Cork just Tipp scales after epic second-half
CORK 0-23 TIPPERARY 3-12 MUNSTER finals may have been despatching epic tales of hurling grandeur into the history books for over a hundred years but few could match the sheer majesty of yesterday's second half, which rippled and pulsed as if powered by generators rather than mortals.
In a truly absorbing contest, Cork and Tipperary raised the stakes minute by minute in the hot tense cauldron which was Semple Stadium, before laying all their possessions on the table in a desperate attempt to call the other's bluff.
Neither side blinked but when the cards were finally turned over, Cork had an ace too many in the form of Joe Deane, who gave a quite outstanding performance.
It wasn't just his ten point (0-7 from frees) contribution which hoisted him onto the man-of-the-match podium.
There was a lot more to Deane's game as he combined touch and wizardry in a devastating mix, which caused a series of explosions around the Tipperary square.
Ironically, Tipperary full-back, Philip Maher had a fine game and continues to grow in stature but there was a limit to how much damage even he could repair as Deane, Ben O'Connor and Seanie McGrath formed a triple terror act in the second half.
They scored 0-16 between them and with left half-forward, Alan Browne adding 0-3, Cork's reputation as the supreme point-scoring machine was greatly enhanced.
Their usually miserly defence struggled at times and Jimmy Barry-Murphy is certain to hold an in-depth investigation into how they conceded three goals, which was two more than they gave away in four championship games last year.
Add in the fact that Tipperary missed a penalty in either half and you have enough evidence to prove that all was far from well in the Cork defence. Tipperary's failure to convert either penalty may well have been crucial.
Tommy Dunne took the first awarded in the 11th minute when Donal Óg Cusack wrestled Paul Shelley to the ground but saw his drive beaten out by Diarmuid O'Sullivan.
The second miss was far more damaging to Tipperary's hopes of winning their first Munster title since 1993. It came in the 56th minute, at a time when Cork were leading by a single point. John Leahy took responsibility this time but his shot was smothered on the line by the Cork defence.
Encouraged by their let-off, Cork swarmed forward in numbers and opened up a five point lead with three minutes remaining before Tommy Dunne drove in his second goal, followed by a Paul Kelly point.
The possibility of a draw was coming in sharp focus but, just as they had done all day, Cork's response to real danger was swift and decisive and Seanie McGrath popped up to fire over an injury-time point.
Tipperary's disappointment was suitably tempered by the reality that a back door entry to the Guinness All-Ireland championship awaits them and, on yesterday's evidence, this season could produce some exciting times for Nicky English's rapidly developing team.
True, their error count was high and included shooting twelve wides in the first half but they never lost momentum and were close enough to Cork at the finish to suggest that if the sides were to meet again in the All-Ireland final something which is a distinct possibility Tipp would be in with a real chance.
A number of negatives impacted heavily on Tipperary. Declan Ryan's absence reduced the effectiveness of the attack while John Leahy's dip in form was as unexpected as it was significant.
Leahy had produced two smashing displays against Waterford and Clare, prompting Tipperary fans to believe that a third and decisive tour de force was a certainty.
Sporting life isn't like that. Leahy tried hard but the game passed him by for long periods and his penalty miss topped a disappointing day for him.
Brian O'Meara worked tirelessly and took admirable amounts of responsibility in the Tipperary half-forward line while Eddie Enright also had his moments but Declan Ryan's craft and experience was badly missed.
It looked ominous for Tipperary when they trailed by 0-6 to 0-5 after 26 minutes as they had enjoyed far more possession than Cork, who lacked fluency and penetration for most of the first half.
Tipp's hopes took a dramatic surge in the 29th minute when Eugene O'Neill whipped home their first goal but Cork responded with two points to leave the sides level at the interval, 1-5 to 0-8.
Tipp's best spell came immediately on the restart when they replied to a Ben O'Connor point with three of their own to lead by two after 40 minutes. It was at this stage that Cork's greater maturity told. Pat Ryan replaced Mickey O'Connell at midfield and suddenly the power balance shifted.
Ryan hurled lots of ball and as the pressure increased on the Tipperary defence, Cork's nippy forwards scored a series of points in quick, incisive clusters.
Tipperary's resistance looked a little frayed when they trailed by three points (0-16 to 1-10) in the 51st minute but Tommy Dunne grabbed a lifeline for them when he whipped home a great goal in the 54th minute. It might have been the decisive break against a lesser side than Cork but the champions have such a deep reservoir of self-belief and conviction that they calmly regrouped and scored four unanswered points in six minutes.
Ultimately, that was the difference between the sides. Cork's score to chance ratio was most satisfactory and every time Tipperary raised the barrier, Deane and Co simple jumped higher. They gave the very distinct impression that they had even more left in the tank while Tipperary were flat out.
Tipperary will have learned a great deal from yesterday's test. They were trading against a more confident and experienced Cork side but came close enough to give themselves real hope for the remainder of the season.
Once the initial disappointment of defeat subsides, that is a very decent legacy to take away from a game which will long be remembered by the 54,586 crowd.
MAN OF THE MATCH J Deane (Cork)
SCORERS Cork: J Deane 0-10 (7f), B O'Connor, S McGrath, A Browne 0-3 each, P Ryan 0-2 (1f), D Barrett, K Murray 0-1 each. Tipperary: E O'Neill 1-5 (4f), T Dunne 2-0, B O'Meara, E Enright 0-2 each, J Leahy, P Kelly, L Cahill 0-1 each
CORK D Óg Cusack: F Ryan, D O'Sullivan, J Browne; W Sherlock, B Corcoran, S Óg Ó hAilpín; M O'Connell, D Barrett; T McCarthy, F McCormack, A Browne; S McGrath, J Deane, B O'Connor. Subs: P Ryan for O'Connell (41), K Murray for McCormack (56)
TIPPERARY B Cummins; P Ormonde, P Maher, Michael Ryan (Upperchurch-Drombane); J Carroll, D Kennedy, E Corcoran; T Dunne, J Leahy; M O'Leary, E Enright, B O'Meara; E O'Neill, P Shelley, P O'Brien. Subs: L Cahill for O'Brien (25), Michael Ryan (Templederry) for O'Leary (52), P Kelly for Shelley (63)
REF P Horan (Offaly)