Blitz from Seamus Callanan blows Cork into oblivion
Tipperary 2-18 Cork 1-11 (All-Ireland SHC Semi-Final)
June 1 and that sickening Munster semi-final defeat by Limerick seems an awful long time ago for Eamon O' Shea and his born-again Tipperary side.
Since then, Galway, Offaly, Dublin and Cork have been cleared from the approach roads to the All-Ireland title and now only Kilkenny stand between Tipperary and the big prize. Granted, that's a massive challenge, but it's one Tipperary will take on with no little confidence after rebuilding the season so impressively.
They have won their last four games by a combined total of 49 points, underlining the scoring potential of a strike force which carries serious threats to any defence. Seamus Callanan and John O'Dwyer are prolific finishers, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher is growing in stature as a target-man, while Noel McGrath always appears to be on the verge of delivering something special.
Midfield contributed generously yesterday too, with Shane McGrath and James Woodlock each scoring three points and also opening up consistently productive lines to the attack. It fed into an ultra-effective performance, where all but one point came from open play.
A very satisfactory day for Tipperary then, but it has to be seen in the context of a truly dismal effort from Cork. They shot the first point when Alan Cadogan fired over after 40 seconds and closed out the scoring with a goal from sub Rob O'Shea in the 66th minute, but in between they were out-scored by 2-18 to 0-10.
They had a reasonably good spell in the ten minutes before half-time, landing four points, but otherwise it was a truly shocking performance, which leaves their Munster title as tarnished goods. It will look the same as all the rest on the record books, but after losing to Tipperary by ten points, it won't mean a whole lot.
So much was expected of yesterday's game there was always a possibility it wouldn't live up to its star billing but, nonetheless, nobody could have foreseen a game where Cork would be so comprehensively outgunned that Croke Park began to empty shortly after the three-quarter stage.
By then, Tipperary were in total control, hurling with so much pace and power that it looked like seniors v juniors. And as Cork supporters headed for the exits, they were as mystified as everyone else as to why their side had imploded. From the moment Shane O'Neill's error allowed Callanan in for Tipperary's first goal in the sixth minute, the Premier boys always looked likely winners. There was a method and structure to their game that appeared to baffle Cork.
That was typified by their reaction to Tipperary's puck-outs, most of which Darren Gleeson delivered short to unmarked defenders. He frequently had a choice of targets and once Tipperary got possession, they used it intelligently. Quite why the Cork forwards didn't close in on the Tipperary backs on puck-outs was one of many sorrowful mysteries for the Rebels on a truly awful day.
Of the starting Cork 15, only Anthony Nash, Mark Ellis, Daniel Kearney and Conor Lehane can be remotely satisfied with their performances on a day when the Rebels' many problems included shocking inaccuracy.
They shot six wides in the first quarter, had taken the total to nine by half-time and finished the game on 16. Many of them were hit under no great pressure, proving that for whatever reason, Cork were badly out of sorts.
Was it the five-week gap since the Munster final? Did it dull their edge, leaving them vulnerable against opposition that had an All-Ireland quarter-final outing three weeks ago?
That may well have been a factor but it doesn't excuse the lack of intensity that Cork brought to their game. Indeed, by comparison with the Kilkenny-Limerick semi-final, it was a very tame affair and once the competitive edge disappeared in the second half, there was little to recommend it to neutrals.
The crucial phase came just after half-time when Tipperary shot three unanswered points to take their lead out to five points. It left Cork, who trailed by 1-7 to 0-8 at half-time, facing a real test and while Horgan pointed a free to raise brief hopes of a revival, the contest was decided in the 47th minute when Callanan took a pass from 'Bonner' Maher and whipped home Tipperary's second goal.
He could have had a third goal two minutes later but the ball squirted away from him as he prepared to shoot. It didn't matter to the overall trend of Tipperary's dominance and they kicked on powerfully, outscoring Cork by 0-8 to 0-2 over the next 16 minutes.
There was nothing Cork could do except wallow in their misery while Tipperary enjoyed themselves in the safe knowledge that they were heading for another All-Ireland final showdown with Kilkenny.
Brian Cody was among the record crowd for a Cork-Tipperary game and will, no doubt, be impressed by the manner in which O'Shea's troops stormed Cork's gates. It will, of course, be altogether different in the final when Tipperary find themselves confronted by far more energetic opposition, who won't allow them anything like as much time or space on the ball as they enjoyed yesterday.
Cork got some joy when they did that for a period before half-time yesterday but didn't maintain it in the second half and were made to look distinctly second rate, once Callanan pounced for his second goal.
The difference between the Cork side that beat Limerick in the Munster final and the one that folded so meekly yesterday was as stark as it was inexplicable. They scored as much against Limerick in the first 42 minutes as they did in all of yesterday's game, while also being far more combative across every line.
Their failure to counteract Padraic Maher provided a perfect illustration of how switched off they were. Maher was a dominant figure in the Tipperary half-back line, dominating the air wars with his fetching ability and the ground campaign with his powerful surges. Cork never came close to counteracting him, but then that was the story of their awful day in so many departments.
As for Tipperary, they could never have envisaged such an easy passage to the final but, when the opportunity presented itself, they had the fire power to blitz Cork into oblivion. They did it with obvious relish to set up a fourth All-Ireland final clash with Kilkenny in six seasons.
Scorers - Tipperary: S Callanan 2-4 (0-1f), J O'Dwyer 0-6, S McGrath, J Woodlock 0-3 each, N McGrath 0-2. Cork: C Lehane 0-4, R O'Shea 1-0, P Horgan (2fs), A Nash (2fs) 0-2 each, S Harnedy, A Cadogan, A Walsh 0-1 each.
Tipperary - D Gleeson 7; P Stapleton 7 , J Barry 7, C Barrett 8; K Bergin 7, B Maher 7, Padraig Maher 9; S McGrath 8, J Woodlock 8; G Ryan 5, Patrick Maher 8, N McGrath 7; J O'Dwyer 9, S Callanan 9, L Corbett 6. Subs: D Maher 6 for Ryan (57), E Kelly 7 for Corbett (60), J Forde 6 for Patrick Maher (63), M Cahill for S McGrath (65), C O'Brien for Woodlock (69).
Cork - A Nash 7; C Joyce 6, S O'Neill 5, S McDonnell 6; D Cahalane 5, M Ellis 7, L McLoughlin 6; D Kearney 7, A Walsh 5; C Lehane 8, B Cooper 5, S Harnedy 5; A Cadogan 5; P Cronin 5, P Horgan 5. Subs: P O'Sullivan 6 for Cadogan (45), S Moylan 6 for Cronin (46), R O'Shea 7 for Walsh (55), J Coughlan 7 for Harnedy (64).
Ref - J Owens (Wexford).