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Vincent Hogan: Corbett in no mood to rest on his laurels

The humanitarian in Lar Corbett found expression only when the bodies were bagged, tagged and ready for burial. He threw an arm around old Tony Browne, murmuring something gentle. Browne's reward for 38 years of ascetic living had been to be the last in a long queue of Waterford men despatched to try and rein in the arcing rainbow of Corbett's talents. Senior citizenship shouldn't bring a man to that kind of place.

Lar then swung away to commiserate with Clinton Hennessy, whose backache had to be chronic. Then on to the umpires, arms all but loosened from their sockets through over-use.

Corbett's Championship goal tally soared to quarter of a century with yesterday's four in Cork, putting him three clear of Tipperary's next-in-line, Eoin Kelly. Between them, they thieved a half dozen here, reducing Waterford's full-back line to an ugly callus.

Tipp in this mood move so loosely, so regally, the suspicion is that trying to contain them becomes the equivalent of trying to keep water in a bag. They use every last inch of the available acreage, pouring into space with the ease of men forever running downhill.

Diagonal balls out of defence seem radar-guided to drop onto Lar's boot laces. The rest is a matter of escape and fantasy.

Waterford put four different markers on Corbett yesterday, each one essentially condemned to chase the wind.

Jerome Maher was just 12 minutes into his Championship debut when Davy Fitzgerald called him towards the covered stand and advised him to switch with Darragh Fives. Lar, by then, was already on 1-1. Maher mightn't have appreciated it, but Davy was removing him from harm.

Fives would be taken for 2-2 before the half-time break and, if substitute David O'Sullivan had all the right voices in his head going out for the second period, Lar lofted a gorgeous score within two minutes of the resumption. Short of regrouping with a rope and a cage, Waterford's task was futile.

They had, contrary to expectation, lined out in an orthodox shape and Tipp just seemed to locate structural faults in every single line. By the time (66th minute) Lar bagged his fourth goal, it was debatable who (if anybody) was marking him. For how do you mark someone who seems to levitate above the ground?

Corbett's haul of 4-4 made his hat-trick of goals against Kilkenny at Croke Park last September seem almost a dilettante haul.

"Look, the supply of ball coming from the midfield and half-backs, you don't need me to say it, the boys are getting the ball in nice and quick," he sighed afterwards, his involvement dismissed as little more than humdrum. "And then it's a forward's dream. That was the difference. We got good quality ball in and we all got chances."

Had it been a deliberate tactic, he was asked? And Lar eyed the questioner with a puzzled frown.

"When you look at Kilkenny over the last decade, you're looking to see what they're doing," said Corbett. "They're getting the ball into the full-forward line. It's not a tactic. You just get it in, like.

"We're under no illusions. Waterford were not up to the pace today. They'll admit that themselves. They'll be very, very disappointed. So there's a huge hole there for Tipperary to fall into if we're going to get complacent and think we're going to get a soft game the next day.


"We can't let the minds soften. If anything, we've to drive on and go to the next level. If we stay at the same level, we'll pay the consequences. We've to drive on the next day. That's really what it's about."

Kelly, pointedly, name-checked Kilkenny too, insisting that so much of what Tipp now do has been taken from a stripey template.

And, in a sense, Corbett is right. It isn't tactics. It's common sense. Win the ball, release it early. When you have blue-chip forwards, empower them with fast ball. Not complicated.

Tipp, yesterday, hurled at a level that, whatever formation Davy Fitz went to war with, the suspicion was that Waterford would have been on a hopeless errand.

And yet, ominously, Corbett proposed a view that the champions are still climbing.

"Sure isn't that sport," said Lar. "There's always another level. If you ever think that you're at the top in anything, that's the biggest mistake you'll make. There's another level in everyone.

"You're never at the top. And thank God we've a management set-up, a panel and a team that are prepared to drive on. The biggest thing is not to get complacent.

"I think the team's confidence is very high now and that's down to Declan (Ryan) and Tommy (Dunne) and Michael (Gleeson) when they came in and picked up where the boys left off last year. We're feeding off them.

"They came in, I suppose, wondering were we going to go soft after winning an All-Ireland. You might take the foot off the gas, take things easy. But they pushed us on. They've brought us on to the next level.

"And that's what it's about. We stepped up."

Kelly, whose own accumulation of 2-6 would on another day have made him the headline act, was in harmony with Corbett's world view.

"Look you'd have to be in the dressing-room, you'd have to be in at training, just to see the way that Lar works for the team," he said of the Thurles man. "Lar is playing for the team and, when you do that, you will get your own chances.

"The message we get going out as individuals is to create for other lads. And if you have that in your mindset, everything else will fall into place. Lar would tell you that himself."

Kelly spoke of the Tipp dressing-room at half-time and how, despite a 17-point lead, the forwards were rebuked for what was interpreted by management as a declining work rate. Targets were recalibrated and re-set. Challenges refined.

"The most pleasing thing is we met those challenges head on," said Kelly. "If you don't play as a team at this level, you're going nowhere," he added. "In the second half against Clare, we had lads shooting wides from 60 and 70 yards out and we didn't want that happening again.

"Listen, that's only Brendan Cummins' fourth Munster medal and he's given 15 or 16 years. It's only Tipp's ninth title in 40 years. This cup is important to us."

Declan Ryan supported the view of Corbett as "an incredible player" but with the significant proviso of "when he gets the right type of ball".

"It was just one of those days," said the Tipp manager. "But we've a bit of work to do now to keep the feet on the ground. To score that many goals, there's bound to be a certain amount of talk."

The bulk of it will centre on Corbett and the business of containment. Since his September goal spree, he has become involved in a Thurles pub and there are plenty who see opportunity in having Lar behind the bar. As he headed for the shower last night, he was asked about the possibility of a few 'two for the price of one specials' to recognise Tipp's win.

"You'll have to ring the manager!" grinned Lar.

The only ball he dodged all day.

Irish Independent