Sunday 19 August 2018

Tipp get off their knees and find some fight

Munster SHC: Tipperary 2-20 Cork 1-23

Brendan Maher of Tipperary tries to clear his lines under pressure from Cork’s Mark Ellis during their Munster SHC clash. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Brendan Maher of Tipperary tries to clear his lines under pressure from Cork’s Mark Ellis during their Munster SHC clash. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

This was meant to be the day when Tipperary roared into life and put a difficult week to bed.

And it was, eventually, when debutant Jake Morris pointed in injury-time to secure a draw, following a rousing comeback from a nine-point deficit.

But first Michael Ryan's men put their supporters through the wringer.

At half-time, Semple Stadium grumbled with discontent. Tipp had played like men organising their own funeral.

Cork seemed almost surprised by the welcome mat that had been thrown before them. This wasn't the Munster Championship as they knew it.

The Rebels hit the first seven points of the game, with the only Tipperary attack of note coming when Patrick 'Bonner' Maher was put through only to be denied by a fine Anthony Nash save.

Patrick Maher of Tipperary in action against Christopher Joyce of Cork. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Patrick Maher of Tipperary in action against Christopher Joyce of Cork. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Tipperary didn't score until the 15th minute, when Jason Forde threw them a lifeline with a brilliant goal.

Brendan Maher followed that up with a point from the next puck-out, in the process of which he clattered Luke Meade. The home support roared its guttural approval and they hit two more points to cut the gap to the minimum by the 20th-minute mark.

False dawn

But that five-minute burst proved to be a false dawn as inexplicably, they returned to meek compliance.

Patrick Maher of Tipperary celebrates after his team mate Jake Morris scored a late point to draw the game. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Patrick Maher of Tipperary celebrates after his team mate Jake Morris scored a late point to draw the game. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Tipperary had turned to their big guns after the loss to Limerick but they could only flit in and out of the game. Seamus Callanan and Brendan Maher had their moments but it felt like the pieces of the jigsaw didn't fit as all over the pitch Tipp were out fought and out thought.

Seamus Harnedy and Daniel Kearney landed seven first-half points between them as Tipp struggled with their movement and energy. And when Shane Kingston, who grabbed 1-3 in the first half, stole down the sideline to squeeze a shot past Brian Hogan on 31 minutes, it copper-fastened a sense that Tipp simply couldn't summon the energy to rescue themselves.

And if Tipp were struggling, Cork were determined to keep the boot on their throat in that first half. John Meyler's men made Tipp work for everything - they didn't concede a free until the 27th minute.

In the second quarter, Cork outscored their hosts by 1-8 to 0-3, with Patrick Horgan's booming late free in injury-time helping them to a 1-15 to 1-6 lead at the break. On a day where defeat would have meant all but the end for Tipperary's Championship ambitions, the Premier men had one foot in the grave.

After his short-lived media blackout, Michael Ryan engaged cheerily with the press afterwards. Much of his half-time speech, he said, involved colourful language that couldn't be printed but there must have been magic in his words.

There was surgery to the side too. Bonner Maher was withdrawn and John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer was brought in but the biggest difference seemed to be in their application and attitude.

Forde lashed over a free before the McGrath brothers Noel and John picked off nice points. But those frees were greeted by rousing fist-pumps. At the very least it seemed Tipp were ready to rage against the dying of the light.

They hit five on the bounce but Cork soon restored the old order. When Kearney steered over his fourth point of the day, the visitors were six points clear with 45 minutes to go.

But things were starting to turn for Tipp. Suddenly it was the men in blue and gold who were emerging from the rucks with possession. Up front, more ball stuck to the likes of Callanan and O'Dwyer. That pair combined to set up Noel McGrath for a 47th-minute major that brought Tipp back to within a score.

With momentum behind them, they came looking for another goal but Nash was out smartly to deny Billy McCarthy a shot. Tipp were totally on top now and Cork went without a score from Bill Cooper's 48th-minute point until Harnedy steadied the ship in the 66th minute.

Tipp had pulled level, with John McGrath grabbing the equaliser after a brilliant dummy and score from 60 metres.

But it seemed that the home side had expanded all their energy. After Cooper's point, the excellent Kingston tagged on two more scores to put his side in charge again.

And Tipp's fate looked sealed when, with the clock ticking towards 70 minutes, Nash pulled off his best save of the match when he denied O'Dwyer at full stretch. From the resultant '65', Forde cut the gap to two points before John McGrath split the posts from a tight angle. But chances to pull level again came and went. O'Dwyer was blocked down before Noel McGrath pulled an effort wide.

But there would be one last throw of the dice. Ryan turned to his bench and introduced Morris for his Championship debut. Barely 30 seconds later he benefited from some hesitancy from the otherwise excellent Sean O'Donoghue to tap over the equaliser.

Plenty to work on but Tipp are still alive. At this stage, it's all the counts.

SCORERS - Tipperary: J Forde 1-6 (0-4fs , 0-2 '65s'), J McGrath 0-5, N McGrath 1-3, B Maher, S Callanan, Patrick Maher, B McCarthy, J O'Dwyer, J Morris 0-1 each. Cork: S Kingston 1-5, P Horgan (3fs), S Harnedy 0-5 each, D Kearney 0-4, B Cooper, C Lehane 0-2 each.

Tipperary - D Hogan 7; S O'Brien 6, S Kennedy 6, M Cahill 7; Joe O'Dwyer 7, R Maher 6, P Maher 7; B Maher 7, B McCarthy 7; D McCormack 7, N McGrath 7, P 'Bonner' Maher 6; S Callanan 7, J Forde 8, J McGrath 8. Subs: P Feehan for P Maher (11-14 blood), John O'Dwyer 7 for P 'Bonner' Maher (h-t), G Browne for Callanan, J Morris for McCarthy (both 70).

Cork - A Nash 8; S O'Donoghue 6, D Cahalane 7, C Spillane 7; C Joyce 7, M Ellis 8, M Coleman 8; D Fitzgibbon 7, B Cooper 7; S Harnedy 8, C Lehane 7, D Kearney 8; L Meade 6, S Kingston 8, P Horgan 7. Subs: B Lawton 6 for Meade (54), T O'Mahony 6 for Kearney (59), J Coughlan for Kingston (72).

Ref - J Keenan (Wicklow)

Irish Independent

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