Cork 1-24 Tipperary 2-28
Tipp on track
A huge amount of column inches were gifted to Tipperary and their drop in form over the past season and a bit. The return of Liam Sheedy was meant to reverse the downward trend, but the league campaign didn’t do much to increase the confidence of Tipperary fans or meet their grand expectations so we went into the Munster championship with more questions than answers. On Sunday against Cork, they certainly settled some of the worries that had been reared, with a dominating performance with some exceptional score taking from play, a strong reminder of the Tipperary we’re familiar with.
Ahead of the game, Tipperary announced a team of old reliables, with Sheedy looking to rely on his core of experience and unquestioned talent to see if they’ll answer his call. It’s fair to say they all stepped up to the plate and produced a performance in Páirc Ui Chaoimh that suggests there’s diesel in the tank, still.
Bubbles back in tune
One of the old guard – if you could call him that, at 27 – was John O’Dwyer. Given the nod at corner forward, the Killenaule attacker was likely one with his starting position under more scrutiny than most. And boy, did he deliver in spades. O’Dwyer has blown hot and cold over the past two seasons, remarkable when on song but utterly frustrating when not at the races, something that had been occurring all too often in the blue and gold.
Seven points from play on championship Sunday against Cork is terrific scoring, showing the rolex wrists that he has been famed for as long as he has been operating in the Tipperary team. Can Sheedy continue to get this sort of tune out of him? Time will tell, but it’s fair to say that if O’Dwyer can keep up that sort of scoring efficiency then Tipperary won’t be too far away at all.
Cork slow out of the traps
For consecutive Munster winners, this was a sluggish and timid performance from the Rebel County. They were dealt a blow right before throw-in when Robbie O’Flynn was called upon to replace the injured Bill Cooper, who seemed to injure himself in the warm-ups. This required a reshuffle in the pack, as Luke Meade moved deeper into midfield alongside Darragh Fitzgibbon. Once into the game, there was unsoundness about Cork’s play, far from the side that were so close to an All-Ireland final last year. They seemed like the team with more questions about themselves than Tipp, who’s execution was far superior in the early stages.
Cork settled into the game mid-way through the first-half however, notching six scores on the bounce, making it level and leaving the game finely in the balance. But were it not for Patrick Horgan’s haul of ten points – including a tremendous free from distance to reduce Tipp’s lead to a single point at the break – Cork were well of the pace set by their rivals.
Electric Patrick Horgan
For as good as John O’Dwyer was for Tipp, Patrick Horgan is the true talisman in Cork. He notched four points from play in addition to ten frees, something Liam Sheedy will probably be circling in his post-match notes as to why Tipperary were so foul-happy in defence. And Cork really should have had more, with some baffling decisions late on in the second half when Cork men appeared to be fouled over consecutive phases of play.
But without Horgan, Cork would have been in serious trouble. He was a thorn in the side of the full back line all game, stretching the space and weaving inside the lines. Beyond the Glen Rovers man, Cork only had five other score takers. A brutal return that will have to change next week.
Tipp’s scoring touch
On the other hand, Tipperary had eleven different scorers. It was an exhibition in scoring from play, with all but four of their 2-28 coming from dead balls. Newly ordained captain Seamus Callanan flew out of the blocks with an early goal, notching four scores from play. Interestingly, he stayed away from free-taking duties – Jason Forde struck three, with another from play. John McGrath hit 1-1, while Niall O’Meara and Patrick Maher popped over one each
Beyond the potent forward line, it was the scoring further back the field that could set Tipperary apart. Noel McGrath’s transition to midfield could be a genius touch, he was arguably the best player on the field beyond John O’Dwyer, and he hit four scores, including a ’65. The entire half-back line scored – yes, all three of the Mahers – including two tremendous points from the returning Brendan Maher. It was extremely prolific score-taking, a hallmark of Tipperary’s recent successful sides.
The Páirc finally shone
This was the first game in the new Páirc Ui Chaoimh that the pitch didn’t make up part of the storyline. Cork’s fixtures were switched to Páirc Uí Rinn for the league after the main pitch was obliterated during a serious of downpours earlier on the in the year, deeming it unplayable. The staff in Cork put in some remedial work ahead of a full pitch replacement once the championship is over and today, it looked the best it has since the redevelopment was unveiled in 2017. Fair play to all, even though for an outlay of over €100million you’d have expected a top quality pitch from the start.
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