Thursday 23 November 2017

Galway shock will only harden Tipp's resolve to keep noses in front of improving Rebels

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan with captain Pádraic Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary manager Michael Ryan with captain Pádraic Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Whether good form brings good luck or vice versa is open to debate but, whatever the sequence, neither has run Cork's way over the last two seasons.

Their form has rarely been much above average, nowhere nearly good enough to take them in the top four.

As for good fortune, it has been largely absent, including in the draw for this year's Munster championship. They would have liked to get a bye into the semi-final against Clare, Limerick or Waterford but instead they were paired with Tipperary in the first round, for a second successive year.

And if that weren't demanding enough, with the redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh six weeks from re-opening, Cork have to travel to Semple Stadium for a second successive year. Last season's 'trip to Tipp' was a disaster. Cork were crushed in the first half and ended up losing by nine points by opponents who appeared to be playing well within themselves.

That was followed by elimination by Wexford in the qualifiers, leaving Cork with a long winter of reflection.

They did well in Division 1A this year, winning three of five games, including a victory over Tipp. But just when they seemed set to reinforce their Championship foundations, they lost to home to Limerick in the quarter-final.

So where exactly do Cork stand, as opposed to this time last year?

"I'd like to think we have improved. There are very good positives around. The group is gelling better and better as the weeks go on, both on and off the field," said selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan.

He believes that management is adapting better too.

"It has taken a bit of time. It has become more comfortable since the turn of the year. Last year was more of a 'feeling-out' process for us as a management team," he said.

Despite that, manager Kieran Kingston and his co-strategists can only work with what the conveyor belt unloads, and the reality is that it has been moving slowly for a long time.

Cork last won the Munster minor title in 2008 and have not been in any final since then, while their last provincial U-21 success was in 2007.

Whatever the origins of the underage drought, the impact has been obvious at senior level, where quite a few gaps have remained unfilled, certainly to the degree required to sustain a serious All-Ireland challenge.

It's why, on all known logic, Cork will be unable to close the gap between themselves and Tipp tomorrow.

If Tipp had won the League final, they would be regarded as certainties to win pretty comfortably, but the dismal performance against Galway has raised doubts.

Intensity

Yet it would be unwise to place too much store on one bad day. Michael Ryan, a model of good sense in victory and defeat, explained that, quite simply, Tipp didn't come anywhere close to the levels of intensity and determination that Galway brought.

But then it wasn't the the first time that a team was overwhelmed by Galway - it has even happened to Kilkenny - without suffering any ill-effects.

Galway's long-time problem has been an inability to maintain that level of performance, which will again be a concern for their supporters heading into the championship.

Tipp have been jolted into a realisation that defending the All-Ireland title will present a much different challenge to last year. How they fare in that quest remains to be seen but tomorrow should see them negotiate a successful lift-off.

Irish Independent

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