McGrath helps Tipp scramble over the line


Tipperary 1-22 Cork 0-24:IT’S AS well to beware the hype in relation to Cork-Tipperary Munster hurling encounters but it would take an irredeemable curmudgeon not to have been well entertained by yesterday’s provincial semi-final in Páirc Uí­ Chaoimh.

It went all the way to the final whistle, which was greeted with a surge of relief by the champions Tipperary, who had to contest most of the second half with 14 men after the dismissal of John O’Brien for a second yellow card in the 48th minute, but who held on for a one-point victory.

But just before the Toomevara man’s departure, Tipp had given themselves a three-point buffer, which just about protected them in the time remaining although Cork never gave up. Even when the margin stretched to four in the 64th minute, the home side persevered and had reduced the deficit to the minimum by the time referee Brian Gavin brought it all to an end.

The Offaly official had an eventful afternoon and even before the throw-in some overwrought posturing from Cathal Naughton and Pádraic Maher necessitated the administering of two yellow cards.

Gavin was also compromised by the increasingly unfit-for-purpose advantage rule. His readiness to apply it invariably resulted in the team so “favoured” sorry they hadn’t got the free and in one case when play was pulled back in the 44th minute, John O’Brien was on his way to pile-driving the ball into the net for Tipperary only for the free to be awarded – although in fairness to the referee the whistle had sounded early in that case.

So many different incidents in a match like this could have made the difference but the champions just about deserved the result. They rose to the various challenges presented: containing Cork against the wind in the first half, seizing the lead 10 minutes after the break and raising their game in defence for the remainder of the match.

Cork were crestfallen at the narrow defeat, only their second at home to Tipperary since 1923, but they were carrying a couple of handicaps too many between the overall inexperience of the team and the fact that it was their first championship outing of the summer. O’Brien’s red card had opened an unexpected window of opportunity but Cork were just unable to clamber through it.

They started well however and opened up a four-point lead twice in the first quarter. In the subplot of the duelling dead-ball shooters, Tipp’s Pa Bourke shaded the totals by 0-12 to 0-11 but Patrick Horgan took virtually as consistent a line with wrongdoing.

Bourke, for his part, will certainly be relieved that his gamble just before half-time, trading a handy point for a thrash at goal from a 20-metre free from which the ball was cleared, didn’t prove more costly.

The first half was like a tennis match with the ball flying backwards and forwards and scores being picked off with such frequency that the four minutes between the 28th and 32nd was easily the longest the crowd had to wait for a score.

Cork’s two most exciting prospects Darren Sweetnam and Conor Lehane got early points – the former swooping into goal- scoring territory and the latter reacting after being blocked to flick up the ball and slip free to score from 60 metres.

Tipperary’s defence wasn’t comfortable and there other half chances for goals but Cork appeared content to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

There were questions asked about the free out awarded on half an hour after Patrick Cronin had touched a long-range free from goalkeeper Anthony Nash into the net but instead of having a cushion of five at the break, Cork were going in with a lead of just two, 0-14 to 0-12, after a first half with wind advantage.

The first 10 minutes of the second half trimmed the deficit by just one but soon afterwards the central events of the match came in quick succession. Tipperary’s goal was worthy of the occasion.

It began with a spectacular fetch from Patrick Maher (who had a tremendous match imposing himself physically at centre forward, hustling out possession and drawing frees) straight from Brendan Cummins’s puck-out. Maher laid it off to John O’Brien, whose quick transfer enabled Lar Corbett to advance and hand pass to Noel McGrath, whose shot exploded past Nash to snatch a lead from Cork which they never regained. McGrath finished with an economical 1-4.

Two minutes later O’Brien was gone but the Tipp defence stepped up. Pádraic Maher imposed himself on the left wing, taking one spectacular catch, and breaking forward on a number of occasions while Conor O’Mahony bulwarked the defence in the face of an adjusted match flow, as the screw turned with five forwards trying to occupy six backs.

Declan Ryan ran the bench to inject new energy while two of Cork’s replacements Cian McCarthy and Daniel Kearney hit points, as Cork refused to let go – both also hit ultimately costly wides. But they were just two factors in a satisfying contest that swung on a razor-thin margin.

TIPPERARY: 1. B Cummins; 2. C O’Brien, 4. M Cahill, 3. P Curran; 5. T Stapleton, 6. C O’Mahony, 7. Pádraic Maher (0-1); 8. B Maher (0-2), 9. S McGrath; 10. G Ryan (0-1), 11. Patrick Maher, 12. P Bourke (0-12, seven frees and two 65s); 13. B O’Meara (0-2), 14. J O’Brien, 15. N McGrath (1-4). Subs: 19. L Corbett for Ryan (34 mins), 17. S Bourke for O’Meara (55), 25. J Woodlock for B Maher (57), 20. E Kelly for P Bourke (67), 21. D Maher for Stapleton (70 mins).

Yellow cards: Pádraic Maher (before throw-in), J O’Brien (27 and 48 mins), O’Mahony (46). Red card: O’Brien (48 mins).

CORK: 1. A Nash; 3. B Murphy, 2. S O’Neill, 4. C O’Sullivan; 5. T Kenny, 6. E Cadogan, 7. W Egan; 8. D Sweetnam (0-1), 9. L McLaughlin; 10. C Lehane (0-2), 11. P Cronin (0-1), 12. C Naughton (0-1); 13. J Coughlan (0-3), 15. P Horgan (0-11, nine frees), 14. P O’Sullivan (0-3). Subs: 24. C McCarthy (0-1) for Naughton (47 mins), 21. D Kearney (0-1) for Sweetnam (50 mins), 25. L O’Farrell for Lehane (63 mins).

Yellow cards: Naughton (before throw-in), Cronin (38 mins), B Murphy (43 mins).

Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).

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