Wednesday 21 February 2018

Easy for Tipp as Cork sink to dismal low

Rebels in chaos after sweeper system malfunctions against slick home attack

Cork’s Conor O’Sullivan has little room to move as he is tackled by Noel McGrath of Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Cork’s Conor O’Sullivan has little room to move as he is tackled by Noel McGrath of Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Click on the picture to see breakdown.
Callanan (pictured) is capable of winning the ball under most circumstances and with his outfield colleagues skilfully playing the angles with their deliveries, Cork’s security code was easily unpicked. Photo: Sportsfile
Cathal Barrett of Tipperary and Cork’s Bill Cooper get up close and personal during the early stages of yesterday’s Munster SHC quarter-final. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary's John O'Dwyer is pursued by Aidan Walsh. Photo: Sportsfile
Séamus Callanan swings as Cork's Damian Cahalane attempts to block. Photo: Sportsfile
Tiperarry's John McGrath clashes with Cork's Mark Ellis. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cork's Cormac Murphy is given little breathing space by Brendan Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Tipperary ticked the required boxes and moved on while Cork were unable to even locate the boxes, let alone apply the ticks.

Tipperary 0-22 Cork 0-13

It was a miserable day for everyone in Semple Stadium yesterday as heavy rain fell for most of the afternoon but the desolation was compounded for Cork by a performance that left them with no chance of surviving in the Munster Championship.

Worse still for their supporters in the crowd of 29,114, there was absolutely nothing to suggest that the season can be turned around in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Most of the squad were aboard when Cork came so close to winning the All-Ireland title in 2013 and when they were crowned Munster champions a year later, which makes their current predicament all the more difficult to understand.

Cork look lost and forlorn by comparison with several other contenders and, if anything, their decline is accelerating.

Tipperary happily contributed to that process, winning even more comfortably than the scoreline suggests. Granted, they hit some turbulence in the second half, during which they went 17 minutes without scoring, but while Cork sliced four points off the deficit in that period it never appeared as if a full-blown recovery was likely.


Their confused mindset was underlined in the 51st minute when Patrick Horgan tried for a goal from a close-in free at a time when they had cut the nine-point interval deficit (0-14 to 0-5) to seven points (0-16 to 0-9).

It was the only phase when Tipperary looked edgy and conceding another point would have added to their discomfort but Horgan's shot was blocked and cleared.

It summed up a frustrating day for Horgan, who was replaced by Luke O'Farrell shortly afterwards.

Replacing one of their star names at the three-quarter point was a measure of the desperation felt by the Cork management but then he was locked into one of those days when he just couldn't force his way into the game.

He wasn't the only one who struggled in a Cork attack that got all tangled up in blue and gold mesh.

Seamus Harnedy was equally ineffective; Conor Lehane remained largely anonymous in the first half while Bill Cooper faded as the day went on.

With Brian Lawton operating around midfield, filling in for William Egan who was deployed a sweeper, Cork relied on five forwards.

For that to be successful, they needed good individual performances but Alan Cadogan was the only attacker to answer the call in the manner required to stretch the Tipperary defence.

He scored 0-3 from play and always looked as if he would, with right supply, cause problems.

The word from Cork in advance of the game was that the league relegation play-off win over Galway had kick-started their season and that they were coming to Thurles with renewed energy and ambition.

There were also dark mutterings of a steelier approach from Cork after claims that they had been too 'soft' last year. The aggression rate was certainly high early on and, by the eighth minute, two players from either side had their names in Barry Kelly's notebook.

More significantly, though, there were clear signs that Cork's grand plan wasn't working.

Conscious of the threat from Tipp's inside trio, 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, Seamus Callanan and John McGrath, they posted Egan in front of the full-back line. In addition, he appeared to be charged with providing close back-up for Damian Cahalane in his attempt to fetter Callanan.

It didn't work. Callanan (below) is capable of winning the ball under most circumstances and with his outfield colleagues skilfully playing the angles with their deliveries, Cork's security code was easily unpicked.

If dealing with Callanan didn't present Cork with enough difficulties, they were further tortured by O'Dwyer and McGrath.

O'Dwyer scored 0-4 from open play and while McGrath managed only one point, he was involved in the build-up for several more, either through winning frees or using his vision to execute accurate passes.

It was all too much for Cork, who found themselves six points adrift at the end of the first quarter, where their only score came from Cadogan early on. They rallied briefly to pare the deficit back to four points but Tipperary pressed on again in the final 13 minutes, outscoring unsettled rivals by 0-6 to 0-1.

There was nothing Cork could take from the first half to encourage them and when Tipperary extended their lead to 11 points early in the second half, it looked as if Cork were facing a demolition similar to what they experienced against Galway in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final.

However, the elements intervened as the wind freshened behind Cork, making it much more difficult for Tipp to maintain their forward momentum.

Their error rate increased too - especially in the passing department- and gradually Cork began to enjoy success in previously barren areas.

Still, they needed a goal to ignite the recovery bid but once Horgan's free was blocked, it rarely looked like coming. From a Tipp perspective this was an efficient, rather than spectacular performance which, in many ways, is ideal at such an early stage of the championship.

stiffer They would have expected a much stiffer test yesterday but once Cork's 'sweeper' ploy backfired, there was no discernible Plan B.

Even if Egan's siting in front of his full-back line had succeeded in thwarting Callanan, Cork would have needed to be far more accurate in their deliveries to an undermanned attack.

Many of them were badly placed, making it all too easy for the Tipperary half-backs to take control and launch damaging counter-attacks.

All told, it was a dismal day for Cork. They managed to pare five points off the 27-point average concession of their previous 12 games but it came at a heavy cost, reducing their scoring rate to an unsustainably low level.

It leaves them in a mire of uncertainty as they look ahead to the qualifiers. Dark times on Leeside while Tipp are up and running at a decent pace. They will need further acceleration but that can come later. The potential for it certainly looks to be there.

Scorers - Tipperary: S Callanan 0-8 (4f), J O'Dwyer 0-7 (2f, 1'65'), N McGrath 0-2, Padraic Maher, B Maher, J McGrath, J Forde, K Bergin 0-1 each.
Cork: P Horgan 0-4 (4f), A Cadogan 0-3, C Lehane 0-2 (1f), B Lawton, C Murphy, S Harnedy, L O'Farrell 0-1 each.
Tipperary - D Gleeson 7; C Barrett 7, J Barry 7, M Cahill 6; S Kennedy 7, R Maher 8, Padraic Maher 8; B Maher 7, M Breen 6; S Curran 6, D McCormack 7, N McGrath 7; J O'Dwyer 8, S Callanan 9, J McGrath 8. Subs: J Forde 7 for N McGrath (52), Patrick Maher 7 for Curran (55), N O'Meara for O'Dwyer (64), K Bergin for Breen (64).
Cork - A Nash 7; D Cahalane 5, M Ellis 6, C O'Sullivan 5; L McLoughlin 6, C Joyce 6, C Murphy 7; D Kearney 5, W Egan 6; B Cooper 5, C Lehane 6, B Lawton 5; A Cadogan 8, S Harnedy 5, P Horgan 5. Subs: A Walsh 6 for Kearney (32), K Burke for O'Sullivan (41), L O'Farrell 6 for Horgan (53), J Cronin 5 for Cooper (59).
Ref - B Kelly (Westmeath)

Irish Independent

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