Championship meetings between Cork and Tipperary have been spinning a mythology for over a century. Michael Moynihan took a closer look at some of those myths.
1. Cork-Tipperary: it’s never anything but a masterpiece.
Here’s an interesting one. In the memory, Cork-Tipp is diamond on diamond. Always a saga, with men making their names through dazzling scores and imperious displays.
Is it, though? Go back just over 50 years and the evidence doesn’t quite stack up. Before Cork made their comeback in 1966 Tipperary were the power in the land and they didn’t spare any opponents.
Those early-sixties clashes were depressingly one-sided for the followers in red and white, for instance - in 1964 the score was 3-13 to 1-5. The following season the gap was even wider: six goals, 4-11 to 0-5, with Cork managing one point from play.
Even the most blinkered Tipperary fan wouldn’t derive too much enjoyment from that one. When that awesome Tipperary team faded, Cork took over, and some Leesiders went through entire inter-county careers without ever losing to the blue and gold. We tend to compress that long Tipperary famine into near-misses like the 1984 Munster final, which was a classic of the genre, but some of those games in the seventies - 1976, 1979 - were one-point wins for Cork which have since all but disappeared from the collective memory.
Strange - classics or not, who celebrates those nowadays?
2. Always Thurles. Always.
For a vast constituency Cork-Tipperary only exists if it is occurring in Tom Semple’s field, with sustenance in all its varied forms absorbed in Liberty Square before the short trip up over the bridge to the stadium.
Yet some of the most heated contests took place out on the Ennis Road in Limerick. In 1960 a vast crowd packed the Gaelic Grounds, with more locked out, to see one of Christy Ring’s last tussles with the Premier (regarding the point above about classic contests, by the way, at half-time that match was 3-3 to 0-1 in Tipperary’s favour.)
Ten years earlier there was another classic Munster final - again won by Tipperary on their way to an All-Ireland title - but it took place in neither Thurles nor Cork. The venue in 1950 was Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, oddly enough, and almost 40 years later it saw another Tipperary win, their famine-ending Munster final replay win of 1987, complete with pitch invasion by a wheelchair-bound supporter.
Twelve years ago another contest between the sides was played out in Killarney, a qualifier game won by Cork on their way to that year’s All-Ireland title.
That was the fork in the path for the two counties which saw Cork dominate for a few seasons while Tipp receded as a challenger for some years.
3. These colours don’t run ...
Tipperary have lined out in an unusual colour combination in a Munster hurling final - nobody who saw the unusual take on blue and gold (deconstructed, the fashionistas call it) they sported in the 1993 Munster final is likely to forget it, a gold jersey with blue collars and cuffs that rarely resurfaced since.
Cork, meanwhile, have sported a different ensemble only this season, wearing the same colours they wore a hundred years ago as part of the 1916 celebrations; they lined out in blue jerseys with a gold C in this year’s league game with Kilkenny.
So yes, Cork were in blue and gold just a few weeks ago.
4. Cork and Tipperary have huge respect for each other.
This mutual respect certainly exists, but that’s not to say it can be tested by circumstances. In the 1950 Munster final, for instance, the Cork crowd invaded the field and legendary Tipp ‘keeper Tony Reddin had to be smuggled out of the stadium hours after most of the (overheated) spectators had departed.
In 1985 a candid interview given to this newspaper by then-Cork coach Justin McCarthy led to a diplomatic stand-off between the counties when McCarthy outlined his dissatisfaction with Tipperary’s tactics in their championship clash: Premier County officials were outraged by suggestions their team had overstepped the mark and relations were strained at official level for some time.
In the 1991 and 1992 encounters between the sides both counties felt they had ample reason to lose their good humour.
In the former encounter Cork supporters were unhappy with the Tipp stroke that injured Jim Cashman, who had been dominating the Munster final replay in Páirc Uí Chaoimh from centre-back. The following year Tipperary fans pointed at the Cork challenge which injured Cormac Bonnar in the Munster semi-final.
5.Weather always good.
It’s hard to remember an old firm Munster final which was rained off, or at which one even got a light dousing, but the forecast isn’t great for the weekend.
I’ve jinxed it now, haven’t I?
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