Cork proceed in comfort but Déise ponder long winter of questions

In truth, the prospect of a Super Sunday faded early on.
Cork proceed in comfort but Déise ponder long winter of questions

22 May 2022; Shane Kingston of Cork is tackled by Tipperary players Ronan Maher, left, and Séamus Kennedy during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Tipperary and Cork at FBD Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Only fitting that this Munster championship Sunday ended like a revengers’ tragedy, the stage strewn with characters whose narrative ended on the point of a dagger.

We knew before the curtain went up that Limerick and Clare survive for the sequel. As of half five Sunday they’ll be joined by Cork after the results were studied.

In truth, the prospect of a Super Sunday faded early on. Clare steamrolled Waterford in Ennis, and Cork shook off early rustiness to cruise past Tipperary with some comfort: not a prospect that looked likely even a fortnight ago.

Has the Munster championship been going on for months or the length of a heartbeat? Your perception may depend on the fortunes of your own side, of course, but the curious concertina-effect of the timespan of the round-robin continues to surprise. Cork-Limerick, the opener, seems a lifetime ago and news fresh from yesterday, both at the same time.

Anyway, a game emerged in Semple between the ramifications, with Tipperary tattooing Cork with 1-3 without reply in the opening minutes. The visitors looked tentative and indecisive and soon conceded a penalty. Silence among the red-wearing members of the 27,131 crowd.

If Noel McGrath had found the net shortly afterwards Tipp would have been seven points clear - energised, playing at home, the crowd in full voice, but the Loughmore man found the post.

Small margins. Cork swept downfield from the penalty, with Sean O’Donoghue pivotal to recovering the loose ball: Alan Connolly found the net at the other end after a sweet pass from Robbie O’Flynn. Minutes later Darragh Fitzgibbon slashed through for a second goal - travelling a long way without a challenge - and Cork had the game by the windpipe. By half-time it was 2-14 to 1-9 and Cork weren’t flattered by the lead, with Conor Lehane’s six points from play the game’s main ornament.

The news coming out of the west came in grim increments, with Waterford slipping further and further behind to Clare in Cusack Park. (Side note: as identified in the press box, how the half-time announcement no longer gets a visceral reaction from the crowd, informed as they are already of proceedings; the time a half-time score such as that from Ennis would elicit a heartfelt chorus are long gone.) 

Tipperary’s second half was no better than their first: they needed goals and Cork’s defence in the second half of the round-robin, put it that way, has been far less accommodating than in the opening games.

The home side’s misery was topped off by a straight red for Alan Flynn late on, shortly before Fitzgibbon placed Tim O’Mahony for a first-time pull and Cork’s third goal.

What does it all mean for those involved? Big pictures, little pictures.

Limerick, Clare and Cork now taper their preparations for the All-Ireland series, not to mention the small matter of the Munster final for the former two sides.

The misery of us that are born great, as Webster said, sat heavily in Thurles approaching teatime. The hand Colm Bonnar was dealt at the beginning of the championship was light enough, particularly as he lacked some key trumps early on through injuries and retirement. Still, he can point to players blooded and performances, despite the emptiness in the W column, even if a twelve-point defeat by Cork won’t enthuse the natives. (Fitting, too, that Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher, got himself on the scoresheet late on; sentiment sometimes comes easy in a Munster championship game.) 

For Liam Cahill the season’s comes with serious questions. Identified as the main contenders to trouble Limerick a month ago, they’re left now to ponder a long winter of inquiry and re-evaluation. Those old revengers’ tragedies always left plenty of blood on the stage, after all.

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