Cork look too strong for Tipperary’s lost generation
2016 All-Ireland minor winners needed the additional year they won’t be getting
Cork’s senior star Mark Coleman in action against Tipperary during the Munster U-21 final win over the Premier County at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
It’s adding up to a tough weekend for Tipperary. They face into an All-Ireland against Cork, hoping to overturn a 13-point hosing in the Munster final and also knowing that the age grade is to be abolished next year and replaced with under-20, which means that as All-Ireland minor winners in 2016 they won’t have the opportunity of what would have been their optimum crack at the title.
Or, had it been introduced this year, they would have been ideally placed as the intention is to allow elite players take part rather than have it as a developmental grade like in football.
So it may be good timing by Cork but they’ve been waiting long enough for it, as it’s all of 20 years since the county last picked up the title at this grade as part of a back-to-back All-Ireland sequence, which wasn’t long playing its part in the three Liam MacCarthy Cups won in the decade that followed.
Despite the cohort having no minor profile, Cork have blazed a trail this year. The only match that detained them for long was the opening, provincial semi-final against Waterford. The matches since have been long and arduous for the opposition; the Tipp win followed by a 22-point thrashing of Wexford.
Tipperary rehabilitated themselves in a semi-final win over Leinster champions Galway although they made hard work of it, seeing early control – on the scoreboard and with the opposition reduced to 14 men when Brian Concannon got an early red card and then 13 before the end although they lost Mark Kehoe in the second half.
That win has given Liam Cahill’s side a shot at redemption, taking on their Munster final tormentors with the incentive of doing considerably better if not quite completely upsetting the apple cart.
They will have their work cut out. One of the lessons of the provincial match was that the physical maturity of the Cork players against a side not up to the age yet, constituted a big advantage.
There is also the relative progress of the sides. Both teams have hurlers, who have turned out for the county seniors but in Cork’s case they are key members of the team, whether a current All Star like Mark Coleman or a presumptive one like Darragh Fitzgibbon and established players like Shane Kingston and panellists Robbie O’Flynn and Tim O’Mahony.
Tipp’s seniors are however more peripheral but they do include Jake Morris, who as a replacement hit the equaliser in the senior championship match against Cork – and famously, the post in the defeat by Clare. They got off to a fine start in Munster by dethroning All-Ireland champions Limerick, who fielded in captain Kyle Hayes, Séamus Flanagan and Peter Casey, significant contributors to last weekend’s historical achievement – Hayes was Man of the Match.
But the form line tells a sobering tale. Galway took it all the way to the last syllable of extra-time to beat Wexford in the Leinster final and then lost narrowly enough, by a goal, to Tipperary.