Determined Cork rise above the bickering

Mon, Feb 16, 2009, 00:00

NHL DIVISION 1: Tipperary 2-15 Cork 0-9:NO DOUBT some of the protagonists in the sad and tiresome Cork hurling dispute were hopeful Saturday night in Thurles would be a low point – the mismatch for the senses. Instead it represented something of a turning point, when 15 determined young hurlers rose above the bickering and showed what dignity is all about.

 One can only imagine what Seán Óg Ó hAilpín or Donal Óg Cusack must have thought as these unknowns fought so bravely, every step of the way, that in the end they were the only ones with their heads held high.

So Tipperary were shockingly poor, and they can blame that all they want on the class of their opposition. But on another momentous occasion for the GAA, when for the first time floodlights showered the hallowed turf of Semple Stadium, it was the foolishness of the striking Cork hurlers that truly came to light, or at least how it contrasts with the audacity of those willing to play under manager Gerald McCarthy.

They showed heart and there was no disputing this, not even among the 9,150 mostly Tipperary supporters. Because beyond their two late goals Tipperary were hardly superior; not any fitter, or more determined. “All I’ve been asking of these players is to learn their trade and go out and give the best they have,” said McCarthy afterwards. “I don’t think anyone could fault them on that. And I have no doubt there are some very good hurlers in this team that will develop, given time.

“Unfortunately they’re forced into a situation where they’re having to play intercounty hurling when they’re probably physically not ready for it yet, because they haven’t had the year or two of hard training behind them. And because they’re pressed into it without the experienced players that normally would, in Cork situations, help the younger players. These players have been deprived of those things, and very unfairly.

“I think the players that have that experience, and haven’t passed it on to them, is a terrible disservice. I feel very passionately about the Cork jersey . . . I know the players on strike do too. But I feel anyone who wants to wear that jersey deserves the chance.

“But the Cork jersey should never, ever be used as a tool in any dispute. On this occasion, it was used as the first tool, and that’s not right. It’s unedifying.”

McCarthy reiterated his hope the 2008 panel would still come to the table for discussion: “The players seem to want to talk to everyone except the people that matter, the management. They’ve refused, and I’m confused. One minute I’m the problem, the next the Cork County Board are the problem. So the players are flip-flopping from one excuse to the other. But they have not ever sat down and spoke with us about the problems that might be in their mind . . . If there are players that want to walk away from Cork hurling because I’m the manager then fine, but they should not stop players, those who feel they are part of a circle of 30 players that they can’t break.”

Tipperary just about kept their noses in front for the first half and with 15 minutes remaining were only five points up, 0-12 to 0-7. Cork’s defence, especially Chris Murphy and Ray Ryan, were holding up well, and while midfielder Barry Johnson was their chief scorer, aided only by Tadhg Murphy, at no point did they look out of their depth.

Tipperary’s half-forward line was eventually recalled, and only Séamus Hennessey, who replaced the yellow-carded John Devane, showed spark up front. John O’Brien, another substitute, claimed their first goal on 55 minutes, and Patrick Maher their second, right on closing time – but all that did was skew the final score. Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy described the performance as “very tired” but otherwise didn’t have too many excuses.

CORK: A Kennedy; J Moran, C Murphy, C O’Sullivan; E Keane, R Ryan, C Leahy; B Johnson (0-7, five frees), G O’Connor; T Murphy (0-2), A Ryan, D Crowley; A Mannix, M Collins, E Cronin. Subs: G O’Driscoll for C Leahy (32 mins, yellow card), T Murphy for Mannix (45 mins), R O’Driscoll for Crowley (57 mins), C McCarthy for Collins (63 mins), W O’Brien for Cronin (64 mins), E Clancy for Moran (71 mins).

TIPPERARY: G Kennedy; E Buckley, D Fanning, P Curran; B Maher, C O’Mahony, D Fitzgerald; S Maher (0-1), S McGrath; J Woodlock (0-2), J Devane (0-1), P Kerwick; P Kelly (0-1), P Maher (1-0), P Burke (0-5, four frees). Subs: J O’Brien (1-1) for Kerwick (28 mins), S Hennessy for J Devane 31 mins, yellow card), B Dunne for S Maher (44 mins), N McGrath for Woodlock (58 mins), G Ryan for McGrath (62 mins), T Scroope for Kelly (68 mins).

Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).