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O'Halloran states case for No 1 shirt

KEN O'Halloran threw down the gauntlet to Cork's regular No 1 Alan Quirke with a fine display of goalkeeping as the Rebels claimed a sixth McGrath Cup success yesterday.

O'Halloran was dependable throughout as his side claimed a deserved victory in Clonmel, excelling in the closing minutes with three superb saves.

The former All-Ireland winning U-21 goalkeeper denied Tipperary hitman Barry Grogan with two fine stops in the space of three minutes before the end but the Bishopstown man left the best for last in stoppage-time.

As Tipp chased what would have been a consolation goal, Peter Acheson unleashed a shot that looked destined for the bottom corner, only for 25-year-old O'Halloran to push the fiercely-struck effort away for a '45'.

O'Halloran's late heroics were the brief highlights on a largely forgettable afternoon in Clonmel as persistent rain beforehand resulted in heavy underfoot conditions.

Good football was at a premium and while Cork boss Conor Counihan will have been pleased by the fighting qualities of his understrength team, he'll have noticed how Tipp created no fewer than five clear-cut goalscoring opportunities.

Apart from O'Halloran's hat-trick of saves, Tipp also threatened twice through captain Philip Austin, who screwed wide on both occasions when presented with good openings.

For Cork, this was merely a starter ahead of the start of the Allianz Football League next Sunday, when the Rebels travel to Armagh.

The Leesiders are looking to successfully defend their league title, but Counihan is monitoring a cluster of injuries. Daniel Goulding and Ciaran Sheehan are long-term absentees but Paddy Kelly, Colm O'Neill, Donncha O'Connor and Eoin Cadogan are rated doubtful starters ahead of the trip to the Morgan Athletic Grounds.

Counihan vowed: "We'll have a few issues but fellas there today performed well and hopefully that gives us a few more options."

By half-time yesterday, Cork had registered more wides than scores, seven to six, while Tipp had just one point from play on the board and trailed by 0-6 to 0-3.

Tipp managed just a further point from play during the entire second half while Cork kept the scoreboard ticking over and led by eight points twice before winning by seven.

In front of 915 spectators, Grogan was held scoreless from play as Michael Shields put the shackles firmly on the Aherlow forward, and O'Halloran denied him when he did get free.

Tipp boss John Evans reflected: "Ken O'Halloran made superb saves. He was Man of the Match from a Cork point of view.

"It doesn't mean we'd have won the game if we had got one or two (goals). It just goes to show that we can create chances. The breaks didn't go our way. We need to be taking the points -- there were a couple of chances from frees that you've got to be putting over.

"But it was good preparation for the league -- I'm disappointed that we didn't put up a better score but it was really honest endeavour. Cork set themselves up defensively and we had to adapt to that as well."

Scorers -- Cork: P Kerrigan 0-4 (1f), F Goold 0-3 (2f), C O'Driscoll, F Lynch, S Cahalane, L Shorten, P O'Neill, M O'Leary 0-1 each. Tipperary: B Grogan 0-4f, C Sweeney, P Austin 0-1 each.

CORK -- K O'Halloran; M Shields, R Carey, K Harrington; C O'Driscoll, P Kissane, S Kiely; P O'Neill, M O'Leary; F Goold, F Lynch, L Shorten; S Cahalane, P Kerrigan, P Honohan. Subs: L Connolly for M O'Leary (h-t), A O'Reilly for Harrington (50), J Fitzpatrick for Honohan (53), N O'Leary for Shields (62).

TIPPERARY -- M O'Donnell; R Costigan, C McDonald, P Codd; R Kiely, T Ryan, L Egan; B Jones, E Ryan; H Coghlan, S Grogan, P Acheson; C Sweeney, P Austin, B Grogan. Subs: B Fox for Egan (48), S Carey for S Grogan (48), D Heffernan for Jones (57), S Ryan for Coghlan (61), J O'Callaghan for Kiely (67).

Ref -- P O'Sullivan (Kerry).

Irish Independent