Cork soar above Tipperary but anxiously await next weekend’s finale

Any three of four counties can make the All-Ireland stages after another blazing day in Munster

Tipperary came to play. A full Thurles, albeit fuller of red than blue-and-gold, and beautiful sunshine looked the ideal backdrop for another chapter in one of hurling’s most storied rivalries. At 30 minutes, all was good as a competitive match neared half-time.

Just before the break, Cork’s serial goal scorer Alan Connolly got a run on goal, with a predictable result. That gave his team a three-point lead and sent feelings of unease rippling through the Tipp faithful.

Their team had started with intent: Mark Kehoe getting in for a goal within 20 seconds, tucking away Patrick Collins’s parry of Conor Bowe’s shot. That started it. The first quarter was over by the time the scoring rate finally dipped below the number of minutes elapsed.

The home side stuck at it, like a stowaway clinging to the fuselage, needing to cling on because otherwise, it would be a long way down.


Connolly’s first goal loosened Tipperary’s grip and they plummeted through the second half to the worst beating in this fixture for nearly 60 years. Connolly duly completed his hat-trick and Cork stamped their credentials as All-Ireland contenders – except that they don’t know, after losing their first two matches, whether they will actually get to that stage.

Everything is so open in Munster that any one of Clare, Waterford, Cork or even All-Ireland champions Limerick could topple off and join Tipperary in the anteroom for next season.

Clare will face Tipp as favourites to win, whereas Waterford head to Limerick to see what they can get off the champions.

Cork manager Pat Ryan was elated to follow up his team’s epic dispatch of Limerick with another awesome display eight days later.

“We’re just delighted with the way our lads went at it, delighted the way the subs who came in went at it. Our 38 players – obviously when you lose the first two games you need lads to stay united and stay behind you and they did.

“They stayed together and we worked really hard at it and got a great result against Limerick. This was Cork and Tipp today – fellas would be saying, ‘Jesus, you’d only eight days’, but if you can’t get up for Cork and Tipp after one day, not to mind eight, you don’t deserve to be wearing that Cork jersey.”

A sombre Liam Cahill reflected on an unhappy afternoon.

“It’s not lost on us the importance of representing Tipperary and I’m so disappointed for our supporters as well. They came out in numbers again today to really get behind the lads.

“We’ll go back tomorrow night. We’ll look at it. It will make for tough viewing and we’ll have to really look at making sure we keep Clare honest here next weekend and also, introduce a few guys as well that are maybe going to be part of our squad going forward going into what is officially a real rebuild job in Tipperary after today.”

The other Munster match was – to understate – a more edge-of-the-seat affair. Waterford led only once, at the very beginning of the match against Clare in Ennis. Thereafter they were chasing the match and their opponents. A drumroll of four goals, two in each half, kept the target moving.

It looked as if they had finally caught up with Clare in injury-time. A penalty was awarded by Galway referee Liam Gordon and expertly hammered into the top corner by Shane Bennett to level the match at 2-26 to 4-20.

At last, it felt that having chased a departing bus from one stop to the next, Waterford were finally about to board. Instead, a late kerfuffle on their endline yielded a 65 to Clare. Mark Rodgers, one of the goal scorers, had to take responsibility, as free taker Aidan McCarthy had departed. His strike sailed over the bar and the final whistle followed.

Clare manager Brian Lohan was relieved to have come through after a bout of squandermania just after half-time – five wides within a few minutes – gave encouragement to the visitors, who responded with an impressive barrage of well taken scores.

“Massive, absolutely massive,” he said. “Every point you get is massive, so we are on four now, and we take on what we have to take on the next day.”

His Waterford counterpart David Fitzgerald had been agitated with the referee after the match and disputed the late 65.

“I honestly believe that should have been wide ball. That’s what I feel. It doesn’t matter. I am proud of the guys. It is just a very hard way to take a defeat like that. It is very tough. It doesn’t sit with me well. You have to make them decisions and you have to get them right.

“At the same time, I have always thought Liam Gordon is a really top-class official. And I have said that all the time. While we are disappointed with one or two decisions, that is the way hurling goes. We just get over it.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times