There is a degree of merit to Paul Kerrigan’s utterance that Saturday’s result opens up Cork’s season.
Munster SFC semi-final
Cork 1-10 Tipperary 1-9
Atoning for last year’s Munster semi-final upset, this embattled group have bypassed the choppy and uncertain waters of the early qualifier rounds.
They’ve also avoided the ignominy of becoming the first Cork team to suffer back-to-back championship defeats to Tipperary since 1940.
They even managed to please the men in suits by making sure Páirc Uí Chaoimh will have its grand reopening on July 2.
And however that Munster final pans out, Peadar Healy’s charges have secured their place in the last 12 of the All-Ireland championship.
The pressure valve, so close to exploding on the run into Saturday’s contest, has vented slightly. the moment, anyway.
The result will ease criticism ahead of Kerry’s visit, but the performance did little to convince their detractors a corner has been turned.
A quick recap: One point in the opening 37 minutes, no score for 34 minutes, nine first-half wides, 16 in total.
Even after Michael Quinlivan was stretchered off midway through the half, the visitors continued to dictate, with Robbie Kiely going unchallenged on several occasions as he carried possession into the opposition half.
That three changes in personnel had been rung by the start of the second-half highlights the extent of Cork’s first-half struggles. Moreover, that over one-third of their scores arrived from players introduced off the bench places question marks over the starting team.
Even those replacements who didn’t find the target, Sean Powter and Michael Hurley, made a noticeable difference — Powter stripped Kieran Bergin of possession as Tipperary chased an equaliser in the fifth minute of stoppages.
Rewind to the closing stages of regulation time and the situation looked ominous for the hosts as Conor Sweeney fisted a Colm O’Shaughnessy delivery to the net. It brought Sweeney’s personal tally to 1-5 and nudged Liam Kearns’ charges 1-9 to 0-10 in front. But credit to Cork, they didn’t hang their heads.
Ken O’Halloran quickly put the ball back in play. Michael Shields, Barry O’Driscoll, Michael Hurley, James Loughrey and Mark Collins were involved in setting up Luke Connolly and the Nemo Rangers forward, who wasn’t part of the match-day 26 against Waterford, rescued Cork with a 70th minute goal.
“Today opens up the season,” said Kerrigan. “We have two big games, no matter what. The Munster final is a great carrot. Lads are chasing their first Munster medal and my first one in a long time.”
The Cork captain kicked two of their six-point unbroken sequence early in the second period and his third was a superb effort to edge Healy’s charges 0-9 to 0-8 in front on the hour mark.
The scoreboard wasn’t reflecting the manner in which Cork bossed the third and fourth quarters. Then again, whose fault was that?
“As one of the older fellas, it is my job to get it going and if they see me doing that, it might drive it on. It was just frustration at getting it going.
“It is easy to say you are not under pressure when you are out there, but we had 15 or 16 turnovers, a lot of silly hand passes.
“Sometimes when that happens, if it happens once or twice, it creeps into everyone. Once we got that out of the way and showed a bit more intensity around the middle third of the pitch, we pushed right up on them and started winning breaks.”
Further back, Michael Shields was central to a defensive effort that rendered Sweeney and company scoreless between the 37th and 54th minute.
“The best thing about that performance in the second-half was the control of the game,” Shields remarked.
“We didn’t play the game at 90 miles an hour. We used our heads. We moved the ball around sensibly. If you’re creating chances, they are going to go over some stage.”
And while Kerrigan mightn’t have been paying heed to what was written and said about this team in the build-up, it hadn’t gone unnoticed by Shields.
“There were a lot of questions asked. There was a lot of pressure. We answered them. We stood up to the test. When they got their goal, we didn’t lose our hands. There was a reaction and the reaction is what counts.”
He continued: “After this performance, there are going to be a lot of questions. The media aren’t favourites of Cork. That is a fact. It was a great win for us, an important win. It was an important win for Cork football. We can now look forward to playing in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“Kerry will be favourites and they are Munster champions. We’ve nothing to lose.”
Many would beg to differ.
Scorers for Cork:
L Connolly (1-2); P Kerrigan (0-3); D O’Connor (0-2, 0-1 free); Barry O’Driscoll, C O’Neill (0-1 free), M Collins (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tipperary:
C Sweeney (1-5, 0-1 free); K O’Halloran, L McGrath, R Kiely, L Boland (0-1 each).
K O’Halloran; M Shields, J O’Sullivan, K Crowley; C O’Driscoll, J Loughrey, T Clancy; R Deane, I Maguire; B O’Driscoll, P Kerrigan, J O’Rourke; L Connolly, P Kelleher, C O’Neill.
D O’Connor for Kelleher (30 mins); Barry O’Driscoll for Brian O’Driscoll (36); S Powter for C O’Driscoll (HT); M Collins for Barry O’Driscoll (44-49, blood); M Collins for Deane (51); M Hurley for J O’Rourke (60); G Murphy for O’Neill (65).
C Kenrick; S O’Connell, P Codd, A Campbell; B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; L Casey, G Hannigan; J Keane, D Foley, L Boland; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, B Fox.
L McGrath for Quinlivan (19 mins, inj); K O’Halloran for Foley (47); A Moloney for Casey (53); K Bergin for Hannigan, C O’Shaughnessy for O’Connell (both 56); J Lonergan for Boland (65).
C Branagan (Down).
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