Tipperary 1-13 Cork 3-20
Cork's minor footballers will get the opportunity to dispel the lingering bad taste of that display a week ago in Tralee. An early shot of confidence was all they required to assert themselves in Thursday’s Munster MFC semi-final at Semple Stadium against Tipperary, and they never looked in trouble thereafter.
Where the merits of this Cork outfit lie remains to be seen – they showed in Thurles they are nowhere as poor as the 1-16 to 0-5 loss to Kerry a week ago. But whether they have enough about them to lower Kerry’s colours in the June 1st provincial final is another matter. At least they will be at home this time, presumably in Pairc Ui Rinn, and they are now guaranteed a route into the All-Ireland series by making the Munster final.
Miichael O’Brien and his management have also unearthed some attacking options, not least centre-forward in this victory, Ed Myers from Ballyvourney, who finished with 1-5 and knitted together a very competent hour’s play. Alongside the impressive Brian Hayes and Olan O’Donovan, there is something to be working with, especially for the likes of Donncha O’Connor, one of the backroom team.
Tipperary will rue a dreadful opening 20 minutes here, which offered no route back into the semi-final and gave a lie to the notion they were more battle-hardened than Cork after four games in the Munster round robin series. They stayed in the fight and showed some polish in the attacking third thereafter, but the damage was done. John McNamara’s side needed to capitalise on Cork’s possible brittle state after the Kerry disappointment but they never provided that gut-check.
In fact, Cork’s sprightly opening, where they were full of movement and verve, would propel them into a virtually unassailable 2-9 to 0-2 lead after 21 minutes and leave Tipp gasping for breath.
They opened with a Brian Hayes free in the fourth minute but Cork’s second point was noteworthy for more than the quality from midfielder Colm Gillespie – it was their first point from play in the campaign but more importantly it triggered a cascade of scores from the visitors that essentially set the ground rules for the semi-final.
Cork would add a hefty 2-7 in the next 14 minutes as their confidence soared and Tipperary’s kick-out disintegrated as quickly as their self-belief.
Cork deployed Brian Hayes inside with Olan O’Donovan and it was clear from the outset their movement would cause problems for Tipp. Once Nemo Rangers playmaker Hayes rounded Jamie Bergin in the 17th minute, there was only result likely. And within two minutes Cork had doubled their goal count as Mallow’s Mark Kelleher wriggled free to send Alan O’Connell through to net.
It all rather obliterated the notion that Tipperary’s four games via the round robin format would deliver a decisive edge to their bid to make a Munster final for the first time since 2015. They were all at sea for 20 minutes, but slowly the right side of their attack began to get a foothold, via the industry and finishing of Charlie English and Conal Grogan.
In the final 10 minutes of the half, they rattled off five points without reply though their momentum was checked somewhat in the 22nd minute when Fionn Fitzgerald’s penalty was saved by Cork keeper Josh Woods after Ben Carey had been pulled down. Had that gone in, it might have proved an interesting test of Cork’s mettle.
At the break it was 2-9 to 0-6 and self-evident that Tipp needed an early second-half goal to spook Cork. They got it in the 33rd minute when Charlie English was on hand to capitalise after Fionn Fitzgerald had palmed his effort onto the crossbar.
What will please the Cork mentors in their response. Within three minutes, Mark Kelleher was turning inside and setting up Myers for a third goal. It re-established Cork’s 12-point lead. The remaining quarter was about keeping score.