Nicky English: Cork performance shows Tipp are real contenders

Difficult to see Cork recovering in time for their second match round against Limerick

Tipperary’s Séamus Callanan celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against Cork in the Munster SHC  Round 1 match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Tipperary’s Séamus Callanan celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against Cork in the Munster SHC Round 1 match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

I had the view that it wouldn’t surprise me if Tipperary were to beat Cork but to win the way they did was a major turn-up for me. I noticed in the warm-ups that they looked really intent, their touch was clean and they were obviously up for the contest. They were obviously going to play well but I’m still taken aback by how well they performed.

This group of players is fairly familiar at this stage and many of them have been involved in All-Ireland wins but this was as impressive as I’ve seen them in the past 10 years. Their fitness, conditioning and obvious hunger and desire completely vindicated Liam Sheedy’s comments about how well they had ben training.

When the match got under way they started well. Tipperary’s skill on the ball, sureness of touch, their movement and great use of possession had Cork in trouble, early. Séamus Callanan’s goal laid down a marker. Cork on the other hand had poor touch and were hesitant in possession.

Bubbles O’Dwyer had a field day. Tim O’Mahony didn’t pick him up at all at first and like some of the other Cork players, the ball was spilled and uncertainty spread. Shane Kingston was found by a great ball in and he was unmarked but he dropped it. Conor Lehane lost a ball over the sideline.

Patrick Horgan kept their heads above water. His free taking was a tour de force and the reason Cork recovered to the extent of actually leading. It was important for Tipp to reassert themselves before half-time and Eoin Cadogan had actually done well after the goal but Séamus Callanan finished the half well.

There was still a feeling that Cork could improve but by and large they didn’t and simply were unable to win enough possession. The all-Maher half-back line were outstanding in that respect and as a tribute to the shape the whole team was in, it was hard to tell them apart they were all so lean and in such great shape.

There was also a serious focus about them. Bubbles O’Dwyer showed great clarity of thought when he found himself in behind the Cork defence. He was on a fine score himself at that stage and could have just added another point but instead zipped a great ball across to John McGrath, who did what John McGrath does even though overall he had one of his quieter games.

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I didn’t see Tipperary as All-Ireland champions before this weekend. They might have had a good display in them along the way but the effect would be limited. If Sunday’s performance is anything to go by, they’ll be a problem for anyone.

In complete contrast it was a worrying defeat for Cork who lacked leaders apart from Horgan. They didn’t attack the ball with any conviction and that lack of urgency became a keynote. There was also a dangerous looseness about their defence, which proved costly.

I had thought of them as potential All-Ireland champions but that was based on last year and ignoring what I reckoned was irrelevant bad form in the league.

Now though they have to go to Limerick and although they will probably improve – they’ll be on their second match whereas it will be a first for Limerick and last year that was a significant differential – but I can’t see them recovering hard enough from what was a very chastening afternoon.

They did get the wrong end of some very odd refereeing decisions, which left the home crowd and players aggrieved but ultimately the scoreline if anything, flattered them.

In Nowlan Park on Saturday, the pre-match script was right in one respect. Kilkenny were under pressure. Injuries to key players took a toll but ultimately they responded well and will take positives from the performance.

In the first half, Dublin hustled them effectively. It took reserve goalkeeper Darren Brennan a while to settle down. Initially his puck-outs were being mopped up by the Dublin half-back line, Chris Crummey, Seán Moran and Shane Barrett with Fergal Whitely dropping back.

Kilkenny were unable to make any great headway and with half an hour gone, they had scored just 0-9 so to be just four down at half time wasn’t a strictly accurate reflection of the play and Dublin could have had them in a lot more trouble.

Brian Cody’s changes turned the match. Huw Lawlor going to full back produced a very impressive display - one magnificent catch was a real momentum changer in the second half - and Pádraig Walsh had a similar impact at centre back, one of his catches being the catalyst for TJ Reid’s goal.

It was a big result for Kilkenny and it’s hard not to see them reaching the Leinster final.

Ultimately this was disappointing for Dublin. This was a chance to win in Nowlan Park but in the end a lack of firepower, which was in evidence against Limerick in the league semi-final, cost them as they weren’t able to keep pressure on the scoreboard.

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