Saturday 17 March 2018

Tipp make light work of Cork in tame affair

CORK 0-9

Cork's Joe Moran and Pat Kerwick of Tipperary tussle for the ball during last night’s NHL Division 1 clash in Semple Stadium
Cork's Joe Moran and Pat Kerwick of Tipperary tussle for the ball during last night’s NHL Division 1 clash in Semple Stadium

DAMIAN LAWLOR at Semple Stadium

ANY couple who passed up on a romantic dinner to take in last night's floodlit league clash at Thurles must be reviewing their decision-making process this morning.

Cupid may have been spreading love all over the country yesterday, but we could have done with a few arrows of inspiration in mid-Tipperary for this historic clash between the home team and Cork, the first game played under lights at Semple Stadium.

Sadly, they never arrived and we were left to sit back, fold our arms and look on as a tame affair played out before us.

First things first: credit to Cork. We expected that they would be blown out of the park by a cricket score. Instead, they almost matched Tipp inch for inch and what they lacked in class, they made up for in effort, with the likes of Chris Murphy, Ray Ryan and Barry Johnson excelling.

It took a John O'Brien goal in the 55th minute and a similar Patrick Maher effort moments later to finally knock the stuffing out of the young Leesiders.

As a result, Tipp will have to carefully review this display. Maybe they're in the midst of heavy training but there will surely be alarm bells ringing at the quality of last night's effort.

Maybe, too, it was a hard game to get motivated for. The home defence, in fairness, were well on top, but down the field, save for the cameos of substitutes O'Brien and Seamus Hennessy, they were off-colour, their entire half-forward line was gone by the end of the match, John Devane being yellow carded in the 30th minute.

As for the occasion itself? Well, back when inaugural plans for this game were drawn up, everyone was frothing at the mouth at the excitement and drama that yesterday evening would provide.

What happened in Cork since then was firmly outside the stadium committee's control and so it was a fourth or fifth-string Rebel outfit that took to the field in front of a considerably smaller crowd than expected.

The organisers could only focus on matters within their remit and with that in mind the new floodlights looked fantastic, a glittering finishing touch to an €18m redevelopment project. The field was perfect and the significance of playing the first floodlit fixture in the year of the Association's 125th anniversary was not lost on the 9,150 crowd.

Before the game, a minute's silence was observed for Kilruane MacDonaghs and Tipperary stalwart Bob O'Leary, father of former Tipp hurler and All-Ireland winner, Mark, who passed away last week.

Right from the start you could see that Tipp were a few levels down in their performance, which was shabby to say the least. They shot seven wides in the first half and manager Liam Sheedy had already lost patience by the half-hour mark, replacing Pat Kerwick with John O'Brien.

With so many on the team fighting hard for their places, including Brendan Maher, who made his league debut and Gerry Kennedy, Eamonn Buckley, Shane McGrath, John Devane and Pat Bourke, who all came in, an atrocious first-half display will not have helped their cause.

Usually, hooking and blocking are skills out of the top drawer but yesterday they were just plain ugly and a catalogue of fumbling and poor passing on both sides ruined the first half as a spectacle.

Incredibly at the break only three points separated the side, 0-7 -- 0-4 in favour of Sheedy's men.

Cork played like the inexperienced team that they are, but they grafted hard and really got stuck in and their fitness levels were pretty decent. Gerald McCarthy drafted Carrigaline's Joe Moran in at right half-back, with Eoin Keane dropping back to right corner-back in place of Eoin Clancy. Up front, Michael Collins and Adrian Mannix swapped places and from the off, they played with an extra man in front of their full-back line to try and keep Tipp at bay.

The tactic worked; the home side's threat was blunted and the highlight of the first-half was a sublime score from substitute Seamus Hennessy from the right wing under severe pressure.

Hennessy added another point after the break but Cork danger-man Barry Johnson kept Cork in touch with two fine points. The game lacked any sort of shape but Pa Bourke's free-taking edged Tipp five points ahead with 20 minutes to go.

John O'Brien came on for the home side and made a huge impression, shooting 1-1 within 20 minutes but as a raft of substitutions were made the game lacked could never find any consistency.

Overall, Cork will be delighted with the way they performed and defended. Gerald McCarthy will take immense pride in this result which could give them confidence in the relegation battle.

It's back to the top of the table for Tipp; two wins out of two but more to do.

Scorers -- Tipperary: P Bourke 0-6 (5f), J O'Brien 1-1, P Maher 1-0, J Woodlock, S Hennessy 0-2 each, J Devane, S Maher, P Kelly, G Ryan 0-1 each. Cork: B Johnson 0-7 (5f), T Og Murphy 0-2

Tipperary: G Kennedy; E Buckley, D Fanning, P Curran; B Maher, C O'Mahony, D Fitzgerald; S Maher, S McGrath; J Woodlock, J Devane, P Kerwick; P Kelly, P Maher, P Bourke. Subs: J O'Brien for P Kerwick (28), S Hennessy for Devane (yc 30), B Dunne for S Maher (43), N McGrath for J Woodlock (58), G Ryan for S McGrath (62), T Scroope for P Kelly (68)

Cork: A Kennedy; E Clancy, C Murphy, C O'Sullivan; J Moran, R Ryan, C Leahy; B Johnson, G O'Connor; T Og Murphy, A Ryan, D Crowley; M Collins, A Mannix, E Cronin. Subs: G O'Driscoll for C Leahy (yc 31), T Murphy for A Ryan (45), P O'Driscoll for D Crowley (57), C McCarthy for M Collins (63), W O'Brien for E Cronin (65), E Clancy for J Moran (69)

Referee: M Wadding (Waterford)

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