Rebels reeling as Tipperary young guns step up to end 72-year wait
Tipperary 3-15 Cork 2-16
Maybe Cork should have seen it coming as an old nemesis returned to haunt them at Semple Stadium yesterday.
In 2003, Liam Kearns was Limerick manager when the Shannonsiders travelled to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and won by 10 points.
But 13 years on, the sheer magnitude of Tipperary's victory in yesterday's Munster SFC semi-final eclipsed anything that Kearns has achieved previously.
He admitted as much himself when the dust had settled, holding court in a dressing-room beneath the Old Stand in Thurles.
It was 72 long years since Tipp had beaten Cork in Championship football. Just 2,734 spectators were present to watch history unfolding, more's the pity, with Tipp's support outnumbered at least two to one.
When Kearns took the Tipp job last year, succeeding Peter Creedon, he was dealt a hammer blow almost immediately when Colin O'Riordan signed an AFL contract.
The erosion that followed saw Steven O'Brien and Seamus Kennedy link up with the hurlers, and an unprecedented injury crisis derailed a promotion assault from Division 3.
Young stars Liam Casey, Jason Lonergan and Kevin Fahey decided then that America was a more appetising prospect for the summer than a Championship campaign, but while Kearns believes they might be regretting that now, he insisted that door remains open for anybody who might fancy a return.
Two years ago, Tipp went to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and were pipped at the post late by Cork. This time, they were hell-bent on avoiding a repeat and that heartbreaking loss was mentioned as half-time as Tipp enjoyed a 2-7 to 0-6 lead.
Three times in the second half, they led by nine but Cork were level in the 70th minute, as captain Paul Kerrigan slotted over the equaliser.
The momentum was all with Cork but after sub Ian Fahey saw his effort deflected into the side-netting, young Kevin O'Halloran stood over the biggest kick of his career, and nailed the '45'.
O'Halloran banged over another close-range free in the fourth, and final, minute of stoppage-time and Tipp, incredibly, were home.
Kerry await them in Killarney in the Premier County's first Munster SFC final appearance since 2002 on July 3 but this warm glow won't dim for some time.
Cork didn't help themselves, registering nine first-half wides, while poor kick-outs led to Tipp's first and third goals.
Mark Collins scored two second-half goals to spark separate Cork revivals but Tipp were 3-13 to 1-10 clear and seemingly cruising with eight minutes of normal time left.
Back came Cork as Collins scored a deflected goal in the 66th minute and four more points had them level, before O'Halloran intervened.
In the first half, the sides were level three times before George Hannigan picked off a Ryan Price kick-out and fed man of the match Brian Fox.
The Annacarty man kept his head and played in Conor Sweeney for a neat finish. That 15th-minute goal was a tonic for Tipp, as captain Peter Acheson had seen his eighth-minute penalty saved by Price.
After moving 1-5 to 0-3 clear, Tipp went 14 minutes without a score and Cork were within two before Michael Quinlivan hit 1-2 before half-time.
Fox was involved again and referee Paddy Neilan played a good advantage as time seemed to stand still. Quinlivan let fly on the ground and the ball squirmed under Price and into the net.
Tipp were nine points clear twice in the early stages of a second half packed with incident. In an era dominated by defensive systems and swarm tactics, this was as open and breathless as you could wish for.
Nerves jangled but this time, Tipp didn't blink, as Kearns referenced the hurt of 2014.
He said: "Ah yeah, it was mentioned. It was said that with five minutes to go, they were two points up and lost the game. That was not to happen this time but we went very close to doing it again!
"Thanks be to God, we didn't. I'm just thrilled for players that they managed to break the ceiling - 1944 is a ridiculous amount of time not to beating a county so it's great to have done it."
Deflated Cork boss Peadar Healy wasn't in the mood to apportion blame but the team he finished with was arguably better than what started, as Peter Kelleher, Donncha O'Connor and Daniel Goulding were introduced to add badly-needed attacking punch.
He said: "I'm not going to say anything about any of my players - we have a lot of work to do and we'll have to look forward to the Qualifiers and that's it."
Scorers - Tipperary: M Quinlivan 1-3 (0-1f), K O'Halloran 0-7 (3fs, 2 45s), B Fox 1-1, C Sweeney 1-0, P Acheson 0-2, C McDonald, B Maher 0-1 each. Cork: M Collins 2-1, D O'Connor (3fs), P Kerrigan (1f) 0-3 each, C Dorman, C O'Neill (2fs), D Goulding (1f) 0-2 each, B Hurley, J O'Rourke, P Kelleher 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY - E Comerford 7; C McDonald 8, C O'Shaughnessy 8, A Campbell 8; B Maher 8, R Kiely 6, J Feehan 7; P Acheson 8, G Hannigan 8; P Austin 6, K O'Halloran 8, B Fox 9; J Keane 7, M Quinlivan 8, C Sweeney 7. Subs: S Leahy 6 for Keane (BC, 35), M Dunne 6 for Kiely (55), I Fahey 6 for Austin (60), A Moloney NR for Sweeney (68), S O'Connell NR for Maher (70), B Hewitt NR for Fahey (BC, 70+3).
CORK - R Price 6; J Loughrey 6, E Cadogan 6, C O'Driscoll 6; K O'Driscoll 6, B O'Driscoll 6, T Clancy 6; S Kiely 5, I Maguire 6; J O'Rourke 6, C Dorman 7, M Collins 8; C O'Neill 5, B Hurley 6, P Kerrigan 7. Subs: P Kelleher 8 for Hurley (ht), R Deane 3 for Kiely (ht), S White 6 for Deane (b/c 43), S Powter 7 for Dorman (48), D O'Connor 7 for O'Neill (54), D Goulding 7 for O'Rourke (62).
Ref - P Neilan (Roscommon)