FOR the second year running extra-time was necessary to facilitate an outcome to a Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21HC tie between Tipperary and Cork last night in Páirc Ui Chaoimh, and once again it was Tipperary who prevailed in this semi-final after a marathon battle.
There were 3,598 patrons present to witness another absorbing clash, where the excitement and quality grew in tandem as the action unfolded.
The impressive manner in which they enhanced their display in extra-time entitled Tipperary to bear the mantle of victors, with their megawatt names like Noel McGrath, Seamus Hennessy and Padraig Maher shining brightly when the play was at its fiercest and most critical stage. They will look forward in expectation to a final date against Clare in a fortnight on their own Thurles turf, in a clash that will evoke vivid memories of the teams meeting in the 2008 decider that concluded in a blaze of controversy.
Cork will look back on this match with grim regrets. The win was within their grasp in normal time after a perfect scoring streak in the final quarter. They trailed 1-11 to 0-10 as the game turned towards its final straight but a run of seven points on the trot utterly transformed the complexion of this tie in favour of Ger Fitzgerald’s charges. Spurred on by sterling defensive work from James Nagle and William Egan, Cork were rampant at this stage and a listless Tipperary team seemed incapable of summoning a response.
However they roused themselves in the 58th minute when Ciaran Haugh flighted a ball forward, which was gathered by Kieran Morris and after he turned to race towards goal, the Cork rearguard interrupted his movement illegally. Hennessy stood up to assume the pressure of the 20-yard free and the stark realisation that a goal was the solitary outcome that could save Tipp did not perturb him, as the Kilruane McDonagh’s player blasted to the net.
In extra-time Tipperary seemed emboldened by their last-gasp act of salvation. Noel McGrath was in sparkling form around midfield and his prominence turned the match in Tipperary’s favour. McGrath swept three points between the posts in the first-half of extra-time and coupled with a pair of points in a vibrant display by sub Sean Carey, Tipperary were 2-16 to 0-18 ahead by the 70th minute. Cork attempted to mount a rally in the closing 10 minutes but the Tipperary defensive unit were in miserly form. Robert O’Driscoll, Daniel Kearney and Ryan Clifford all split the posts with points yet it was a goal that Cork craved to ignite their challenge.
Tipperary had stamped their authority on the game early as they manufactured a 0-6 to 0-4. Seamus Hennessy hit three points from open play, a ‘65 and a exquisite sideline cut. The services of Cork goalkeeper Darren McCarthy were required twice in this period and he acquitted himself superbly.
Cork’s improved as the game progressed. Eoin Keane was a tower of strength at the edge of the square, Daniel Kearney ensured they were competitive in the scraps around the middle third for possession and Ryan Clifford’s shooting from placed balls was extremely high. But it was Tipperary who edged 1-8 to 0-7 ahead at the interval with the goal supplied by their most dangerous attacker in the half, Michael Heffernan. Patrick Maher made the hard yards in along the left wing and when he off-loaded across, Heffernan’s delightful whip in the air gave Darren McCarthy no chance.
Tipperary maintained that position of supremacy in the second-half and there was a sense that they were able to keep Cork at arm’s length. But Tipperary were not exactly scaling the heights in their play and with the match there to be seized, Cork took command in the final quarter. McCarthy made another inspirational save to deny O’Dwyer and Cork’s string of scores set them on course for victory. But Hennessy’s goal and Tipperary’s greater strength in extra-time ultimately proved the crucial factors.
Scorers for Tipperary: N McGrath 0-6 (0-4f), S Hennessy 1-3 (1-0f, 0-1 ‘65, 0-1 sideline), M Heffernan 1-2, S Carey 0-2, P Maher, P Murphy, J O’Dwyer, B Maher 0-1 each.
Cork: R Clifford 0-9 (0-8f), M Bowles 0-3, W Egan (0-1f, 0-1 ‘65), L O’Farrell, D Kearney 0-2 each, R White, R O’Driscoll 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY: J Logue; K O’Gorman, J Coghlan, M Cahill; J Barry, Padraig Maher, B Maher; S Hennessy, A Ryan; D Maher, Patrick Maher, P Murphy; N McGrath, J O’Dwyer, M Heffernan. Subs: T Butler for D Maher (26), S Carey for Ryan (44), K Morris for O’Dwyer (50), C Hough for Barry (55), B O’Meara for Murphy (58), J O’Neill for Morris (78)
CORK: D McCarthy; S McDonnell, E Keane, C O’Sullivan; J Nagle, W Egan, L McLoughlin; D Kearney, S O’Farrell; M Collins, D Roche, M Bowles; R White, L O’Farrell, R Clifford. Subs: P Gould for Collins (26), C Lehane for White (59), M O’Sullivan for Lehane (60), S Corry for S O’Farrell (66), F Keane for Roche (68), R O’Driscoll for Gould (70)
Referee: Ger Hoey (Clare)
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