AFTER an enthralling 90-minute saga, Tipperary eventually edged past Cork in last night’s Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21HC quarter-final at Semple Stadium.
In a match that crackled with electricity throughout, Tipperary conjured up two key factors to enable them to breast the tape in first place. Plundering the only two goals of the game was of immeasurable value, while their big names came to the fore as the action trundled into extra-time.
Defensive lynchpins Padraig Maher and Thomas Stapleton generated storming finishes, while Noel McGrath hurled a world of ball when switched to midfield. In attack, Seamus Callanan made several lung-bursting runs deep into the Cork defence, while Pa Bourke’s gilded attacking play registered a hefty 1-9 total against the backdrop of a team total of 17 wides.
It was rough justice on Cork to wind up with the losers’ garlands. They fought vigorously from the start with a robust defence to base their challenge on. Paudie O’Sullivan was immense at centre back with Aidan Walsh and Conor O’Sullivan putting in great shifts elsewhere in the backline.
In attack Patrick Horgan was in luminous form but struggled lacked of a supporting cast. Subs Luke O’Farrell and Padraig Gould did enough when introduced to suggest they should have started, while Lorcan McLoughlin did swing over three fine points.
Normal time was a gripping affair with the sides sticking close to each other from the off. In all there was equality on the scoreboard on 13 occasions during the 60 minutes.
The first half was peppered with goal opportunities that Tipperary missed but before half-time they got the move and execution just right.
An errant handpass in the Cork defence was seized by Pa Bourke who transferred to Callanan, and the centre-forward eschewed the option of tapping over the bar to dispatch the ball towards Shane Bourke. The JK Brackens man turned neatly and lashed a drive to the far corner.
In the scoring stakes the match could have been distilled down to a shootout between the side’s respective free-takers in the first half, Patrick Horgan and Pa Bourke displaying laser-like accuracy from dead balls.
Horgan also sparkled from open play with a beautiful brace of points to complement his three frees, while Bourke arrowed over six points in the first half. Midfielder Leigh Desmond chipped in with an important pair for Cork as well, but it was Shane Bourke’s late salvo that saw Tipperary lead 1-8 to 0-9 at the interval.
Cork composed a splendid start to the second half reeling off points from Horgan, 3) and Andy Walsh to nudge themselves 0-13 to 1-9 in front.
But then Tipperary pounced for a critical score. Callanan made a lung-bursting run on the wing, passed inside to Patrick Maher who was fouled and Pa Bourke crashed the resultant penalty to the net.
That score nourished Tipperary’s hopes and they stormed on looking far more assured. McGrath’s switch to midfield paid a handsome dividend as he dictated plays, corner-backs Donagh Maher and Kevin Maher attacked the ball with great success and when McGrath clipped over a 49th minute point, the tide of momentum seemed to lay behind Tipperary as they led 2-12 to 0-15.
But Cork summoned up a wonderful recovery and created a gripping finale. They strung together a sequence of points from Gould, O’Farrell, 2) and McLoughlin to creep ahead by one. Tipperary’s retort consisted of Bourke and Callanan points to restore them to the ascendancy, but an exquisite sideline cut by Desmond tied it up again.
Substitute John O’Neill, who had an enterprising cameo when introduced, appeared to have nailed victory for Tipperary only for a rousing score by McLoughlin to deliver the spectre of extra-time, at 2-15 to 0-21.
Tipperary made a clinical burst early on in extra-time and it proved essential to the outcome. Callanan started to weave incisive runs and his brace helped send them 2-18 to 0-22 clear. Cork replied forcefully with a Horgan free but the Glen Rovers dangerman was then denied a goal by a point-blank save by Bill McCormack.
It proved Cork’s best chance at getting the goal their challenge badly required and Tipperary were in no mood to relinquish superiority from thereon in. Callanan and Bourke teamed up to insert daylight between the sides late on, and O’Neill applied the coup de grâce to seal their passage through to a semi-final date with Waterford on July 15.
Scorers for Tipperary: P Bourke 1-9, 0-5f, 1-0 pen, 0-1 ‘65); S Callanan 0-6, 0-1f, 0-1 ‘65); S Bourke 1-1; J O’Neill 0-3; N McGrath 0-2; M Gleeson 0-1.
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan 0-12, 0-9f; L Desmond, 0-1 sideline; L McLoughlin 0-3 each, L O’Farrell, P Gould 0-2 each, W Egan, S White, Andy Walsh 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY: B McCormack; D Maher, Padraig Maher, K Maher; B Maher, T Stapleton, T McGrath; S Hennessy, G Ryan; M Gleeson, S Callanan, N McGrath; P Bourke, Patrick Maher, S Bourke.
Subs: B Fox for T McGrath, 28; S Carey for Gleeson, 40; J O’Neill for Hennessy, 51; S Quinlan for Carey, 58; J Coghlan for K Maher, 70; S Hennessy for S Bourke, 77.
CORK: C Cronin; K Murphy, J Herlihy, C O’Sullivan; Aidan Walsh, P O’Sullivan, S White; L Desmond, W Egan; B Corry, L McLoughlin, R White; R O’Driscoll, P Horgan, Andy Walsh.
Subs: L O’Farrell for O’Driscoll, 34; C O’Driscoll for Murphy, P Gould for White, both 40; R Clifford for Andy Walsh, 48; E Keane for O’Herlihy, C McCarthy for Clifford, both 70; G O’Connor for Egan, 77.
Referee: Pat Casey (Waterford).
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