Cork-Tipperary overview, June 9

June 13, 2008

Y OU can forget the Lisbon
Treaty. You can forget the
Democratic primaries. The most pressing question of the last few months was answered in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday. Tipp are back, asserting themselves after early nerves to beat Cork in the Munster SHC in front of 42,823 spectators. Not a focus group or a super-delegate in sight.

In real terms Tipp have never really gone away, but yesterday had an air of revival all the same. The blue and gold supporters can look forward to a long hot summer, and the lyrics of Slievenamon will be echoing far beyond Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the next couple of months.

Though Cork threw starting debuts to two of their full-forward line, it was their old guard who conjured a goal early on. Timmy McCarthy broke the ball towards Ben O’Connor, who found an avenue through the Tipperary defence slightly wider than the Marina. One-on-one with Brendan Cummins, the Cork man held his nerve to finish calmly to the net.

With Cathal Naughton flummoxing Tipperary by operating in the middle of the field, Cork were on top, and the evidence was empirical: over 17 minutes had gone before the first chant of Tipp-Tipp-Tipp was heard.

“We showed a bit of nerves,” said Tipp boss Liam Sheedy, referring to his side’s rocky opening. “No matter how you do in the league, the Munster championship is a different animal. We were a bit jittery early on.”

True enough. Cork were rampant, running up a seven-point lead, but anyone expecting a collapse from the Premier was disappointed. Lar Corbett used his pace to range to and fro in front of the City End, and Eamonn Corcoran and Shane Maher came into the play. When a Seamus Callinan shot was half-blocked it ran to Eoin Kelly on the 21. The Mullinahone man was well-marshalled in the first half by Brian Murphy apart from those couple of heartbeats in the 24th minute; that’s all the time he needed to test the rigging.

“Eoin’s goal was the vital score,” said Sheedy. “The game might have been slipping a bit from us then, and if Cork had slipped over another point or two at that stage…”

At half-time there was a point in it (1-8 to 1-7). The game wasn’t in the melting-pot so much as the saucepan they use to melt down the other melting-pots.

Naughton blazed through for a point on the restart; Seamus Callinan retorted. Cork may draw comfort this morning from the great save Pa Cronin forced from Brendan Cummins, but three wides in a row saw the initiative slip away from them.

If the second half had a turning point it came on 42 minutes, when Pa Cronin won a Cork penalty. Surprisingly, debutant Paudie O’Sullivan took it, only for Cummins to save. In a neat reversal of 2005, when a Donal Óg Cusack penalty save spurred Cork to victory, Tipperary drew strength from Cummins’ stop, and their defence began to get on top.

Lar Corbett bore down on goal and was grounded in desperation. Seamus Callinan was winning more and more ball. With Tipp’s half-backs resolute, the supply improved to Eoin Kelly with inevitable results.

As Ol’ Blue Eyes never sang, Kelly and scores go together like a horse and carriage. Even the couple of hundred auxiliary Cork men forced to watch the game from the pitch perimeter — having been allowed out of the Blackrock Terrace by the gardaí — would have been hard pressed to keep him quiet had they been allowed beyond the whitewash.

At the end there was six points in it, and the Tipperary support drank in the victory as only Tipp fans can.

Cork will face a chorus of second-guessing: about the strike, about their selection, about their substitutions, about the decision to go for a goal from their penalty, but their real worry will be the lack of a second wind. This is the second time in 12 months that Tipperary have outpaced them coming down the stretch.

Having scored four points in the second half — and replaced four of their forwards during the game — they’ll hope improving their shot selection will bring them back into contention. If results go according to expectations they’ll face Waterford next month, a game that now assumes huge significance for both teams, as the losing side is likely to break up and face a rebuilding process.

A disappointed John Gardiner agreed with the Tipperary boss that Eoin Kelly’s goal had been critical.

“The first 10 or 15 minutes went well for us,” said the Cork captain. “But then Tipp turned the tables. The goal was the main turning point.”

“At the end we were chasing the game,” said his manager, Gerald McCarthy. “We tried very hard to turn it around, we made a lot of substitutions, but it just didn’t happen for us.”

For Tipperary the news is better, obviously enough. Liam Sheedy had his face to the heavens as the clock wound down yesterday, but divine intervention wasn’t needed.

“We finished quite strong,” said Sheedy. “We played a lot of tight games in the league, and I think that stood to us in the last 15 minutes. We’ve a lot of work done, and every one of them who went on the pitch today did well.”

Though Sheedy was careful to rein in expectations — he referred to Cork’s wides tally, pointing out that the game might have ended differently had the Rebels been more accurate — but even the downside can be given a positive spin.

The jittery opening Tipp went through yesterday can be improved for the Munster final. Shane McGrath confirmed the promise of spring. And the Premier County now look to have momentum, a handy asset facing into the high summer.

Cork bet. The hay saved. And better yet to come?


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