Sunday 21 October 2018

Perfect 10 for classy Connolly in rout

Cork 1-17 Tipperary 0-9

Cork’s Luke Connolly scored 0-10 in last night’s win over Tipperary. Photo: Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cork’s Luke Connolly scored 0-10 in last night’s win over Tipperary. Photo: Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile

John Brennan

Inspired by the superb Luke Connolly, Cork's footballers put a spring of discontent behind them to surge into the Munster final after a victory in Semple Stadium last night.

The Rebels dismantled Tipperary with power, pace and the best forward of the match in Connolly who finished the game with 10 points, five from play.

He brought a touch of class to proceedings, with accurate kicking when Cork were trying to fend off an early Tipperary surge.

His efforts, and those of a line of half-back colleagues loaded with pace and power mean Cork are now in the Munster final on Saturday, June 23 and if that match is against Kerry, it will be in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

This was much better than the Cork team we saw stumble through the Allianz League and with Sean Powter to come back from injury, they will be relishing a potential crack at their old rivals.

After a slow start, Aidan Walsh and Ian Maguire ruled midfield and once Cork forced their hosts into chasing the game in the second period, their swarm defence was all too much for the Tipperary men. Long before the end the home team had run out of ideas. It is back to the drawing board for them after a defeat that will hit them hard - the manner of it and the margin.

Peter Kelleher of Cork in action against Steven O'Brien of Tipperary. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Peter Kelleher of Cork in action against Steven O'Brien of Tipperary. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The last two championship meetings of these teams had been settled by just a single point and no one expected this to be a walk in the park for either side.

So to see just a handful of people in Semple Stadium a quarter of an hour before the throw-in was a disappointment. In the end, just 3,339 paid in.

Tipp manager Liam Kearns surprised no one when his two doubtful players, Stephen O'Brien and Conor Sweeney, started the match.

Cork got first use of a stiff breeze blowing into the Killinan end and the distance the ball was travelling showed it to be a huge advantage.

Michael Quinlivan of Tipperary in action against Kevin Crowley of Cork. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Michael Quinlivan of Tipperary in action against Kevin Crowley of Cork. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

But stray shooting let them down and Tipp showed how dangerous they might be in the second half when Michael Quinlivan, an All-Star two years ago, slalomed through the Cork defence for a goal chance only to shoot weakly at Cork goalkeeper Mark White.

Cork full-back Jamie O'Sullivan was having all sorts of problems with Quinlivan, who looked like he would score whenever he got the ball.

It was an open game, never mind double sweepers, there were no single sweepers. Space was being made by players running up and down the pitch and you wondered could they all keep up the pace.

The sight of players gasping for water bottles after 25 minutes told its own tale. And for Cork, the scoreboard was not looking that good as they led by a solitary point with half-time on the horizon.

Cork might have got a goal when Connolly shot over the crossbar instead of under it. Yet the goal Cork needed came in the 31st minute when Colm O'Neill fired home from close range. A Mark Collins point, followed soon after by another Connolly effort, had Cork clear.

And now Tipperary would have to reel Cork in on the wind during the second half. Frankly it never looked like happening. Cork got back in numbers and now packed their defence. Quinlivan faded after his bright start. But then again he never got the sort of chest-high delivery that had been coming his way in the first half.

There was a brief flurry from the home side as they kicked five points in a row, but Cork were holding their foes at arm's length.

Paul Kerrigan came off the bench for a late cameo that included fisting a point and then kicking one, and they were home and hosed.

Tipperary must go into what will be shark-infested waters in the second round of the qualifiers. There, the likes of Mayo or Tyrone might wait - and a season that once offered so much promise for Tipp footballers might come to a shuddering halt. The glory days of August 2016, and an All-Ireland semi-final appearance, now seem a long time away.

Scorers - Cork: L Connolly 0-10 (5f); 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 (3f); J Kennedy, M Quinlivan, L Boland, P Austin 0-1 each.

Tipperary: E Comerford; S O'Connell, J Meagher, A Campbell; B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; L Casey, J Kennedy; J Keane, S O'Brien, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, L McGrath. Subs: P Austin for Feehan (h-t); L Boland for Casey (49). Cork: M White; K Crowley, J O'Sullivan, K Flahive; S White, S Cronin, T Clancy; A Walsh, I Maguire; K O'Driscoll, M Collins, R Deane; J Rourke, C O'Neill, L Connolly. Subs: B Hurley for O'Neill (48), P Kelleher for Walsh and P Kerrigan for O'Rourke (59).

Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).

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