By Séamus Barrett
Cork 1-10 Tipperary 1-9
The record books will state two championship wins from two games for Peadar Healy’s Cork in 2017. The reality isn’t quite so reassuring for those of a Rebel persuasion but at least Saturday’s second half performance will instil some belief inside and outside the camp.
For 40 minutes at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday it looked as if the pressure on this Cork setup was about to intensify further. They trailed 0-6 to 0-1 playing into a strong wind. It could have been very different if Colm O’Neill or Paul Kerrigan had managed to take good early goal chances but they came and went and after Luke Connolly had put the Rebels ahead after three minutes, they didn’t score again until the 38th minute.
Tipp should have been further ahead by that stage only for wasteful shooting and taking the wrong option on occasion. They also lost marquee forward Michael Quinlivan to a nasty ankle injury midway through the first half but it seemed to matter little to begin with as they led at half-time 0-4 to 0-1 in one of the worst halves of football you’re likely to see.
However business picked up in the second half and when Ballyporeen’s Conor Sweeney added two quick points after the break, Tipp looked to be heading for a second straight Munster championship victory over the Rebels. Fittingly it was Paul Kerrigan who ended Cork’s long scoring drought, one man whose desire can never be questioned.
Cork were starting to show signs of recovery now and Donncha O’Connor added another soon after to lift spirits further. This revival could have been ended in the 40th minute when the impressive Liam Boland bared down on goal but Ken O’Halloran did excellently between the Cork sticks to deny him. Kerrigan and Connolly tacked on two more scores and now the Rebels were really motoring.
By the 47th minute Cork were level through substitute Mark Collins who along with Seán Powter made a huge difference when coming in. Barry O’Driscoll soon had Cork ahead for the first time since the opening minutes but Sweeney responded to tie matters again. Frees were traded by O’Connor and Sweeney as ten minutes of normal time remained.
It was all set for a grandstand finish, one which looked rather unlikely to occur in the opening half. The teams didn’t disappoint. Cork looked to have gained control with a two point cushion thanks to Kerrigan and O’Neill.
Tipp weren’t going away and substitute Kevin O’Halloran, who many will feel should have started for his long distance free taking, brought them to within one. Then came what appeared to be a major sucker punch for Cork. A long ball into the Cork area was fisted home by Sweeney and Tipp now led by two approaching injury-time.
What followed will leave many a Cork supporter scratching their heads asking where did that come from? No sooner had the green flag been raised when O’Halloran kicked short and Cork embarked on playing some scintillating football, working the ball up the field in a matter of seconds and Connolly was on hand to apply the finishing touch to the back of the net.
It was ludicrous build up play more for the fact that the brilliance manifested itself out of nowhere and the sheer belief Cork seemed to have that they could just march up the field and get a goal at will having struggled to string two passes together in the first half. The Rebels managed to see out the remaining minutes to book a place in the Munster final against Kerry.
Bad news regarding that final came through Monday morning as it was revealed the newly renovated Páirc Uí Chaoimh won’t be ready in time for the July 2nd decider and so Cork will travel to Killarney to face last year’s All-Ireland finalists. Who knows it might be a blessing and take some added pressure off the Rebels.
Saturday’s showing surely demonstrated to the management that a defensive structure doesn’t suit Cork and if they go with such tactics against the Kingdom, they’ll be eaten alive.
As for Tipp, who were down a number of regulars and then lost Michael Quinlivan to injury, the omens are good. They showed they can survive without those members of the panel and no one will want to face last year’s All-Ireland semi-finalists in the qualifiers.
Cork: K O’Halloran; M Shields, J O’Sullivan, K Crowley; C O’Driscoll, J Loughrey, Tomás Clancy; R Deane, I Maguire; Brian O’Driscoll, P Kerrigan (0-3), J O’Rourke; C O’Neill, P Kelleher, L Connolly (1-2). Subs: D O’Connor (0-3/0-2f) for Kelleher, Barry O’Driscoll (0-1) for Brian O’Driscoll, S Powter for C O’Driscoll, M Collins (0-1) for Deane, M Hurley for O’Rourke, G Murphy for O’Neill.
Tipperary: C Kenrick; S O’Connell, P Codd, A Campbell; B Maher, R Kiely (0-1), J Feehan; L Casey, G Hannigan; J Keane, D Foley, B Fox; C Sweeney (1-5/0-1f), M Quinlivan, L Boland (0-1). Subs: L McGrath (0-1) for Quinlivan (injured), K O’Halloran (0-1) for Foley, A Moloney for Casey, K Bergin for Hannigan (injured), C O’Shaughnessy for O’Connell, J Lonergan for Boland