Five things we learned, with Enda McEvoy.
A fascinating championship awaits
The conceit that the summer of 2017 might equate to little more than a lap of honour for Tipperary was thrown into doubt by the events of the league final; it’s been thoroughly exploded now. Michael Ryan’s men will not be front-door champions again, meaning all sorts of permutations have opened up. Cork’s victory will act as a beacon for the aspirant classes — and for no county more so than Wexford. Imagine what Davy Fitz will be saying to his troops over the next few days. This was precisely the start Championship 2017 needed and one that the GAA and the media couldn’t have scripted better. Fireworks, bangs, booms, and the thump of champions falling.
Cork are realistic All-Ireland semi-final contenders
Yes, you read that correctly. Semi-final contenders, not “All-Ireland contenders”. Not yet. Let’s refrain from jumping the gun on the basis of one win, regardless of how intoxicating. Kieran Kingston’s men will still be required to win two games in Munster in order to reach Croke Park in August by the short route. It’s quite an ask. To put it another way, would Cork fans have been happy before the game to hear them described as “realistic All-Ireland semi-final contenders” afterwards? You betcha. No need to go overboard just yet.
Sometimes there’s no substitute for youthful dash
Not really a startling discovery, admittedly. See the Cork of 1999 or Tipperary 2010 or Clare 2013 as proof. But Kingston and his selectors went for pace yesterday and were handsomely vindicated. There was nothing complicated about the challengers’ gameplan and there didn’t need to be. They ran at Tipp and kept running at them. Kudos to the men behind Cork’s fitness regime. Also to the coaching staff; the winners didn’t overcomplicate matters, or slow things down, by unnecessary handpassing or running up blind alleys. They channelled clean ball into speedy forwards and the rest took care of itself. The hype about Shane Kingston and Luke Meade hadn’t been misplaced either.
Tipperary’s crown rests uneasily
This isn’t the place to get into a discussion about — yawn — Tipp teams and title retention attempts. What can be said, however, is that a ship that was steaming serenely ahead two months ago has hit choppy waters and is in danger of running aground not in the immediate future but in the mid-term. Losing to Galway was one thing; losing so heavily to them was another thing; losing to a Cork team built along entirely different lines to Galway is another thing altogether. Tipperary have lost their last two games in strikingly different ways: Galway horsed them into the ground while Cork ran them into the ground. Although 2017 was always going to be more difficult for them than last season, Michael Ryan has a task on his hands that he’s unlikely to have foreseen. That red thing in the water is blood.
High scoring matches are a good thing
Stunning insight, huh? If you wanted to be hyper-critical you could say that yesterday was actually too high scoring; all 12 forwards making the scoresheet from play before half-time is a sight that carries an asterisk with it. But the pace and flow of the match was such that it would take a hard heart indeed to pick too many holes. The 74 minutes yielded 56 scores. Sometimes you just have to sit back and tip the hat to both sets of players. In due course we’ll get raw meat in the championship; this was the lightest, sweetest, fizziest champagne imaginable. Sláinte!
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