Two exiles in Kilkenny, former Cork and Tipperary seniors, watched Sunday’s Munster championship opener.
Liam Maher hurled Minor with Tipperary 1977-78 and Senior 1983-86. He scored the winning point when Boherlahan Dualla took a Tipp Senior title in 1996, their first since 1941. A retired Detective Garda, he has lived in Kilkenny since 1984 and is involved with Dicksboro.
Brian Murphy hurled with Cork 1971-83 and kicked football 1972-79. He holds the unique distinction of winning an All-Ireland at Minor, U21 and Senior in both codes. A football All Star in 1973 and 1976, he won hurling gongs in 1979 and 1981. He won seven Senior football titles and four All-Irelands with Nemo Rangers. He is a retired Detective Garda, living in Kilkenny since 1971 and chairman of O’Loughlin Gaels, current county senior champions.
PMO’S: How big a shock is that result for Tipperary? And how big a setback?
LM: Tipperary were strong favourites. They had a decent league, did well early on, but came off the rails entirely in the final against Galway. That was a deeply disappointing showing, where Tipperary were beaten in all phases.
Cork were probably going to arrive with a performance at least. Their gameplan last year in Munster, using a sweeper, was atrocious. It is a bit of a shock, this result, but you couldn’t have ruled out a Cork win beforehand, especially after that League Final.
At half-time, Tipperary looked okay enough to get through. But as regards determination, getting first to the ball and to the breaks, Cork were far keener after the break. The work-rate of some Tipperary players was disappointing.
Is it a serious setback? The last time this happened, when Cork hammered us in Munster in 2010, Tipp went on and won the All-Ireland afterwards. But all plans go out the window. You could get a difficult enough draw in the first qualifier. Could be away in Parnell Park… To be honest, it was a huge setback for Tipperary.
BM: But you wouldn’t want to be writing them off. 1-26 would win most matches. In the first half you had 30 scores, 15 points apiece, with nearly all of them from play. Tipp massively contributed. And it was a huge game of hurling for hurling, with everything attractive on show.
Cork hurled really well in the first half, which was crucial. Once our young inexperienced players found a score or two, they got their confidence. All the Cork forwards scored from play, which is a huge confidence builder. As time went on, you could feel confidence swelling.
LM: I got the feeling, from Cork supporters before the match, they were just looking for a performance. Even at half-time, they were mostly the same. A win seemed sort of out of reach. They were expecting a Tipp kick in the final quarter. But Cork’s second half upped it again. [Mark] Ellis at centre back was excellent.
BM: The Cork half-back line was brilliant all across. [Christopher] Joyce and [Mark] Coleman were excellent on the wings. All the backs did well, and before the game I thought they’d be under every kind of pressure. They used possession extremely well, getting it into the forwards in ways that almost guaranteed a score.
LM: Cork looked significantly fitter than Tipperary too.
PMO’S: When did you believe Cork were going to do it?
BM: Not till they went four points up with hardly any time to go! For a long time, it looked like a game that was going to be a draw.
LM: If you compare this year to last year, which was never a contest, you saw a total contrast. Great scores, great hurling. Brian is right: Cork used space and possession brilliantly. They were out to play the ball into space, to where the forward was running, not to put it down on one of their men for a 50:50 effort. Cork rarely used a high ball in.
BM: Yes, and it wasn’t short ball in, either. They went long but used the angles. In the past, Cork had this tendency to play short balls almost for the sake of it, with maybe too many passes before getting it inside to the forwards. They were far more direct but it was still quality ball.
Also, you’d have to consider league form. Last year, with the same management team, Cork won no game in the league until they tripped up Galway in the relegation final. This year, they did better in the league, won matches. You could see progress, even though nobody truly expected a win over this Tipp side, who are All-Ireland champions.
It was probably the best team performance since 2013, when we made that All-Ireland Final and nearly had it. This was a huge boost for Cork hurling, because since 2013 it’s been seriously downhill. Before this, you’d have put Cork at fifth best in Munster. That’s a long way to fall… But the team must repeat this display. They have Waterford in a few weeks, which will be an entirely different challenge.
PMO’S: Tipperary were in bother at half-forward, which is a strange observation about a line that landed over 10 points from play?
LM: Certainly, [Patrick] ‘Bonner’ Maher’s type of hurler was badly missed. You need somebody like him. Steven O’Brien showed some good performances in the league and I was surprised he didn’t get a call off the bench. He’s a tall rangy player, strong under a ball, which is exactly what Tipp lacked. We heard lots of talk about Tipperary and panel depth. But where was all this supposed strength when it was most needed?
PMO’S: Who will win the All-Ireland now?
BM: From early on, I fancied Tipp to retain their title. If they can regroup, I’d still fancy them. Galway were tremendous in the League Final, but lack consistency as yet. They were relegated in the league last year and didn’t get promoted this year. Kilkenny have a shout and will be thereabouts. Waterford can build further. After this, I’d nearly fancy Cork’s chances!
LM: I think the winners will come from Tipperary, Kilkenny, Galway, and Clare. I have a sneaking suspicion for Clare this summer.
People want to see Waterford win an All-Ireland, because they’ve been knocking on the door a long time. Are they good enough? Hard to know. But I’d say any Waterford mentor came out of Thurles happy enough. They’ve played a lot of great games with Cork in recent years, and usually did well in them. I don’t feel Waterford will fear Cork like they seem to fear Tipperary.
Anyway, I hate these so called ‘sweeper systems’. To me, they’re often a cop out for players, who can wander around without marking anyone. You cannot beat a guy who goes out and shakes hands with a wing back or a wing forward, and goes on to win that battle.
Time will tell how significant this result really is. It was a great game, I’d say, without being a classic. A classic is when you have two teams hurling out of their skins, and one of them is unfortunate to lose. Tipp weren’t unfortunate to lose that game.
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