Lively Cork lay down marker in a free-scoring springtime epic

Cork 0-26 Tipperary 3-16: Fittingly, this NHL clash between Cork and Tipperary was resolved by the game’s dominant personality deep in injury-time, with the result on the line.

The sides were deadlocked at sunny Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday when Cork managed a last late clearance towards Patrick Horgan, and the Glen Rovers man danced infield before splitting the posts for the winner, bringing home supporters in the 8,376 crowd to their feet.

The final scoreline tells you everything about this one, a free-scoring springtime epic, though the scoreline at the half didn’t tell you everything about the first 35 minutes.

Wind-assisted Cork dominated to lead 0-14 to 2-6, but with a couple of minutes to the break they conceded two goals - one by Seamus Callanan after hard work by John McGrath, and just afterwards a McGrath goal with Callanan turning provider.

It was a tough double blow for the home side, whose work-rate in the middle third gave them a strong platform up front. Patrick Horgan was a late replacement for Shane Kingston in the starting line-up, while Conor Lehane’s hamstring meant an early introduction for the impressive Darragh Fitzgibbon.

Cork began the second half well with two points, but then Tipperary turned the screw. Noel McGrath came off the bench to pull the strings in the middle, Darren Gleeson’s booming puck-outs forced Cork back and back, and Callanan’s free-taking was unerring. The All-Ireland champions hit six on the bounce to push two ahead, 2-14 to 0-18, turning into the third quarter.

Cork responded well, hitting six points of their own to Tipp’s single Noel McGrath point, and with time running out they were holding onto a three-point lead - only for Callanan to work his way through and kick home a dramatic equalising goal from close range.

Horgan nudged Cork ahead, Ronan Maher cut a sweet sideline over for the equaliser — but there was still time for Horgan to strike that sensational winner.

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan was proportionate in his response: “We’ll certainly find some things that’ll give us plenty to think about and work on in terms of the performance.

“We knew coming down here today that we were going to get a really good game. At the end of the day, we had qualified for the quarter-final but there’s always an awful lot at stake for the squad, they’re working hard and looking for these opportunities.”

As a game it may help Ryan and his colleagues to trim their squad ahead of the summer. Their ability to find goals was a significant difference between the two teams, but they also leaked a lot of frees to the in-form Horgan, who finished with 0-15 to his credit.

Ronan Maher contributed that fine sideline cut when introduced late on, but the Tipp defence as a whole has a calmer appearance with Maher at number six.

In the red and white corner, there was restrained delight, if such an emotion exists. Cork selector Pat Hartnett was his measured self afterwards: “If you look at it, we had ten wides in the first half but we put ourselves in the position to have a shot.

“Overall it was great to gather ourselves, to concentrate on our shape - our shape is our formation and I felt we held that when we needed to. At the death it was near championship, the atmosphere, so that was positive.

“Character is a word often used but I think there was character shown there by a multitude of players. Certain guys came in and did well, there’s a genuineness from everyone, there’s a real unity in the camp, the training and coaching is first class — overall it’s very positive, on and off the field.”

Cork certainly had to show character to overcome those goals, late in each half, and the loss of Conor Lehane so early in the game.

The three green flags leaked by the home defence will likely occupy minds in training on Leeside for much of this week, but Cork will take huge positives from their performance - the rejuvenation of Horgan, the appetite for work of their youngsters, and the grit to work a winning score against the wind with the game on the line.

A good afternoon all round, then, with more in the pipeline. Roll on next weekend.

Scorers for Cork:

P. Horgan (0-15, 0-10 frees, 0-1 65); D. Fitzgibbon (0-5); S. Harnedy, A. Cadogan (0-2 each); C. Lehane (free), L. Meade (0-1 each).

Scorers for Tipperary:

S. Callanan (2-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65); J. McGrath (1-1); P. Maher, D. McCormack, N. McGrath (0-2 each), P. Flynn, J. Forde, R. Maher (sideline) (0-1).

Cork 0-26 Tipperary 3-16 Michael Moynihan, Pairc Ui Rinn.

CORK:

A. Nash, C. Spillane, D. Cahalane, S. McDonnell (c), C. Joyce, M. Ellis, M. Coleman, L. McLoughlin, D. Brosnan, B. Cooper, C. Lehane, L. Meade, A. Cadogan, S.

Harnedy

, P. Horgan.

Subs:

D. Fitzgibbon for Lehane (inj, 7); B. Lawton for Brosnan (41); M. Cahalane for Cadogan (61).

TIPPERARY:

D. Gleeson, J. Meagher, J. Barry, M. Cahill, W. Ryan, T. Hamill, P. Maher (c), S. Curran, K. Bergin, D. McCormack, N. O’Meara, J. Forde, T. Heffernan, J. McGrath, S. Callanan.

Subs:

N. McGrath and Flynn for Curran and Heffernan (both 45); B. Heffernan for Bergin (54); J. O’Dwyer for O’Meara (61); R. Maher for W. Ryan (69).

Referee:

B. Gavin (Offaly)

A minute’s silence was observed before the game in memory of the late Tony O’Mahony, former chairman of the Cork County Board, and the late Michael Maher, legendary Tipperary hurler.

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