesitancy at the end.”
A first competitive win since last May — same venue, same opponents — allows Cork the oxygen of victory to take them through the next two weeks, even if both these teams remain firmly in the shake-up for relegation to Division 3.
Whatever about game-plans, it was all changed within 10 minutes when Cork saw the forest of bodies Tipp planted against the first-half breeze. Paul Kerrigan was pushed up on Tipp sweeper Brian Fox, and Conor Dennehy swapped onto Conor Sweeney for the struggling Flahive, as Cork trusted themselves to go man-for-man for periods of the game.
Those switches were rewarded with a burst of four points, with Luke Connolly conducting the orchestra to feed two-man full-forward line Michael Hurley and Mark Collins for scores.
Sweeney battled gamely at the other end, claiming a few marks, winning a few frees, top-scoring with seven points, but he was cut adrift from support runners or players to contest his breaks. The structural issues without Michael Quinlivan are reflected in the fact Tipp have scored the same from placed balls (2-26) as open play (4-20) this campaign.
Tipp were the better in midfield, grabbing some impressive marks from Michael O’Reilly’s kick-outs to allow them level the game at 0-4 all after 27 minutes, but they were soon penned in. Cork outscored them by seven points to none in the subsequent 22 minutes.
Kerrigan and Eoghan McSweeney kicked over the blanket for 0-7 to 0-4 half-time lead, before Cork deployed the patient approach to try to draw Tipp out. They held the ball for around three minutes before one Connolly point, which was followed by a Cillian O’Hanlon score which could’ve been a goal if aimed just lower. Tipp scored five of the next six points, the only one not from Sweeney being a Kevin Fahey blast which Micheál Aodh Martin parried over to narrow the gap to three, 0-12 to 0-9.
Seán Powter fizzed around and made a nuisance of himself when introduced. Ronan McCarthy may have cursed him when his dissent cost Cork a free for a four-point lead, but he’ll quickly have forgiven it as overenthusiasm when his cut-out pass fed Deane for the crucial goal.
C Sweeney (0-7, 6 frees); J Kennedy (0-2, 1 ‘45); K Fahey, D O’Meara (free), B Fox (0-1 each).
L Connolly (0-5, 4 frees); R Deane (1-0); M Collins (1 free), M Hurley (0-2 each); C O’Hanlon, E McSweeney, P Kerrigan (0-1 each).
M O’Reilly; A Campbell, J Meagher, E Moloney; K Fahey, D Brennan, J Feehan; S O’Brien, L Casey; L Boland, L McGrath, B Fox; P Austin, C Sweeney, J Kennedy.
D O’Meara for Boland (54), B Hyland for McGrath (61), C Kennedy for Fahey (67), C O’Shaughnessy for Meagher (69).
MA Martin; S Ryan, K Flahive, C Dennehy; K Crowley, T Clancy (Clonakilty), M Taylor; I Maguire, C O’Hanlon; E McSweeney, L Connolly, R Deane; M Hurley, M Collins, P Kerrigan.
B Hurley for M Hurley (54), S Powter for Kerrigan (54), C Kiely for Taylor (54), D Gore for McSweeney (61), R O’Toole for Maguire (67).
F Smyth (Offaly).