Board gets back to brass tacks

AS PARLIAMENTARY gatherings go, last night’s county board meeting in Páirc Uí Chaoimh probably lacked a little in terms of drama and theatre.

No surprise there: as Barack Obama is finding out, you may campaign in poetry, but you have to govern in prose.

And last night’s meeting had a grim opening. Gerald McCarthy’s resignation as manager earlier this week was the elephant in the convention room, tootling a distracting tune on its trunk as delegates took their seats, ostensibly to hammer out the dates and venues for local championship encounters.

The soundtrack soon overcame the dialogue, however. True, a Taoiseach was appointed — or rather, a complete, brand-new Cabinet: the entire Cork U21 management team was delegated, en bloc, to handle the senior hurlers for the National Hurling League games against Clare and Limerick, but there was also plenty of anger expressed by speakers about the tribulations suffered by Gerald McCarthy in recent months.

After the vote on the short-term manager, there was a flurry of proposals regarding the composition of the committee which would appoint the long-term manager. Those proposals included committees with former players and with current players; with Pauric Duffy aboard or with the county chairman as a member; with club coaches participating or with club chairmen getting involved.

And finally, a proposal from the Newtownshandrum club which involved Jim O’Sullivan of this parish helping to select one of those committees.

At last, at last, at last: an organisation with the common sense to listen to us. What odds would you have got on that organisation being the Cork County Board?
THE number and variety of those proposals was far too unwieldy for last night’s meeting to process, so it was decided to hold another meeting on Monday night to hear what the clubs have to say about the proposals . . . I know. It’s hard to keep track of everything. After a while every second word is either ‘meeting’ or ‘proposal’.

Last night wasn’t an occasion for Cromwellian thunder, and the speakers wouldn’t have been confused with the likes of Burke or Grattan. They didn’t need to be.

After all, there was an odd mixture on the agenda which had to be addressed — the mundane, in that the championship fixtures are a hardy annual on the order of business, and the momentous, in that . . . well, you’ve probably been well briefed on that over the last few months.

For those who have been tracking those mass meetings in the last week around Cork — many of them large enough to keep Daniel O’Connell happy — there may be a little surprise this morning that the rule book wasn’t filleted like a kipper in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last night.

They shouldn’t be. Expressive as those meetings were of a thirst within the county for change, they can’t effect that change unilaterally. The
legislature is where those changes are made, not the hustings.

If you’re sick of the political metaphors, consider those last few get-togethers as more in the nature of warm-up performances for the big premiere: before the glossy musicals ever get to Broadway they’re given a run out of town first. Accordingly, procedural developments were thin on the ground last evening, as was constitutional reform, though a special convention would be a more appropriate forum for the reinvention of administration in Cork anyway.

This morning the announcement of John Considine and his colleagues as managers of the senior hurling team will dominate headlines. Little wonder.

Last night’s meeting moved on to the pleas for postponements of various championship games, which will generate plenty of discussion at local level: as chairman Jerry O’Sullivan pointed out, for instance, weddings are not a genuine cause for postponements. The games go on regardless.

True enough. They also go on despite separations.

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

Board gets back to brass tacks

AS PARLIAMENTARY gatherings go, last night’s county board meeting in Páirc Uí Chaoimh probably lacked a little in terms of drama and theatre.
No surprise there: as Barack Obama is finding out, you may campaign in poetry, but you have to govern in prose.
And last night’s meeting had a grim opening. Gerald McCarthy’s resignation as manager earlier this week was the elephant in the convention room, tootling a distracting tune on its trunk as delegates took their seats, ostensibly to hammer out the dates and venues for local championship encounters.
The soundtrack soon overcame the dialogue, however. True, a Taoiseach was appointed — or rather, a complete, brand-new Cabinet: the entire Cork U21 management team was delegated, en bloc, to handle the senior hurlers for the National Hurling League games against Clare and Limerick, but there was also plenty of anger expressed by speakers about the tribulations suffered by Gerald McCarthy in recent months.
After the vote on the short-term manager, there was a flurry of proposals regarding the composition of the committee which would appoint the long-term manager. Those proposals included committees with former players and with current players; with Pauric Duffy aboard or with the county chairman as a member; with club coaches participating or with club chairmen getting involved.
And finally, a proposal from the Newtownshandrum club which involved Jim O’Sullivan of this parish helping to select one of those committees.
At last, at last, at last: an organisation with the common sense to listen to us. What odds would you have got on that organisation being the Cork County Board?

THE number and variety of those proposals was far too unwieldy for last night’s meeting to process, so it was decided to hold another meeting on Monday night to hear what the clubs have to say about the proposals . . . I know. It’s hard to keep track of everything. After a while every second word is either ‘meeting’ or ‘proposal’.
Last night wasn’t an occasion for Cromwellian thunder, and the speakers wouldn’t have been confused with the likes of Burke or Grattan. They didn’t need to be.
After all, there was an odd mixture on the agenda which had to be addressed — the mundane, in that the championship fixtures are a hardy annual on the order of business, and the momentous, in that . . . well, you’ve probably been well briefed on that over the last few months.
For those who have been tracking those mass meetings in the last week around Cork — many of them large enough to keep Daniel O’Connell happy — there may be a little surprise this morning that the rule book wasn’t filleted like a kipper in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last night.
They shouldn’t be. Expressive as those meetings were of a thirst within the county for change,
they can’t effect that change unilaterally. The
legislature is where those changes are made, not the hustings.

If you’re sick of the political metaphors, consider those last few get-togethers as more in the nature of warm-up performances for the big premiere: before the glossy musicals ever get to Broadway they’re given a run out of town first. Accordingly, procedural developments were thin on the ground last evening, as was constitutional reform, though a special convention would be a more appropriate forum for the reinvention of administration in Cork anyway.
This morning the announcement of John Considine and his colleagues as managers of the senior hurling team will dominate headlines. Little wonder.
Last night’s meeting moved on to the pleas for postponements of various championship games, which will generate plenty of discussion at local level: as chairman Jerry O’Sullivan pointed out, for instance, weddings are not a genuine cause for postponements. The games go on regardless.
True enough. They also go on despite separations.

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

Question: What now for the Cork County Board?

Answer: Administrators in the Rebel County look to be holding the best cards. They have the backing of club delegates and told the recent county convention that they re-appointed senior hurling manager Gerald McCarthy correctly, in accordance with the guidelines laid down by Labour Relations Commission (LRC) chief Kieran Mulvey last February.

Yet there have been significant reversals for the administration.

Fr Bernie Cotter’s thundering condemnations from the pulpit before the county convention aroused resentment from many people, and the board has not publicly disassociated itself from Cotter’s inflammatory call for confrontation, leaving themselves open to charges of tacitly endorsing his sentiments.

The Cork footballers’ boycott of their medal presentation was another bloody nose for the board. Whatever the footballers plan for the new year, it was an ominous reminder of other potential problems for administrators.

And as we mentioned operating in accordance with those guidelines . . .

Q: What about that Kieran Mulvey document?

A: The departure of Teddy Holland was for many the most significant development after the LRC chief got involved, closely followed by his
recommendation that two players be involved in picking the new senior manager.

The fact that Cork were to return immediately to the hurling and
football fields meant few people paid attention to his memorandum of understanding.

At the recent convention, county board secretary Frank Murphy and then-chairman Mick Dolan stressed the board had been faithful to the decisions and spirit of the agreement Mulvey hammered out.

But were they? Murphy, for instance, told delegates that Gerald McCarthy’s reappointment was in
accordance with normal appointment procedures in the county for “quite a number of years”, wherein the
best candidate, according to the
appointment committee, is approached for a management job and offered the post; if that candidate
accepts the post then that acceptance brings the process to a close.

That doesn’t sound like the procedure Kieran Mulvey painstakingly put together in February, now famous for its two players and five county board representatives on the appointment committee. So which
procedure was used? Then there’s the new committee, chaired by solicitor Olann Kelleher at the invitation of Cork GAA President Derry Gowen. . .

Q: What can that committee do?

A: Good question. While the prospect of getting all sides around a table was, naturally, hailed as a breakthrough when first announced, the powers and terms of reference of that committee are unknown. If it cannot enforce any decisions or conclusions reached, then what value does it have? And a committee already exists with representatives from board and team.

Kieran Mulvey’s recommendations included provision for a consultative committee to be made up of board members and players, which would meet on a regular basis throughout the season to discuss matters of interest to both sides.

What has happened to that committee? Does it supercede the Kelleher/Gowen committee? If so, can it make recommendations and why has it not done so?

Q: What about Gerald McCarthy?

A: Given what has been said on both sides in recent months it looks unlikely that Gerald McCarthy and the Cork hurlers could ever share a dressing-room again, despite McCarthy’s recent letter to 2008 squad members inquiring about their availability.

The manager has obviously learned from Teddy Holland’s experience last year. Holland’s media silence meant he never became an identifiable figure in the public eye. By contrast, McCarthy has been willing from the outset to counter the players’ comments with statements of his own.

Some of his interventions have been costly, however: his response against Seán Óg Ó hAilpín’s attack was one example.

At the recent county board convention a delegate proposed McCarthy be moved upstairs to a ‘director
of hurling’ post within the hurling development academy he mooted some time ago, a suggestion
which drew applause from the
floor. It could be a way out.

After the 2008 season ended,
McCarthy told one senior player that he would only be back as manager if the players wanted him back, while following the All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Kilkenny one of McCarthy’s backroom team told players that he had advised the manager not to go forward for 2009: two discussions which informed the player representatives’ approach to the re-appointments process.

Q: Will he be the last manager in that situation?

A: Notwithstanding the understandable weariness in the country at large with this, the third edition of a stand-off in Cork, there are serious implications for the GAA as a whole, and for managers in particular.

There have been attempts to link any controversies involving the Cork players to the Gaelic Players Association (GPA).

However, those making such connections would be better advised to look at examples such as the Waterford hurlers, whose manager Justin McCarthy departed the scene as soon as it became clear his players had lost faith in his management skills.

The GPA didn’t get involved in Waterford. It didn’t have to. The pressure on players to perform has had an unexpected dividend because, unlike the antsy directors of a Premier League team, the stakeholders directly affected by poor inter-county performance are players. Much as conservatives may not like the prospect, if those players are unhappy with management then action will be taken, which looks likely to become more frequent in the future.

Seeing as we mentioned players . . .

Q: What about them?

A: The 2008 panellists are neither angels nor saints. Few All-Ireland medal-winners are. But, going back to October, they have consistently stressed their problems with the
process by which Gerald McCarthy was re-appointed. The focus on
procedure may not be sexy enough for many followers, but that process needs to be re-examined.

Despite rumours of division among the players, two of the youngest
panellists – Shane O’Neill and Cathal Naughton – rejected those suggestions to this newspaper recently, while it may surprise some to learn that in November 2007 one of the senior players now regarded as leading the opposition to McCarthy persuaded other panellists, who wanted to oust the manager, to continue under him into 2008.

Q: And as you mentioned 2008….

A: That year is over, but all in all, the emotional toll of this dispute on every participant, on all sides, is considerable, and clearly is not the optimum preparation for an inter-county season which begins for the Cork hurlers next weekend with the Waterford Crystal League. A week is a long time in politics. It could be a lot longer in hurling.

20-11-2008
Tony Leen

Challenge may leave
poisonous
legacy

YESTERDAY morning this column spent some time in the company of Gus

Kelleher, Denis Coakley and Garvin Queeney, teachers at St Colman’s

College in Fermoy.

They started their preparations for next Sunday, and the St Colman’s 150th
anniversary game against Cork, months ago, and up to a few weeks ago it looked
like a nice winter diversion.

As of now they look to have organised the Most Anticipated Challenge Match Of
All Time for this weekend.

However, there can’t be any debate about whether this game should be

going ahead or not. The moratorium on inter-county activity in the months of
November and December which was announced earlier this year was
definitive
and unambiguous.

It also came with warnings attached: GAA director-general Paraic Duffy said
at the time that if the close season
directive were ignored, then sanctions
would be forthcoming. He said: “If a manager insists on going ahead we would
deal with that if it happened.”

That, presumably, was behind the CCCC decision to call the game off,
announced in this newspaper last Thursday.

It was one occasion on which a politic, discreet deferral would have been a
godsend. It would have given time to cool matters down in Cork and given some
valuable breathing space to all concerned, and an alternative date could have
been found for the game, say, in early January. If the dispute still lingered
then fair enough: everybody could take their chances.

Within a day, however, it transpired that the game was going ahead after all.
GAA President Nickey Brennan had said previously that the game was a “special
event”, and that was the
reasoning behind the reversal, which tabloid custom
demands we call
“a sensational/dramatic u-turn”.

The GAA’s initial policy decision was aimed at avoiding player burnout; bear
that in mind when considering that if a Glen Rovers U21 plays on Sunday it will
be his 10th weekend in a row on the field of play. Some player welfare.

The Association’s volte face has also given rise to an entirely different
form of burnout, this one involving fibre-
optic cables and mobile phone
batteries. A welter of calls have been made in the Cork area in the last week —
between selectors and potential players and
between potential players and

established players.

In a nutshell, promising youngsters are being invited to play senior hurling
for Cork, knowing that in some
instances their own teammates are

vehemently against that idea.

What does that mean? Trouble.
Consider it from this perspective: If a
‘new’ player lines out for Cork on
Sunday, what happens when that player
goes back to his club the following week and sits in the same dressing-
room
as another player who asked him not to play in that game?

Unfortunately, neither Nickey Brennan nor Paraic Duffy will be on hand to
sort out any problems that arise as a
result. As one close observer of the
Cork scene pointed out to this writer during the week, those problems are likely
to arise in training sessions and low-key league games, far from the hot glare
of publicity, and that poison will linger for a generation of players.

 

 

WHY DID nobody in Croke Park think of that? Given the fact that the Cork
hurlers missed out on national hurling league fixtures last season, the GAA
hierarchy surely didn’t think the prospect of missing a challenge game would
send those players back into their training bibs?

While it is understood that the Cork County Board was anxious that the game
would go ahead despite the
current stand-off, surely those at the top of the
GAA tree could have prevailed upon them to abide by the original CCCC decision.

As it is, those players and selectors who take the field for Cork in Sunday’s
game are liable for suspensions for breaching the moratorium. And despite the
talk of a development squad earlier in the week, this is a Cork team.

Recently, comments were reported from the county board to the effect that it
had never been intended to include members of this season’s Cork hurling squad
anyway for the St Colman’s game. Nonsense: otherwise 25 members of the 2008 Cork
hurling squad would not have been contacted about that same game a couple of
weeks ago.

Ironically, though the Cork County Board might be grateful to be rid of their
troublesome priests through retirement and banishment, it should consider that
if the “development squad” is suspended for breaching the moratorium, who will
be left to line out in the red jersey next year?

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

SOME weekend to be a citizen of the People’s Republic, even if most of the Cork people heading east yesterday didn’t have the Bird’s Nest in Beijing in mind. Croke Park wasn’t offering ceremony or choreography so much as conflict and collision, though given the apocalyptic darkness of Dublin on Saturday, a flaming torch wouldn’t have been a bad accessory.

The 71,235 spectators saw Cork take one victory south, a narrower-than-necessary three-point win (2-11 to 1-11) over Kildare in the football quarter-final. In the hurling semi-final Kilkenny put on an awesome display of power and precision to smother the men in red by nine points, 1-23 to 0-17. The Leesiders have been doing a Lazarus act in the last few weeks, but this was one rock they couldn’t roll away from the tomb.

Anyone trying to trace rust on the Kilkenny edges had some evidence early on: three wides in the first seven minutes isn’t what you expect from black and amber marksmen. Cork showed the benefit of those recent championship outings, meeting Kilkenny head-on in contact, and the All-Ireland champions had to rely — not for the first time — on Henry Shefflin to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

We mentioned rocks earlier. Diarmuid O’Sullivan began well and thrived, setting up a Jerry O’Connor point on 20 minutes. When Tom Kenny added another, Cork had a point to spare. Then Kilkenny did what Kilkenny do so well: they got a sniff of blood and opened the arteries.

A sequence of points ended with Eoin Larkin finding open country through the middle of the Cork defence on 23 minutes.

“I suppose a goal is a killer thing at that point of the game,” said Larkin after the game. “When I got it, things opened up for me — we had a two-on-one and I said I’d have a go.”

No sooner said than scored. Larkin tucked his shot into the corner and Cork would have been forgiven for trying to divert the floodwaters recently afflicting the capital to try and slow Kilkenny, but that would hardly have stopped them. Given Henry Shefflin’s form, he’d probably be able to part the waters and lead his team to the
Promised Land anyway.

Kilkenny tattooed 1-7 into Cork during that run of scores, and the men in red were eight behind at the break: it was the same
margin at half-time against Clare in the quarter-final, but there the resemblance ends. When an assassin has you by the windpipe he’s not inclined to offer an oxygen mask, and Kilkenny weren’t likely to facilitate the
resurrection men from the deep south.

Cork died hard — they put together a five-point scoring burst after the break themselves — the goal they needed wouldn’t come. Pa Cronin sniffed an opening on 47 minutes but JJ Delaney, that vanquisher of reputations, came between him and glory.

Afterwards Brian Cody spoke as plainly as ever: “All we could do is prepare and play the game. There were questions asked of us in the first 20 minutes of each half, when Cork were serious, but we weathered the storm and finished both halves strongly.”

For his part, Cork boss Gerald McCarthy had no complaints.

“We have to admire Kilkenny, we gave a marvellous performance up to the 23rd minute but we seemed to take our foot off the pedal a little bit and you can’t do that against Kilkenny, they rapped out an eight-point lead very quickly.

“Against a team like them, that’ll prove impossible to recover.”

In the All-Ireland SFC quarter final which opened the day’s proceedings, at least we weren’t waiting 25 minutes for a score, as happened in Kildare-Fermanagh, or the Amityville Horror as it’s now referred to.

Cork showed more spark than Kildare early on, and a clever finish by John Hayes, followed by Michael Cussen’s flick home, gave them a two-goal cushion they surfed, or at least sat comfortably upon, for much of the game.

In fairness to Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney, he didn’t dawdle, making four substitutions before the break, but his players looked off the pace, and the game was on schedule for a long, slow-puncture of an end game.

Then Cork made a few substitutions themselves, giving the likes of Fintan Goold and Michael Shields game time, and maybe that disruption to the personnel didn’t help their rhythm. They conceded two penalties, and though Alan Quirke saved one, when John Doyle buried the second there were only three points in it.

Conor Counihan won’t have enjoyed the end game, which involved Kildare knocking three times on the door for an equaliser that would have wiped the slow bicycle race against Fermanagh from the memory forever. The Cork boss now faces a reunion with Kerry and Pat O’Shea.

It is permissible to rub your hands at the prospect.

And at the prospect of next weekend. Kilkenny looked unstoppable yesterday. Waterford and Tipperary will have a few opinions on that matter, though next Sunday’s winners face a huge task against a driven team. Another driven team may have spent its last desperate hour together in Croke Park yesterday, with speculation already rife about possible retirements in the Cork camp.

Retirement from playing, that is. A good many of them cemented their standing as legends a long time ago.

 

It’s 1998… with a few changes

TOMORROW night in Thurles Gerald McCarthy and Ger Loughnane stalk the sidelines once again, while Joe Dooley and Davy Fitzgerald will also cross swords. It’s like 1998 all over again, though without the three priests, late-night Munster Council meetings, pitch occupations by disgruntled fans, and games being whistled up two minutes early.

Well, there’s been none of that so far. It’s only July, remember.

Given the way the chips have fallen for this weekend’s games, that recent RTE documentary, Who Fears To Speak Of ‘98, couldn’t have been more timely. The documentary, which focussed on that never-to-be-
forgotten summer, brought back to vivid life the two Munster hurling
finals of that season, not to mention the disciplinary shenanigans afterwards and the Offaly-Clare marathon.

Back then Ger Loughnane had led a team from the wilderness; nowadays he’s trying to do the same with Galway. The similarities don’t quite align perfectly, however. The Clare model of ‘98 was a battle-hardened group whose fearsome defence backboned their two All-Ireland victories.

This Galway team is a reverse image of that Clare side: spearheaded by Joe Canning but with doubts hanging over the rearguard. That’s not the only difference, of course. Ger Loughnane famously addressed the Banner nation in the middle of the season 10 years ago, but silence has radiated from across the Shannon for most of the year. Who fears to speak in ‘08?

His adversary 10 years ago on the sideline was Gerald McCarthy, then with Waterford. The Déise didn’t quite make it out of the wilderness under McCarthy’s watch, though most observers would credit the foundations he laid as forming the basis for his namesake Justin’s success in collecting three Munster championships and a National league title. Gerald, not Justin, was the manager who introduced the likes of Ken McGrath and John Mullane to senior intercounty hurling, though they fully blossomed under his successor.

Like Ger Loughnane, Gerald McCarthy’s present post is also a neat opposite to the challenges he faced with his former side. Where Waterford were a young team with potential, looking to gain experience of the big occasion, Cork have all the experience you could want, and then some. Several players have three All-Ireland medals, and many have played in four consecutive All-Ireland finals.

The gloom on Leeside at present is presumably based on the fact that none of those players are getting younger, not to mention a laboured victory over Dublin.

In 1998 Gerald McCarthy had a young team who knew there was always tomorrow; for some of his current charges tomorrow may be very close indeed.

The other two managers taking to the sidelines tomorrow night, Joe Dooley of Offaly and Davy Fitzgerald of Waterford, figured prominently in 1998 as well, of course. Dooley
already has a significant scalp this
season, in Limerick, but he too is in
a far different camp compared to a decade ago.

Back then Offaly were a seasoned bunch, dripping with All-Ireland
minor and senior medals, not to
mention a loudly trumpeted reputation as the biggest travelling party in the GAA.

A few weeks ago this reporter saw Dooley emerge from the dressing-rooms in Portlaoise after a trimming by Kilkenny, and the players who came out behind him were as fresh-faced as you’d expect from a senior squad with 12 U-21 players on it.

 

Dooley has also had to learn how to reverse his thinking, putting aside the
environment he operated in 10 years ago, and dealing with a new reality.

As for the Waterford manager… well, anyone who would have suggested in 1998 that Davy Fitzgerald would become boss of the Déise would have been treated to his or her comrades gathering up their drinks and edging away slowly.

Because the appointment’s been overtaken by other events, it doesn’t make it any less unusual, and if anyone’s had to reverse their thinking, it’s Davy.

Who feared to predict in ‘98?

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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?