'Fearless' Cork surge into final as Kearns laments Tipp flop
Cork 1-17 Tipperary 0-9
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy hailed his team for delivering under pressure as he secured his first Championship win in charge at Semple Stadium on Saturday.
Cork had lost to Tipperary in the opening round of the League but completely dominated this Munster semi-final. Colm O'Neill got their goal and Luke Connolly scored ten points.
They will face either Kerry or Clare in the decider on June 23, and despite a knee injury to O'Neill late on, it was a largely positive outcome for McCarthy's side, who go in search of their first provincial crown since 2012.
"The pressure was on the team to deliver, and they did," said McCarthy.
"The nature of it is you have to do it the next day. They played well and with confidence.
"What you'll find with teams, not just Cork, is a fear of losing; you become so obsessed with losing, you forget why you are there in the first place.
"It was nice to see them play with a bit of freedom tonight."
Cork did seem uninhibited, and their first-half display was a marked contrast to last year's Munster semi-final when they needed a second-half comeback to take victory.
Cork were 1-8 to 0-4 in front at half-time, although they were indebted to debutant goalkeeper Mark White, who saved efforts from Michael Quinlivan and Liam Casey early on.
Liam McGrath drew Tipp level on 19 minutes, but then Cork took off, scoring 1-4 without reply between the 24th and 33rd minutes with Connolly (three) and Mark Collins on target.
Connolly broke in from the right just after the half-hour mark, and when he was dispossessed by Shane O'Connell the ball found its way to O'Neill, who finished to the net.
It was a vital strike and although Tipperary had a mini-revival when they scored five points in a row, they still trailed 1-11 to 0-9 on the hour mark, and Connolly eased Cork to victory.
"It's an honour again to wear a Cork jersey and I am delighted to be back," said Connolly.
"It's fresh, it's vibrant, there is a great buzz there. You could see in the first-half, we played some great football.
"We have no fear going into a Munster final. Whoever we face, hopefully in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, there is no other place that a Cork footballer wants to be."
The 25-year-old Nemo Rangers clubman had not featured for Cork in 2018, but led his club to Croke Park on St Patrick's Day before they were hammered 2-19 to 0-10 by Corofin.
His return bolsters an already impressive attacking unit. Brian Hurley came on for his first piece of action since 2016, after extended absence due to hamstring injuries, while Paul Kerrigan also came off the bench.
"Brian was great. We had tremendous options off the bench. That made a difference too," said McCarthy.
"It is important to pay tribute to players such as Brian Hurley, Donncha O'Connor, Seán Powter, Paul Kerrigan and Brian O'Driscoll.
"They have made an incredible effort to get back."
Cork will move into a Munster final full of confidence and without the weight of expectation, while Tipp might find it difficult to replicate the highs of Liam Kearns' first year in charge.
Tipp reached the All-Ireland semi-final in 2016 but were knocked out in Round 3 of the qualifiers by Armagh last term. They face another tough campaign through the back door this year but manager Kearns didn't use their fixture schedule as an excuse.
"Our fellas have a lot of belief in themselves. They proved that over the last three years. I don't know did we lose belief," said Kearns. "We were beaten and I don't have the answers for this performance. Why were we so poor, I don't know. It's a serious setback, probably our worst setback in the three years we have been together. Our progress was pretty sustained up to this point and this is a setback certainly.
"We played six days ago but I can't put the performance down to that. We expected to perform a lot better tonight, we didn't."
SCORERS - Cork: L Connolly 0-10 (5fs), C O'Neill 1-0, M Collins 0-3,P Kerrigan 0-2, S White, B Hurley 0-1 each. Tipperary: L McGrath 0-5 (4fs), M Quinlivan, J Kennedy (f), L Boland, P Austin 0-1 each.
Cork: M White 9; K Crowley 8, J O'Sullivan 8, K Flahive 7; S White 7, S Cronin 7, T Clancy 7; A Walsh 8, I Maguire 8; K O'Driscoll 7, M Collins 8, R Deane 8; J O'Rourke 6, C O'Neill 7, L Connolly 9. Subs: B Hurley 7 for O'Neill (47), R O'Toole 6 for O'Driscoll (56), P Kelleher 6 for Walsh (58), P Kerrigan 7 for O'Rourke (58), J Loughrey 7 for S White (63), M Taylor 6 for Clancy (68).
Tipperary: E Comerford 6; S O'Connell 6, J Meagher 6, A Campbell 6; B Maher 7, R Kiely 7, J Feehan 6; L Casey 6, J Kennedy 7; J Keane 6, S O'Brien 6, B Fox 6; C Sweeney 6, M Quinlivan 7, L McGrath 8. Subs: P Austin 7 for Feehan (35), K Fahey 6 for Kiely (46), L Boland 7 for Casey (49), J Lonergan 6 for Keane (67), K O'Halloran 6 for Sweeney (67).
Ref - A Nolan (Wicklow)