Tipperary see off Cork in high-scoring drama

Winners’ shaky case for the defence doesn’t stop them getting quarter-final verdict

Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer scores his side’s third goal past goalkeeper Anthony Nash of Cork at Semple Stadium. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer scores his side’s third goal past goalkeeper Anthony Nash of Cork at Semple Stadium. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho


Tipperary 3-25
Cork 4-19

Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea counselled with professorial caution that it’s hard to make worthwhile forecasts on the basis of insufficient data.

But he was clearly pleased with yesterday’s outcome in Semple Stadium in front of a relatively small crowd of 6,615 where after a blizzard of scoring statistics, Tipperary emerged three-point winners from a whirlwind Allianz Hurling League quarter-final.

It may have had the general appearance of an exhibition match but Tipp have been involved in a couple of those this season without coming out on the right side of the final score line. Once again there was nothing wrong with the scoring details: Séamus Callanan had four from play out of a total of eight and John O’Dwyer rampaged his way to 1-7 from play.

But on the debit side they were again accommodating in defence. Last week’s shut-out against Dublin aside, they have conceded 16 goals in four of the last five matches. No wonder O’Shea replied when asked what lessons had been learned:

“We have to defend better! Stop goals going in and keep our consistency. We weren’t consistent; we were up and down. There were lots of lessons, so many lessons we’ll be learning for the next three weeks but it’s nice to have something to aim for over the coming weeks and that’s the main thing. It keeps everybody engaged but we’re just happy to be here, in the last four.”

This was however a deserved victory and one that Tipp had to fashion twice – and nearly three times had Anthony Nash’s last-play free not been blocked in the goalmouth by his opposite number, Darragh Egan.

A high-tempo opening fired Tipperary 10 points ahead within eight minutes. In the first, Denis Maher slipped around a ruck of defenders on the end-line to score the first goal and having filled out the total with three points, they came again in the seventh minute after James Woodlock’s surging solo ended in a mishit, which bounced up for Niall O’Meara to whip into the net.

Bit bewildered
The winners were playing sharper and faster hurling, rotating one man up front, generally Séamus Callanan, and using the space effectively. Cork after a moderate campaign in Division One B, which none the less culminated in promotion, looked a bit bewildered by the force of it all.

“Yeah, there is a gap between One A and One B,” said their selector Seán McGrath, “and our poor start was probably down to that, the intensity, the speed they were playing at, the movement. We definitely struggled with that at the start.

“But it was the lads standing up themselves, they were the ones who did it, there was nothing major done on the line. They knuckled down.”

This they did to dramatic effect, following the concession of 2-4 in eight minutes with 2-3 of their own within five. Paul Haughney’s long clearance found Séamus Harnedy at full forward. He plucked it down expertly and placed the ball artfully into the far corner of the net.

Two minutes later, the 15th, he was on hand to repeat the dose after Conor Lehane had slipped him in on goal.

From then on, it was like a boxing match with shots being traded blow for blow and when it looked as if Tipp had reasserted themselves after O’Dwyer finished to the net, a move set up by Denis Maher for a 3-9 to 2-8 lead, Cork stormed back within minutes.

A 20-metre free summoned from goal Anthony Nash of the eponymous congress motion, the master of flipping the ball prodigious distances before hammering it goal-wards, Yesterday saw a fine example of the genre with the Kanturk goalkeeper shaving about eight metres off the distance and drilling the sliotar into the net.

Jamie Coughlan equalised and by the break Patrick Horgan had landed a couple of placed balls and Cork led, 3-12 to 3-10. They had come into the match nicely, their defence getting to the pitch of things more effectively. Patrick Cronin lay back and provided better cover for his backs and in the middle William Egan and Damien Cahalane, after a wobbly opening on Callanan, got to grips with the challenge.

Despite this promising balance, Cork were cut adrift in the third quarter. Tipperary used Brendan Maher to patrol in front of his full backs and Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s team struggled to hit the penetrative long ball deliveries that had built their revival in the first half.

Instead Tipp pressed hard and outscored Cork 0-7 to 0-1 after half-time, culminating in Brendan Maher’s smart intercept of a Cronin hand-pass and a long-range point driven over the bar.

The surface
Cork, six behind by the 57th minute, were never quite submerged and broke the surface with five minutes to go. Lehane’s shot on goal wasn’t fully controlled by Egan and Horgan – as he did in Croke Park last August against Dublin – was on hand to flick the ball into the net. He followed with two pointed frees and going into injury-time, extraordinarily, there was just a point in it 3-23 to 4-19.

Noel McGrath had been very influential in the second half, using the ball cleverly and he was at the centre of Tipp’s response, hitting a score of his own and placing a great, cross-field ball into O’Dwyer to register the last score of the match.

There was further drama given the fragility of a three-point margin but not even Nash could write an additional act and Tipperary will now play Clare in next month’s semi-finals.

TIPPERARY: D Egan; P Stapleton, C O’Mahony, C O’Brien (0-1); J Barry, B Maher (capt; 0-1), T Stapleton; K Bergin (0-1), J Woodlock (0-2); D Maher (1-1), N McGrath (0-2), J O’Dwyer (1-7); S Bourke (0-2), S Callanan (0-8, three frees and one 65), N O’Meara (1-0). Subs: R Maher for O’Mahony (half-time), J Forde for O’Meara (53 mins), L McGrath for Bourke (62 mins), E Kelly for D Maher (67 mins), J O’Brien for Callanan (70 mins).

CORK: A Nash (1-0, free); C Joyce, D Cahalane, K Burke (0-1); L McLoughlin, W Egan (0-1), E Keane; D Kearney (0-2), P Haughney; B Lawton, S Harnedy (2-0), P Cronin (0-1); J Coughlan (0-3), C Lehane (0-3), P Horgan (1-8, five points frees, one 65). Subs: R O’Shea for Lawton (49 mins), C McCarthy for Haughney (61 mins), A Cadogan for Coughlan (62 mins).

Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).

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