Seems like Tipp have a cast of thousands

The auditions continue.

Cork's Christopher Joyce keeps his eye on the ball, as Tipperary's Patrick Maher closes in.

Allianz HL Division 1A

Tipperary...1-24

Cork...1-21

Semple Stadium

Yesterday, Semple Stadium was the venue for more call-backs, a few firm offers, and a couple of ruling-outs, maybe. The National Hurling League as casting call.

Tipperary-Cork is the kind of rivalry we like to view as more fundamental than genetics, but this summer?

With these demands? Everyone is looking for understudies, who can go out an unknown and come back a star, as they said long ago in 42nd Street — or at least as much of an unknown as you can be nowadays, when every puck that every player takes is available for upload and analysis.

Take Michael Ryan and John Meyler as a couple of (admittedly unlikely) Bob Fosses. What did they take out of Thurles, yesterday?

The evidence was a free-flowing first-half, after which Tipperary led by three points. The 6,733 attendees saw the home side hit ten wides in each half, as well, which is likely to occupy Ryan’s thoughts in the immediate term.

Tipperary’s second-half goal, following a mazy Billy McCarthy run, deflated Cork temporarily: by the time the visitors realised they were only three points behind, it was too late to grab a win, in a game the Premier should have taken with a good deal more ease.

Michael Ryan was happy with the win, and the passport to the league quarter-finals.

My initial thought are we’re just delighted to win. We wanted to get to the quarter-finals and, by winning, our future was in our own hands.

“Cork, coming to town, it’s always a really good match, and that was a really good match. Three points in it, at the end, Cork pressing — it was anything but comfortable. It’s March. We have loads to work on yet. Loads.

“Cork won’t be going home too despondent, with that performance, 1-21 up here, and a three-point loss — if it was reversed, it wouldn’t be a catastrophe for us, if we were looking at it.

We did leave the door open, but, I would be at pains to emphasise it, that is a quality Cork side. Their comfort on the ball — that’s a quality hurling side and they will cause us plenty of trouble in the summer, as well, but, for today, we are thrilled to take away the two points.

John Meyler’s diagnosis was equally precise: “We were going well. We were in the game and turning around to play with the wind. But sometimes that happens: with the wind, you think you have the game won, when you probably have to work harder than you did in the first-half.

“The Tipp goal, in the middle of the second-half, I thought we were coming . . . we were three or four points down, getting back in the game, after struggling for the first 10-15 minutes of the second-half.

“It was touch-and-go, but then Tipp got that goal, down the bottom end, and that really killed it, at that stage. It put them six or seven up. We got back into it, with a couple of good points from Luke Meade, but they were getting their scores easier than us. We were giving away frees — we need to look at the video to see where we were fouling.”

The cost of losing Seamus Harnedy to suspension was apparent, early and often — the cardinal virtue of the red-and-white attack is speed, rather than winning dirty ball. Once Cork got past Tipperary’s half-back line, they looked like profiting, but winning initial possession was often a struggle.

Further back the field, Eoin Cadogan’s withdrawal suddenly meant Colm Spillane was by far the most experienced member of the full-back line, which offers the Cork backroom a discomfiting view of the summer: a twisted ankle or a suspension could leave the men in red with a defence not wholly familiar with each other. What does that signify? Witness the turnovers Tipperary enjoyed from Cork restarts.

Michael Ryan wasn’t being polite about his own challenges, either. His full-back line flailed the first time Cork attacked and coughed up a penalty, converted with extreme prejudice by Patrick Horgan, but the visitors failed to test newcomer, Brian Hogan, in the Tipp goal, afterwards.

Another side would be interested in interrogating that Tipp full-back line more severely. On that note, while Ryan gave Cathal Barrett a run in midfield — perhaps he was listening to John Fogerty’s Centrefield, played on the Semple PA, before the game — but Tipp will hardly leave Barrett in the open prairie, when there are pressing engagements further back the field.

Elsewhere, Michael Breen and Jason Forde, in particular, justified their inclusion in the full-forward line, but surely Callanan (S) and O’Dwyer (J) are simply too good to ignore, when the summer comes. Tipperary will have some disappointed players on their bench this summer, and, given the need for all teams to have strength in depth, that may ultimately be a huge benefit for them.

In the equivalent fixture last year, Cork found the initial fissure in the Tipp facade with a last-minute winner in Páirc Uí Rinn, but that wasn’t likely here: the edge acknowledged by Lar Corbett, in these pages, last Saturday — that physical appetite — helped them to throw back Cork’s late attacks.

Coming out of Semple Stadium, yesterday, you’d be inclined to think the blue-and-gold have a better cast for Broadway than most counties, but are they all featuring in the roles that suit them best? We’ll have to see. In hurling, the Tony Awards are won, not awarded.

Scorers for Tipperary:

J Forde (7 frees) (0-12); Patrick Maher (0-3); B McCarthy (1-1); M Breen, S Curran, C Barrett (0-2 each); A Flynn, B Maher (0-1 each).

Scorers for Cork:

P Horgan (1-0 pen, 8 frees) (1-10); A Cadogan (0-3); C Lehane, M Cahalane, L Meade (0-2 each); S Kingston, D Kearney (0-1 each).

TIPPERARY:

B Hogan, A Flynn, S O’Brien, D Maher, B Heffernan, Padraic Maher (c), R Maher, B Maher, C Barrett, S Curran, B McCarthy, Patrick Maher, M Breen, J Forde, J McGrath.

Subs:

M Russell for McGrath (64); M Cahill for D Maher, C Darcy for McCarthy (both 71).

CORK:

A Nash, D Browne, C Spillane, S O’Donoghue, C Joyce, T O’Mahony, M Coleman, D Fitzgibbon, B Cooper (c), S Kingston, C Lehane, R O’Flynn, A Cadogan, M Cahalane, P Horgan.

Subs:

B Lawton for Lehane (blood, 30-32); L Meade for Kingston (54); B Lawton for O’Flynn (59); D Kearney for Cooper (65); J O’Connor for Fitzgibbon (69); L McLoughlin for O’Mahony (inj, 71).

Referee:

P O’Dwyer (Carlow).


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