Tipp's turnaround takes the shine off Rebels' final glory
Munster SHC final
AT half-time in yesterday's Guinness Munster hurling final, Tipperary looked as if every last drop of blood had drained from their systems but somehow, somewhere they managed to hook up the transfusion lines and were so energised in the second half that it was Cork who were left with little colour in their cheeks as they gasped towards the finish line.
It arrived just in time to enable them to capture their 50th Munster title but they were mighty relieved to hear Barry Kelly's final whistle as Tipperary had powered up the momentum to such a degree that they won the final 34 minutes by 1-11 to 0-7.
When Neil Ronan, a 13th-minute replacement for Brian Corcoran who had to quit with an injured shoulder, angled over a point to put Cork 12 points clear a minute into the second-half, it looked as if Tipperary were heading for total embarrassment.
They had been swatted aside so easily for over half an hour that it was difficult to see how they could possibly re-invent themselves. After a bright start, during which they pulled two points clear after eight minutes, Tipperary were demolished with a clinical precision that was a joy to watch for all except blue and gold supporters.
Cork located Tipperary's more sensitive areas so easily and pressed on them so forcefully that the pain could be felt all the way to Cashel. Tipp's half-forward line was virtually non-existent; their half-back line was being overwhelmed by the sheer weight of pressure while Cork were also on top at midfield, despite Paul Kelly's efforts.
It all made for a predictable pattern as Cork weaved their prettiest pattern on a resplendent Páirc Ui Chaoimh which looked magnificent on a warm, windless day. Even the loss of Corcoran didn't in any way disrupt Cork as replacement. Ronan switched onto the positive mindset almost immediately and made quite a contribution, eventually finishing on three points.
Tipp manager Ken Hogan began the repair work before half-time, sending Hugh Moloney into defence in place of David Kennedy with Eamonn Corcoran switching to centre-back, while Ger 'Redser' O'Grady replaced Francis Devaney. Hogan made a further adjustment at half-time, sending John Devane into the attack and continued the overhaul midway through the second half when John Carroll replacing Benny Dunne.
All four switches worked, raising questions as to why at least one or two of the replacement quartet didn't start. Corcoran tightened the half-back line; Devane did exceptionally well in the half-forwards while O'Grady and Carroll imposed their might and muscle on a Cork defence that wasn't anywhere nearly as imperious in the second half.
John Gardiner maintained his high efficiency levels while Seán Og Ó hAilpin made some vital interceptions but the full-back line was stretched as Tipp took them on at full power.
It was all so different to the first half when Cork thrilled their supporters in the 43,500 crowd with some brilliant point-taking. Their luck was in too as their 19th-minute goal resulted from one of those bad breaks that so often goes against a team when they're struggling.
Joe Deane darted in to contest a right wing shot from Kieran Murphy as it dropped in the goal area and while he didn't get a touch, his presence seemed to distract goalkeeper Brendan Cummins as the ball bounced wickedly into the corner of the net.
Five minutes later, Tipp had a chance to cancel the goal out when Michael Webster was awarded a penalty but Eoin Kelly's drive was beaten out by Donal Og Cusack.
Cork swept downfield and added a point to help them to an 11-point interval lead, 1-13 to 0-5. Tipp had managed just a single point between the eighth and 36th minutes and looked like a seriously beaten docket as they darted to the dressing-rooms. It's very much to their credit that they came so close to rescuing the situation in the second-half. Paul Kelly led the charge and emerged as by far the most dominant influence around midfield in the second half. Devane, O'Grady, Morrissey and Webster, who had been starved of possession in the first half, used their strength to attack Cork's defensive systems and gradually the lead didn't look as intimidating anymore.
In fact, Cork began to look decidedly edgy as Tipp fired over some excellent points, prior to squeezing home a goal in the 62nd minute. Tommy Dunne was credited with the finishing touch amid a thicket of legs and hurls when the ball broke on the Cork goal line.
Eoin Kelly added a superb point to cut the margin to four (1-19 to 1-15) with six minutes remaining and suddenly the great escape looked possible.
However, Cork held their nerve and points by Ben O'Connor and Kieran Murphy steadied them through the final few minutes while Tipp could only manage one more point.
SCORERS - Cork: B O'Connor 0-6 (6f), J Deane 0-5 (3f), Kieran Murphy (Sarsfields) 1-2, N Ronan 0-3, J O'Connor 0-2, B Corcoran, N McCarthy, Kieran Murphy (Erin's Own) 0-1 each. Tipperary: P Kelly 0-7 (2f 1'65'), E Kelly 0-6 (2f), T Dunne 1-0, J Devane 0-2, J Carroll 0-1.
CORK - D Og Cusack 8; P Mulcahy 6, D O'Sullivan 7, B Murphy 5; J Gardiner 9, R Curran 7, S Og O hAilpin 8; T Kenny 6, J O'Connor 6; B O'Connor 7, N McCarthy 7, T McCarthy 7; K Murphy (Sarsfields) 8, B Corcoran 7, J Deane 8. Subs: N Ronan 8 for Corcoran (13), W Sherlock 7 for B Murphy (58), J O'Callaghan for Kenny (66), Kieran Murphy (Erin's Own) for T McCarthy (69). Yellow Cards: D Sullivan (42).
TIPPERARY - B Cummins 6; E Corcoran 8, P Maher 6, P Curran 6; D Fanning 6, D Kennedy 5, D Fitzgerald 7; B Dunne 5, P Kelly 9; C Morrissey 7, T Dunne 6, F Devaney 5; E Kelly 8, M Webster 8, E Sweeney 5. Subs: H Moloney 6 for Kennedy (31), G O'Grady 7 for Devaney (33), J Devane 8 for Sweeney (ht), J Carroll 7 for B Dunne (47). Yellow cards: P Kelly (20), H Moloney (37), M Webster (42), D Fitzgerald (53).
REF - B Kelly (Westmeath)