Wednesday 16 October 2019

Rebel reprieve in Semple win

NFL Division 2 Round 5: Tipperary 0-12 Cork 1-12

Michael Dundon

Cork's Allianz National Football League campaign in division two finally got off the ground as they survived a strong late Tipperary surge to record their first win in five outings at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday evening.

The Rebels deserved to triumph, but had to rely on a last ditch intervention by Thomas Clancy who charged down a net bound effort deep in injury time as Tipperary pressed for a levelling goal.

Earlier, they had goalie Micheal Martin to thank as his timely advance and deflection denied Kevin Fahey a likely Tipperary goal in the 57th minute when the home side's rally to reel in a seven points deficit was underway. Had Tipperary netted then, it's anybody's guess as to how the game would have played out.

Those were vital breaks for Cork who produced their best performance of the campaign. With this win behind them and its boost to their confidence, they will be in much better shape as they face taxing encounters against Donegal and Armagh in their final games.

Cork opted for a two man inside forward line, Mark Collins and Michael Hurley, with Paul Kerrigan back as an extra defender and while they started slowly going two points behind after eight minutes, they hit the next four points through Collins (2),Luke Connolly and Michael Hurley for a two point lead by the 17th minute.

Again Tipperary got back on terms by the 26th minute but Cork finished the half impressively, points by Connolly, Kerrigan and Eoghan McSweeney sending them in at the break with a 0-7 to 0-4 lead.

It was not a great lead given the fresh breeze that they had to face in the second half, but in the eleven minutes after resuming they produced their best football of the night to go seven points clear thanks to scores from Connolly (2), Collins and Cillian O'Hanlon.

Cork were clearly in the driving seat, but within five minutes that all changed as Conor Sweeney twice pointed for Tipp and Kevin Fahey added another when a goal seemed certain, but Micheal Martin's courageous advance saw Fahey's shot turned over the bar. Cork's concern was reflected in the introduction of three subs together in 53rd minute following which Luke Connolly registered a relieving point from a free.

But Tipp kept coming and two more Sweeney pointed frees left them only three points adrift (0-9 to 0-12). Now it was Cork's turn to look for inspiration and it came in the form of a Ruairí Deane goal in the 66th minute following a quick break from defence.

Leading 1-12 to 0-9 after 66 minutes, Cork looked safe and so they were despite some very anxious closing minutes. Tipp surged again with points from Dan O Meara, Conor Sweeney and Jack Kennedy to be just a goal behind as stoppage time commenced.

In those hectic final minutes, the Cork goal was under siege but defenders responded admirably, Clancy's last minute effort typical of the courage shown in pursuit of their opening league points.

Cork still have a battle on their hands to avoid relegation, Donegal visit Cork for the next round but then there is a daunting trip to Armagh for the final round. Points will be at a premium in both those games but now Cork's fate is largely in their own hands all of which underlines the importance of this win over Tipp.

It was a solid Cork performance mixing quick counter-attacking with tactical possession football to break down the massed Tipperary defence. Mark Collins, Ruairi Deane and Luke Connolly had productive outings in the attack while Thomas Clancy, Kevin Crowley and Cillian O Hanlon also contributed handsomely to the win.

Tipperary are level on points with Cork, three each, and travel to Kildare next with Clare to follow in Thurles. This setback lands them in the relegation scramble, but they hope to have some of their many absentees back for the visit to the Lilywhites. Conor Sweeney, Brian Fox, Steven O Brien, Daire Brennan and Emmet Moloney were their best players on the night.

Tipperary: Michael O Reilly; Alan Campbell, John Meagher, Emmet Moloney; Kevin Fahey (0-1), Daire Brennan, Jimmy Feehan; Steven O'Brien, Liam Casey; Liam Boland, Liam McGrath, Brian Fox (0-1); Philip Austin, Conor Sweeney (0-7, 6f), Jack Kennedy (0-2, 1f) Subs: Dan O Meara (0-1f) for Boland (53 mins), Ben Hyland for McGrath (61mins), Conal Kennedy for Fahey (66 mins), Colm O Shaughnessy for Meagher (69mins)

Cork: Micheal Martin; Sam Ryan, Kevin Flahive, Conor Dennehy; Kevin Crowley, Thomas Clancy, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Cillian O'Hanlon (0-1); Mark Collins (0-3, 1f), Luke Connolly (0 5, 4f), Ruairi Deane (1-0); Michael Hurley (0-1), Eoghan McSweeney (0-1), Paul Kerrigan (0-1) Subs: Brian Hurley for Hurley, Sean Powter for Kerrigan, Cian Kiely for Taylor (all 53 mins); Damian Gore for McSweeney (61 mins); Ronan O Toole for Maguire (66 mins)

Referee: Fergal Smyth (Offaly)