THERE was little comfort for Cork in the end. They stayed well in touch for 40 minutes, and they were just five points in arrears before Tipperary's substitute full forward John O'Brien grabbed the first of the home side's two goals fourteen minutes later.
The rookie Rebels eventually finished 12 adrift, however, and it was as much as they could have hoped for on a night when the predictions were that Tipp's winning margin would assume far greater proportions. Cork's game-plan was obviously designed to avoid a real hammering, and it worked to a certain extent as the tactic of operating with seven players at the back blunted the Tipp attack for a long time.
As in the clash with Dublin the previous week, the tenderaged and inexperienced Leeside combination displayed plenty of pluck and resolve. Yet, while there was a definite improvement in the quality of their hurling from the Dublin game, the bottom line is that their lack of physicality was again a major handicap, and, in terms of their future prospects, it was hard to draw any concrete encouragement from developments in the National League encounter at Semple Stadium last Saturday evening.
Cork never looked like winning against a Tipp outfit minus no fewer than nine of the players who lined out in last year's All-Ireland semifinal defeat by Waterford, including such key forwards as Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett. That Tipp took so long to put the game beyond Cork's reach can be safely put down to their shortcomings up front which, even allowing for the visitors' decision to reinforce their rearguard from the outset, must have been a source of some concern to team boss Liam Sheedy.
It suggests that Tipp aren't exactly abounding in attacking options, and, significantly, it was John O'Brien, one of last season's regulars, who wound up as their top marksman from play after being sprung from the bench in the 28th minute. Seamus Hennessy and Gearoid Ryan were other substitutes to get on the scoresheet for the winners, whose return from their starting sextet amounted to a paltry three points from play until Patrick Maher added a goal in the dying minutes.
But the Tipp defence was never seriously extended, and it was always on the cards that their full back trio would reign supreme against Cork's twoman inside line of Adrian Mannix and Eoghan Cronin, neither of whom could be faulted for lack of effort. The same applied to Michael Collins, Aidan Ryan and Darren Crowley in the half-forward line, but it's testimony to Tipp's dominance at the back that Cork were forced to rely entirely on midfielders Tadgh Og Murphy and Barry Johnson for penetration.
They both showed up well, but the Cork players who looked most comfortable competing at this level were Ray Ryan, Conor O'Sullivan and Chris Murphy. Operating as a sweeper behind a steady half-back line comprising Joe Moran, Craig Leahy and Glenn O'Connor, Ryan mopped up an amount of ball, while O'Sullivan performed with the utmost assurance in the left corner against Paul Kelly.
Murphy, even following John O'Brien's introduction at the edge of the square for Tipp, kept his end up well in front of 'keeper Alan Kennedy, who couldn't be blamed for the goals and brought off a fine save from Pa Bourke near the end.
Eoin Keane and Ger O'Driscoll, who replaced the yellow-carded Leahy before half time, also played their parts as Cork succeeded in their aim to limit the damage until the floodgates opened somewhat in the last quarter.
Afterwards selector Ger Fitzgerald admitted that Cork set their stall out to be defensive, and that they expected the forwards to struggle against a Tipp rearguard containing four All-Stars. "We felt we had to do that, given the quality of the opposition, and maybe if we had done it last week against Dublin, the result could have been different.
" You can never be happy when you lose, but, to be fair to these young fellas, they gave a tremendous display, they put it everything they had into the game, and we are very pleased with them. This was a great experience for them, and if we have to come here in the championship with this group, at least they know what it is all about now," said Fitzgerald.
Cork led for the only time after Tadgh Og Murphy took a pass from Barry Johnson to open the scoring in the 3rd. minute. They trailed by the minimum after Murphy landed his second score in the 31st. minute, but Tipp bagged late points to lead by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break.
Cork drew first blood again on the turnover, but Barry Johnson's excellent long-range point in the 38th minute was their only second half score from play. Although Tadgh Og Murphy was off-target with a couple of chances during the third quarter, it was obvious that they lacked the penetration to deny Tipp a victory that looked inevitable long before John O'Brien's goal pushed the Premier County men into a commanding 1-12 to 0-7 lead.
TIPPERARY: P. Bourke 0-6, 0-5 frees, J. O'Brien 1-1, P. Maher 1-0, J. Woodlock and S. Hennessy 0-2 each, J. Devane, S. Maher, P. Kelly and G. Ryan 0-1 each.
CORK: B. Johnson 0-7, 0-6 frees, T. Og Murphy 0-2.
TIPPERARY: G. Kennedy, E. Buckley, D. Fanning, P. Curran, B. Maher, C. O'Mahony, D. Fitzgerald, S. Maher, S. McGrath, J. Woodlock, J. Devane, P. Kerwick, P. Kelly, P. Maher, P. Bourke. Subs, J. O'Brien for Kerwick, S. Hennessy for Devane (yellow card), B. Dunne for S. Maher, N. McGrath for Woodlock, G. Ryan for S. McGrath, T. Scroope for Kelly
CORK: A. Kennedy (Sars), E. Keane (St. Finbarr's), C. Murphy (Blackrock), C. O'Sullivan (Sars), J. Moran (Carrigaline), R. Ryan (Sars), C. Leahy (do.), B. Johnson (Bride Rovers), G. O'Connor (St. Finbarr's), T. Og Murphy (Sars), A. Ryan (Midleton), D. Crowley (Bandon), A. Mannix (Kilworth), E. Cronin (Glen Rovers), M. Collins (Bride Rovers). Subs, G. O'Driscoll (Newcestown) for Leahy (yellow card), T. Murphy (Carrigaline) for Mannix, R. O'Driscoll (Sars) for Crowley, C. McCarthy (do.) for Collins, E. Clancy (Fermoy) for Moran
REFEREE: M. Wadding (Waterford)