Cork blow Tipperary away after Alan Connolly hat-trick lights the fuse

In a game that was extraordinary in a variety of ways, the Rebels’ blistering second-half display may leave scars on this Tipperary group

Munster SHC: Tipperary 1-21 Cork 4-30

In other circumstances a victory such as this would leave no room for doubt, but the Munster hurling championship trades on uncertainty and nothing is settled yet. A week after bringing their summer back from the dead Cork are on the brink of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the All-Ireland, but only if the Limerick-Waterford game doesn’t end in a draw. The bookies will have odds for all this based on some species of reason. You can ignore that.

This game was extraordinary in a variety of unexpected ways. The teams were level eight times in the first half, and having drawn in the championship last summer, there was nothing in the opening 40 minutes to suggest that one team would take flight and the other would crash. By the end, though, they were separated by 18 points, the biggest winning margin in a Cork-Tipperary championship match since the 1965 Munster final, when the shoe was on the other foot.

In a 10-minute spell in the middle of the second half Cork scored 1-8 without reply and by the time the blitz ended they were 3-25 to 1-16 in front. All that remained was to negotiate some kind of armistice. Tipp had laid down their arms.

The last 25 minutes will have been a scarring experience for this group of Tipp players. As Liam Cahill pointed out afterwards many of them had won under-20/21 All-Irelands at Cork’s expense, and under Cahill’s leadership, but none of that back class counted for anything. When Cork got a run on them, they folded.


For Cork, Alan Connolly was the headline act. In just his sixth start this year he delivered his third hat-trick, taking his career tally to a staggering 19 goals in 24 league and championship appearances. His goal in first-half stoppage-time gave Cork a three-point lead at the break, but his second goal four minutes after half-time changed the mood of the game. His third goal, six minutes later, ignited the rout.

After that Cork went to town. Shane Kingston came off the bench and scored four points with his first four shots, in just less than four minutes. Robert Downey, who was terrific again at centre back, strode forward for a couple of long-range points. Luke Meade, another of the subs, made a huge impact and helped himself to a couple of scores too. The threats were everywhere.

Patrick Horgan ended the game with 1-9, 1-4 of which came from play. Against Limerick he scored the nerveless goal that resuscitated Cork’s season but in general play he had been in possession just four times. Here, he was lively and involved and took his goal with clinical power. At one stage, very late in the game, he forced a turnover inside the Cork half. By then, Tipp had nowhere to run.

The first half had been book ended by goals. Tipperary struck after just 18 seconds. Conor Bowe broke from wing back and when his shot was saved but not defused by Patrick Collins in the Cork goal, Mark Kehoe finished the rebound to the net.

It signalled a game of all-out attack and stressed defending. There were acres of space inside both 45s with both teams content to play long passes and neither team inclined to take extra precautions. Many puck-outs were followed by a shot within seconds and in the first half alone there were more than 40 shots.

Tipperary led for the opening 10 minutes but the lead was exchanged liberally for the rest of the half. Nobody was in control. Cork looked more threatening without being able to impose their will on the scoreboard. Brian Hayes had an early goal chance well saved by Barry Hogan but less than a minute later there was a contentious episode at the other end.

Mark Kehoe was brought down by Seán O’Donoghue near the 20-metre line, at an angle to the Cork goal. It was outside the large parallelogram but inside the borders of black card territory. Referee Tomás Walsh initially awarded a free and after consulting his linesman he left his decision unchanged. O’Donoghue, though, was yellow-carded, which was enough to convince Cork to substitute Eoin Downey a week ago. This time, they stuck with their captain.

Jake Morris was lively on the wing for Tipp, recovering some of his old zest, and by the 22nd minute all of Tipp’s starting forwards had scored from play. Without as much possession as Cork they kept the scoreboard moving.

In the first half Cork couldn’t muster the explosiveness they had visited on Limerick a week ago, but Darragh Fitzgibbon picked up the thread of his performance in Páirc Uí Chaoimh with another commanding display at centrefield. By half-time he had landed three points, each one a gem.

The score that separated the sides at half-time, though, was a stunning goal from Connolly, two minutes into stoppage-time. Taking a pass from the excellent Shane Barrett he drove at the Tipp goal and somehow angled his body and hurley to whip a shot into the far corner of Hogan’s net.

After that Connolly was on fire. He mugged Cathal Barrett for his second goal and the third was the outcome of a lightning exchange of passes with Meade, cutting a path through the Tipp defence. His finish was a rocket.

TIPPERARY: B Hogan; C Barrett, M Breen, C Morgan; B O’Mara, R Maher (0-1, f), C Bowe (0-1); A Tynan (0-1), E Connolly; J Forde (0-6, 0-4f), G O’Connor (0-2), N McGrath (0-2); J Morris (0-3), M Kehoe (1-0), D Stakelum (0-2).

Subs: C Stakelum for Connolly (h-t); D McCormack for Barrett (41 mins); J McGrath, (0-2, 2f) for Forde (43); P Maher for D Stakelum (48); S Hayes (0-1) for O’Connor (56).

CORK: P Collins; N O’Leary (0-1), E Downey, S O’Donoghue; T O’Mahony, R Downey (0-2), M Coleman; E Twomey, D Fitzgibbon (0-3); D Dalton (0-1), S Barrett (0-2), S Harnedy (0-3); B Hayes (0-2), A Connolly (3-1), P Horgan (1-9, 0-5f).

Subs: L Meade (0-1) for Twomey (h-t); S Kingston (0-4) for Dalton (45 mins); G Millerick for O’Donoghue (51); C Lehane (0-1) for Harnedy (59); J O’Connor for Barrett (62); T O’Connell for Fitzgibbon (64); S Twomey for Connolly (66).

Referee: Tomás Walsh (Waterford).

Denis Walsh

Denis Walsh

Denis Walsh is a sports writer with The Irish Times