Sport Hurling

Saturday 18 November 2017

Rebel hunger gains final say over rivals

Horgan strikes to ensure first blood goes to Cork

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

FIRST blood to Cork in their seasonal war with their great rivals but Tipperary suffered only a slight nick which had closed by the time they left Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday evening.

It certainly won't cause them any worries in the run-up to their return to Leeside for the Munster championship showdown on May 30 but it did end their National League ambitions as Cork and Galway powered into the final even before they meet in the remaining group games on Sunday week.

It's disappointing for the League that three of the four games in the last round will, in effect, be meaningless, leaving the Dublin v Limerick relegation shoot-out as the only important contest.

Cork manager Denis Walsh hinted that Cork would be using the Galway game for experimental purposes, a policy which John McIntyre is likely to reciprocate. "It means we can look more seriously at lads who were half injured and give fellas more game time. I'm sure Galway will do the same. We spoke about shadow boxing in this game (v Tipperary) and I'm sure there'll be some bit of shadow boxing the next day (v Galway)," he said.

Yesterday's intensity levels were some way short of what they will be when Cork meet Tipperary in the championship in eight weeks' time but the sides still tried mighty hard to deliver the knock-out blows. Both landed well at times too but managed to stand their ground and, in the end, it was Cork who edged to the narrowest of points wins.

They threatened to floor Tipperary right from the off when full-forward Aisake ó hAilpín beat Pádraic Maher to possession four times in the first four minutes but all Cork had to show for it was a single point from a Pat Horgan free. They should have had a goal too but Paudie O'Sullivan shot weakly at Brendan Cummins after ó hAilpín had put him through in a one-on-one.

effective

Rather surprisingly, Cork moved ó hAilpín out to centre-forward after 12 minutes where he wasn't as effective while the inside threat reduced in his absence. Still, with John Gardiner, Ronan Curran and Sean óg ó hAilpín blocking the gates to the Cork goal from the half-back line, Tom Kenny and Lorcan McLoughlin working hard at midfield, and Cathal Naughton and Pat Horgan prospering up front, Cork dominated possession for long periods of the first half without turning it into a match-winning return.

Eoin Kelly's accuracy from frees and a brief burst by Noel McGrath, who scored two points in a minute, kept Tipperary in touch and while they trailed by four points (0-11 to 0-7) at half-time, they had played against the wind so the game was still well within their grasp if they got a decent rhythm going in the second half.

"We were very lucky to be only four points down at half-time. Cork had done the bulk of the hurling but we had some heroic defending by the backs to keep to 11-7. We were still in the game and in fairness the lads responded in the second half," said Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy.

Actually, they did more than that. After missing some good chances in the early minutes, they finally slotted the jigsaw pieces together and assembled a very pretty picture.

Gradually, they pinned Cork back and started to rack up the points from open play and frees before Paul Kelly galloped through to score an excellent goal in the 47th minute. It brought their second-half return to 1-5 without reply and they looked to be on their way to a win which would have kept their League ambitions alive.

What happened from there on was mighty encouraging for Cork in terms of convincing themselves and the rest of the hurling world that their desire is as keen as it was at any time during their glory years in the last decade. Horgan's dextrous finish beat Cummins for a Cork goal in the 52nd minute and he added a point shortly afterwards to bring the sides level.

Tipperary twice regained the lead but Cork battled back each time and a three-point yield in the closing 10 minutes drew the resistance from Tipperary for whom Cummins, Paddy Stapleton, Conor O'Mahony, Paul and Eoin Kelly and Noel McGrath had some good spells.

It really was a most satisfactory day for Cork as it not only took them back into the League final for the first time since 2002 but maintained their unbeaten run in a campaign in which they have used 33 players. All very different to the corresponding Sunday last year when they were hammered by 27 points by Kilkenny in what was Denis Walsh's first game in charge.

A year on, he seems to regard Tipperary as more potent opposition than Kilkenny, although that may be down to the fast-approaching championship engagement.

"We said going into this game that we felt it was a step up, no disrespect to the other games, but we felt today was a step up in the intensity and sharpness and that's how it turned out. You either respond like we responded after 10 minutes of the second half or you don't. You have to have courage and commitment and no little skill to respond like we did," said Walsh.

Conscious that Tipperary will be back in town in eight weeks' time, he was anxious to keep yesterday's win in perspective. "It's good to win it but it won't have any real bearing on the championship," he said.

As for Tipperary, they have one final League outing against Offaly before heading into serious championship training.

Do you know your best 15 yet, Liam?

"We have a fair idea what the line-up will look like but it's not closed off by any means," said Sheedy.

The attendance was 9,291.

Scorers -- Cork: P Horgan 1-7 (6f), C Naughton 0-3, T Kenny, J O'Connor 0-2 each, L McLoughlin, J Gardiner (f) 0-1 each. Tipperary: E Kelly 0-6 (5f), P Kelly 1-2, N McGrath 0-3, G Ryan 0-2, S McGrath, D Egan 0-1 each.

Cork -- M Coleman; S O'Neill, E Cadogan, B Murphy; J Gardiner, R Curran, S Og O hAilpin; T Kenny, L McLoughlin; T Og Murphy, J O'Connor, C Naughton; P O'Sullivan, A O hAilpin, P Horgan. Subs: K Murphy for T Og Murphy (53), M O'Sullivan for McLoughlin (53).

Tipperary -- B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Maher, M Cahill; D Fanning, C O'Mahony, C O'Brien; B Maher, S McGrath; N McGrath, L Corbett, G Ryan; E Kelly, T Hammersley, P Kelly. Subs: J O'Brien for Hammersley (50), J Brennan for B Maher (54), D Young for Fanning (63), H Maloney for C O'Brien (64), D Egan for P Kelly (65)

Ref -- J McGrath (Westmeath).

Irish Independent

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