It's a long, long way back for Tipperary


Brian Cody will have an extra pep in his step following Galway’s subdued display and Tipp’s crushing defeat, writes NICKY ENGLISH

I SAW Brian Cody watching the Wexford-Galway Leinster quarter-final in Nowlan Park on Saturday night. It’s hard to imagine him not having an added pep in his step after the weekend even though Kilkenny didn’t have to play.

Of the two counties identified as the biggest obstacle to the All-Ireland champions’ five-in-a-row ambitions, Galway were subdued before eventually putting away Wexford whose attack offered limited threat and Tipperary went down to a devastating defeat in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Even before the match, the atmosphere around Cork was almost tangible, a real “Rebel County”, backs-to-the-wall frame of mind for a county that was out to prove a point and had nothing to lose. Everything they needed to do they did and Tipp never managed to exert any pressure.

They ended up having to move their All Star full back, replace their All Star centre back, senior midfielder and move their debutant full forward. That reflects the scale of the collapse.

There were suggestions in the lead-up that Cork’s half backs and half forwards were looking jaded with a lot of miles on the clock but those assumptions were turned completely upside down. It was the Tipperary half backs who were thoroughly outplayed and inside Aisake Ó hAilpín ran amok.

Tipp had no answer to Cork on their home ground and they could have won by more. Rather than focus too much on how poor the Tipp challenge turned out, I’d look at the other side and how effortlessly Cork got to play the game they wanted.

I’d said that, as proud players, Cork could be expected to make a defiant stand but never thought they could win so comprehensively. Donal Óg Cusack was able to find John Gardiner really easily with short puck-outs and they managed to move the ball around quickly and successfully play short passes to each other.

When Tipp tried it in the second half, Cork ended up scoring a point and that more or less typified the afternoon, as did Declan Fanning’s fouling the ball when scrambling back in defence, which gave Ben O’Connor a handy free.

In a way, Cork didn’t play Aisake enough because there was absolute panic in the Tipp defence whenever the high ball went in. I’m still not convinced it was correct to move Pádraic Maher out from full back so quickly and switch in Paul Curran because it was unlikely to make a major difference. And that’s how it turned out as Aisake continued to dominate every ball that came in.

He scored a goal and had already put another in the net when Cork were awarded the penalty for their first, which Patrick Horgan put away very well considering his experience last year of missing one.

It was a fair bet beforehand Cork would need goals to win but, as things turned out, it was Tipp who ended up needing them and yet never looked like getting them. Cork on the other hand missed as many as they scored. It wasn’t just the goals but the threat of goals that seemed to unnerve Tipperary completely.

If the threat was constant at that end it was non-existent at the other where Eoin Cadogan lorded everything that came in.

From a Tipp perspective, they were favourites and had beaten Cork over the past couple of years and maybe that led to some complacency or over-confidence because they looked as if they believed they would win yesterday and played with a nonchalance that suggested they were waiting for a switch to come on. If that was the case, they should have known better given the record down in Cork.

One comparison makes a good example. Niall McCarthy’s gone through a lot in the past couple of years and you’d have to be happy for him on his display yesterday but who would have imagined that he’d have a day to remember while Noel McGrath, the young hurler of the year, would have such a forgettable afternoon? There was no constant pressure exerted by the Tipp forwards. It didn’t work for Brian O’Meara on his debut and whereas Larry Corbett started well he flitted in and out afterwards and Eoin Kelly never got going. Midfield was second best and Shane McGrath ended up being taken off.

It’s a long, long way back for Tipperary and will take them all through July. They’re not out but will need to review their direction and what happened yesterday has to leave psychological scars. Their bench looked pretty light as well when changes were needed although Timmy Hammersley’s fiercely arguing with the umpires over his point was about as much fight as they mustered.

Maybe Tipp need to be reassessed. Last September they went in against Kilkenny under no pressure and with nothing to lose while Kilkenny had everything to lose. Yesterday Tipperary had a lot to lose and the main cogs in their wheel fell apart.

On a final note I though the referee in Nowlan Park was overly fussy and showed too many yellow cards. Yet again this led to inconsistency, as fouls that attracted cards on Saturday night didn’t seem to in Cork yesterday. Not that Tipperary could use that as an excuse.