Nicky English: Cork had the absolute desire Tipp were missing
Once again Tipp are struggling with the demands of being champions
Tipperary manager Michael Ryan and Cork manager Kieran Kingston shake hands after the match. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
I’m not being wise after the event by saying that this wasn’t completely unexpected. If you look at Tipperary’s form over the past couple of months they’ve played a number of the top counties – Kilkenny, Cork twice and Galway – and haven’t beaten any of them.
I did expect Cork to come with a better challenge this year. Kieran Kingston inherited a team in his first year and experimented with a defensive tactic, which didn’t work. This time around he brought a new team and a new approach and the debutants all repaid his faith in them.
Not least among them was his son Shane – obvious added pressure on him – but he proved himself well worth his place after a difficult opening when Seamus Kennedy caught the first ball over his head. Like the rest of the team he fought his way into the game and ended up with 1-4.
It could be said that this revives the old Cork theory of mushrooms but, although the players in question were on teams which had no great under-age pedigree, they were all obvious talents: Darragh Fitzgibbon, Mark Coleman and Luke Meade – the latter who was exceptional in the Fitzgibbon Cup.
Compared to last year when Cork were hesitant and had poor touch they were unrecognisable. They put up a huge score and played with great pace and touch.
Yet when Séamus Callanan played that great ball into John McGrath for the goal on 56 minutes you would have thought Tipp would take it from there, but within a minute Conor Lehane and Kingston had responded with points. They were deserving winners.
If there was a single difference between the teams it was pace. Cork had it everywhere and ran through the middle at Tipperary whose lack of it in the half-back line was exposed. Cork certainly had it in the half-back line where Coleman, Mark Ellis and Christopher Joyce kept Tipp on the back foot with Ellis in particular charging up the field on solo runs.
After last year’s failed experiment in double-marking Callanan, Cork were always going to trust in a more orthodox approach. It was Tipperary who dropped players back and Noel McGrath played very deep, effectively leaving Callanan and Bubbles O’Dwyer isolated up front. I’d be especially critical of this given that they had the advantage of the wind in the second half. Cork held their shape in defence and made it difficult even if Tipp weren’t making it easy on themselves.
Tipp’s defence was in trouble when you consider that two of the full-back line were yellow carded within the first nine minutes.
Cork will now bring great momentum into the semi-final. They’ll need that and a definite improvement to beat Waterford but when a young team gets a result like this, it’s bound to bring them on for the next game.
There was a flatness about Tipperary that was all too visible in the league final against Galway. That’s been typical of Tipp as champions, at least in my lifetime. I wouldn’t agree that teams defending the All-Ireland don’t prepare well but the success has always resulted in losing that centimetre of absolute desire, which is critical in championship and so the early season form has been shown to be misleading.
It will be difficult for Mick Ryan from here with the injury to Cathal Barrett and the need to revive the team’s morale and form.
What has happened is that the Munster championship has been blown open. The assumption that Tipp would be the team to beat is gone and the opportunity is now there for all of the other counties.