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Tasty Tipp let rip and leave Rebels in a rut

THIS was not part of the script: not so much Tipperary's excellence on the day but Cork's acquiescence. Eamon O'Shea brought his semi-final underdogs to Croke Park with a 
well-rehearsed plan and they executed it sufficiently well to win at a canter.

And Cork? Well, they simply didn't show up.

They were in Croke Park in body but, 
whatever about their minds being elsewhere, the ring-craft for which they are renowned appeared to have been left behind in Páirc Uí Rinn.

The net result was a crushing 10-point defeat that left Jimmy Barry-Murphy and the huge red army in a massive 68,728 attendance feeling utterly deflated, and befuddled too.

Why had there been such an alarming regression from their Munster campaign? That's a question for the long post-mortems that are sure to follow this winter but, in the meantime, yesterday was all about Tipperary and September 7 will now be all about Kilkenny/Tipp.

For the fourth time in six years, we'll have an 
All-Ireland rendition of this ancient rivalry and, while the recent final head-to-head reads 2-1 for the Cats, Tipp will quietly fancy their chances of levelling the score in this year's decider.

FEASTED

Certainly they were far more emphatic winners yesterday than Brian Cody's men had been against Limerick, a week earlier, but that comparison must be measured in the context of the challenge posed. Limerick brought their A-game to Croker and asked all manner of searching questions of Kilkenny; Cork barely mustered their C-game and Tipp duly feasted on this vulnerability, all over the field.

Thus, you had Pádraic Maher hurling up a half-back storm - but you were left to wonder why Cork didn't get any half-forwards to crowd his domain and force him on the back foot.

Thus, you had Shane McGrath and James Woodlock taking it in turns to lord the midfield battleground where Cork were supposedly primed to have the advantage ... but while Daniel Kearney toiled honestly in the face of impossible odds, the ineffectual showing of Aidan Walsh will doubtless prompt a fresh round of questions about the viability of the dual player at elite level.

Thus, you had John O'Dwyer showcasing his prolific talent with six points from play ... but will 'Bubbles' have it so easy against Kilkenny?

Finally, we had Séamus Callanan doing - in fairness - what the Drom & Inch clubman has been doing through much of the league and throughout this redemptive 'back door' door, namely shooting the lights out.

Yesterday he added another 2-4 to his mounting summer haul, which now reads 7-38. Callanan is joint top-scorer with Paul Shiels of Antrim (on 1-56) and will surely claim sole ownership after the final, barring some last-day heroics from TJ Reid.

However, it wasn't so much the bare statistics but the timing of his surgical incisions that had such a profound influence here.

The game was in its sixth minute and no discernible pattern had emerged (Cork actually led through an early Alan Cadogan point) when Callanan fired home his first goal. His shot, from distance, was an unstoppable amalgam of power and placement but at its genesis lay a calamitous fumble from Shane O'Neill, who inexplicably dropped a crossfield delivery from Shane McGrath.

For much of the first half, Tipperary continued to try and seek out their full-forward totem and while no further carnage ensued, it was alarming at times to see O'Neill (a corner-back by inclination) isolated one-on-one with Callanan. At times, Cork's defending was seat-of-the-pants stuff and both Patrick 'Bonner' Maher and a strangely off-colour Lar Corbett failed to make the most of opportunities when a half-chance of goal beckoned.

Other signs of Leeside disarray were evident in Damien Cahalane taking all day over a clearance, duly blocked down by O'Dwyer for his third point; in the first half wide count (9-4 for Cork); and in the peripheral contribution of Patrick Horgan, who had already chalked up four wides before finally breaking his duck with a 33rd-minute free.

BULLET

And yet the half ended with Cork trailing by just 0-8 to 1-7. Surely they couldn't be so bad for the second 35? Surely they would kick on?

Wrong on both counts. The deficit was out to four before 'Bonner' Maher did what he does best - winning ruck ball and selflessly offloading to Callanan, whose 20-yard bullet sped past Anthony Nash and left Cork playing a game of catch-up they never came close to winning.

The gap had stretched to 13 points before Rob O'Shea's 66th-minute goal - finishing off a smart pass from fellow sub Jamie Coughlan - took some of the haunted look off the scoreboard.

Four years ago, Cork lost a semi-final to Kilkenny by 12 points but yesterday was infinitely more disappointing, primarily because the pre-match expectation was so high.

As for the perfectionist that is Eamon O'Shea, he wasn't altogether happy with Tipp's fluency and they also coughed up a handful of goal chances in the last 20 minutes - Bill Cooper butchered one with a poor pass, Conor Lehane (a rare font of forward productivity) saw his angled drive tipped over, Paudie O'Sullivan shot into the side-netting, while Horgan forced two saves in the same move from Darren Gleeson.

By then, though, this hotly anticipated showdown had long since turned into a damp squib.


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