There may have been no silverware handed out at Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday evening, but this fixture, watched by a crowd of 8,142 — most of whom were clad in red, had the feel of a final about it.
The reaction of the Cork management and players offered proof of such.
That the field was still littered with Cork supporters half an hour after the final whistle had sounded was easily explained.
Not since 2008 has a Cork minor hurling team been seen in the Munster final. It’s a stat which has been bandied about on numerous occasions in bemoaning the county’s underage struggles.
No more, though, can it be recited. That nine-year gap has finally been bridged.
Moreover, prior to this summer, Cork had lost four Munster semi-finals in-a-row. Denis Ring had been in charge for three of those. There wasn’t a happier or more relieved man to be found inside the gates of the Boreenmanna Road venue at the end of this penultimate round replay.
He had cut a fairly devastated figure when Tipperary overturned a six-point deficit at this very venue 12 months ago to march through to the final at the Rebels’ expense.
And the Premier class of 2017 almost produced a similar comeback effort as they cut an 11-point gap back to the minimum following goals from subs Cathal Bourke and Kevin McCarthy on 51 and 62 minutes respectively. Jake Morris split the posts in the passage of play subsequent to McCarthy’s injury-time green flag and we were back to the minimum (2-20 to 2-19).
Brian Turnbull, whose opposite number Jerome Cahill was shown two yellow cards for persistent fouling on the corner-forward, steadied the ship with their first score in nine minutes.
He and the excellent Dáire Connery contributed 0-14 between them and it was the latter’s second free on 64 minutes which edged the hosts across the line.
Celebrations, though, won’t be long-lived as Ring’s young troops face a six-day turnaround to the decider against Clare. That game will be their third in 11 days.
Having thrice staved off defeat during last Thursday’s extra-time epic in Thurles, Cork took control of this replay early on.
With Conor Bowe (0-2), Niall Hoctor and Anthony McKelvey (free) having propelled the reigning champions into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead, they were subsequently shoved onto the back foot as the home attack plugged hole after hole in the Tipperary rearguard.
On five minutes, Liam O’Shea picked out Craig Hanafin, unmarked, in front of Eoin Collins goal and the centre-forward made no mistake from close range. Cork’s direct running was causing untold problems for Liam Cahill’s side and the visiting defence was breached for a second occasion on 11 minutes as Brian Turnbull and Hanafin combined to put through Liam O’Shea, who stroked the sliotar past Collins.
These two goals were part of a seven-minute 2-5 burst which sent the winners 2-6 to 0-4 clear.
Points from Jake Morris and McKelvey steadied Tipperary, but they were forced to play catch-up for the remainder of the half. They trailed 2-11 to 0-10 at the break and could have been further behind had O’Shea converted a gilt-edged goal chance.
Cork kept their foot on the throat of their opponents upon the restart, with Turnbull (0-2), Connery, Sean O’Leary-Hayes and Hanafin (0-2) each finding the target to propel them 2-17 to 0-12 clear on 42 minutes. That they didn’t kill off the Premier challenge from this position will be the sole concern for management.
Darragh Woods, the contributor of 1-4 when introduced in the drawn game, was sprung from the bench at half-time and he threw over three placed balls before the first of Tipperary’s goals.
Extra-time again looked on the cards. This Cork crop, though, are a resolute bunch. They showed it in Thurles. They showed it here. Now, can they show it on Sunday to bridge a nine-year gap to their last Munster minor final win?
Not since 2006 have Cork contested the Munster senior and minor finals in the one summer. The red juggernaut is gathering steam.
Scorers for Cork:
B Turnbull (0-8, 0-4 frees); C Hanafin (1-4); D Connery (0-6, 0-2 frees, 0-1 sc); L O’Shea (1-0); R Downey (0-2); E Sheehan, S O’Leary Hayes (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tipperary:
D Woods (0-6, 0-5 frees); J Morris (0-5); A McKelvey (0-4, 0-4 frees) C Bourke, K McCarthy (1-0 each); C Bowe (0-3); N Hoctor (0-1).
G Collins (Ballinhassig); E Roche (Bride Rovers), J Keating (Kildorrery), C O’Callaghan (Dromtarriffe); B Roche (Bride Rovers), S O’Leary Hayes (Midleton), A Walsh Barry (Carrigtwohill); G Millerick (Fr O’Neill’s), D Connery (Na Piarsaigh); E Sheehan (Na Piarsaigh), C Hanafin (Na Piarsaigh), D Linehan (Ballyhooly); L O’Shea (Lisgoold), R Downey (Glen Rovers), B Turnbull (Douglas).
D Hanlon (Blarney) for O’Shea (52); B Murphy (Castlelyons) for Sheehan (58).
E Collins (Drom & Inch); M Purcell (Na Sairsealaigh Óg), M Feehan (Sean Treacy’s), J Cahill (Kilruane MacDonaghs); R Quirke (Cappawhite), C Morgan (Kilruane MacDonaghs), K Breen (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams); B O’Mara (Holycross-Ballycahill), P Cadell (JK Brackens); C Bowe (Moyne-Templetuohy), J Morris (Nenagh Éire Óg), R McCormack (Borris-Ileigh); N Hoctor (St Mary’s Clonmel), A McKelvey (Moycarkey-Borris), C McCarthy (Nenagh Éire Óg).
D Woods (Holycross-Ballycahill) for McCarty; E Connolly (Cashel King Cormacs) for O’Mara (both HT); K McCarthy (Toomevara) for Breen (42); C Bourke (Clonoulty-Rossmore) for Hoctor (44); B Seymour (Kiladangan) for McKelvey (46).
J Murphy (Limerick).
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