Monday 27 January 2020

John Mullane: As bad as it gets for Rebels as Tipp issue Cats warning

Callanan stakes Player of Year claim to leave Premier primed to smash King Henry's drive for ten

Kieran Bergin of Tipperary delivers the ball upfield under pressure from Cork's Conor Lehane.
Kieran Bergin of Tipperary delivers the ball upfield under pressure from Cork's Conor Lehane.

John Mullane

That was as bad a Cork performance as I've seen since Jimmy Barry-Murphy took charge of the county team for the first time in 1996.

Back then, Cork were beaten by 1-8 to 3-16 by Limerick but yesterday at Croke Park was another dark day for JBM and the Rebels. It was that bad and like Limerick last year, Cork struggled to cope with the long lay-off after the Munster final.

It seems that Kilkenny are the only team that can master the gap between provincial final and All-Ireland semi-final. Other teams struggle and this was so evident with Cork, who were a pale shadow of the team that marched to Munster glory.

But take nothing away from Tipperary because they were excellent. The two Mahers, Brendan and Pádraic, were excellent in the half-back line along with Kieran Bergin.


And Cathal Barrett was outstanding at corner-back against Patrick Horgan. The Cork forward endured a day reminiscent of when I marked Limerick's Seamus Hickey in 2007. Just like I was by Hickey, Horgan was hurled up and down the pitch by Cathal Barrett.

When you are having one of those days, you're probably better off being taken off and perhaps Jimmy Barry-Murphy could have taken Horgan out of his misery.

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And who would have thought before throw-in that Cork's midfield would be totally outclassed? Tipp pair, James Woodlock and Shane McGrath managed six points between them against a unit that was perceived as the driving force behind Cork.

You would have thought that Tipp would have done well to break even in this area but they did so much better than that.

Tipp didn't totally dominate all over the field but switching 'Bonner' Maher to the inside line was a brilliant move by Eamon O'Shea.

Even though 'Bonner' didn't score, he's almost guaranteed an All Star award now on the back of another top-class performance.

Hark back to my column a fortnight ago when I earmarked Shane O'Neill as the key man for Cork at the business end of the season. I did so because I felt that the full-back line was Cork's Achilles heel and it came back to haunt them again yesterday. They haven't had a settled and proper full-back since Diarmuid O'Sullivan.

It's between Séamus Callanan and Kilkenny's Richie Hogan for Player of the Year now, after the Tipp forward produced another massive display.

Whichever team wins the All-Ireland will secure the individual honour, too, and another to shine for Tipp was John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, with six points from play.

Paddy Stapleton was excellent too at corner-back and James Barry did well on the edge of the square. But I still wouldn't rule out Michael Cahill for a place in the final.

It's going to be very hard for O'Shea to replace any of those six backs but I would still find a place for Cahill. I just think that he's too good a player to have on the bench.

It was great to see Eoin Kelly coming on too but what stood out most of all for me was the workrate of the Tipp team. What really summed it up was that score late in the first half when 'Bubbles' blocked down Damien Cahalane in the 30th minute and fired over a point.

It was crazy stuff from Cahalane, who had all the time in the world to get rid of the ball. But he went for a huge clearance and was picked off by Bubbles, who landed a massive score.

Tipp's march to the final bears an eerie resemblance to 2010. And the turning point this season was the Galway qualifier, when Tipp came from six points down with a wonderful last 20 minutes.

They haven't looked back since and despite hitting 2-17 from play yesterday, there is still massive room for improvement, as Gearóid Ryan, Bonner and Lar Corbett didn't score from play.


September 7 will mark the fourth time in six years that Tipp play Kilkenny in an All-Ireland final. And while the talk in 2010 was all about stopping the drive for five, now it's about halting the drive for ten, as Henry Shefflin is eyeing a tenth All-Ireland medal as a player, and Brian Cody a tenth crown as manager.

I think that might suit Tipperary. They've come close to toppling Kilkenny in League finals over the last two years, and in last year's qualifier. You just wonder if they're due a victory over Kilkenny and they certainly won't fear them.

Where do Cork go from here? After the high of winning the Munster title, it's back to head scratching and a period of sombre reflection lies in store.

That wasn't the Cork team that we saw in Munster but they've still managed to secure major silverware for the first time since 2006. This was one of those days that you want to flush from the system as quickly as possible.

Ryan to benefit as Limerick's minor triumph can fuel quest for senior glory

Limerick's performance at Croke Park yesterday was one of the finest displays that I've seen from a intercounty minor team in a long time.

The final scoreline read 1-27 to 2-9 and Limerick had 1-17 on the board by half-time, which was quite incredible.

All of their forwards scored from play and that Ronan Lynch was just exceptional.

Limerick possess big runners coming through the middle, with Cian Lynch operating as a third midfielder, and Galway struggled to deal with them.

Barry Nash scored 1-3 and Tom Morrissey got the ball rolling early on.

From a Galway viewpoint, it was a really poor performance, as bad as I've seen from their minors for many years.

Usually a team prepared by Mattie Murphy is very good but outside of Conor Whelan and midfielder Daniel Nevin, the rest of the Galway players were below par.

Limerick will now go into the All-Ireland final on September 7 against Kilkenny as favourites.

And it's going to take a massive performance from Kilkenny to beat them.

Limerick have been favourites to lift the Irish Press Cup from the start of the season and similar to Waterford last year, it would be great for hurling to see them do it.

Limerick haven't won this competition since 1984 and the future looks really bright for the county.

The big winner could be senior manager TJ Ryan in a couple of years.

With some of these young guns beginning to emerge, along with what he already has, TJ is in a good position to profit from the talent at his disposal.

And it was a massive statement for the Limerick county board to make early in the week when they decided to hand TJ a three-year term.

After Donal O'Grady quit as joint-manager earlier in the year, TJ brought the team to an All-Ireland semi-final and this is a bold statement from county board chiefs.

And I think TJ's good work to date deserved to be rewarded with the chance to make further progress.

Certainly, the seeds for a potential tilt at senior glory in the next few years have been sown.

But a minor title would do just fine for starters.

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