Westside and match reports on NHL v Cork

WESTSIDE.

Goodbye to the league. A campaign of highs and lows finally closed out for Tipperary with that one-point eclipse by the Lee. It was a stirring contest that ebbed and flowed from Cork’ ascendancy in the first half, to Tipperary’s surge in the second, and then on through to a tense finish where we were denied even a share of the booty. Disappointing but not disastrous. It all renders meaningless our final game against Offaly on Sunday week before we head into a six-week hiatus ahead of that return visit to Cork on May 30th for championship D-day.

Meanwhile club action hicks off with a raft of local fixtures as the divisions get their programmes moving.

It was disappointing at the end to see our league ambitions drift away though I suspect the team and management won’t be over-concerned about the outcome. Ultimately this season will be rated on championship results so there are more important days ahead. Top priority now will be to clear up the catalogue of minor ailments that has bedevilled the side in recent times and hope to have all systems firing in good time for the championship opener.

As a dress rehearsal for the championship this match had an added layer of interest, aside altogether from its league importance, though that reality seems to have been lost on the local Cork organisers. Match programmes were sold out long before match time and they seemed bemused by the size of an attendance of around 9,000.

The opening omens to this match were worrying for Tipperary. Wind-backed Cork showed all the initiative, spearheaded by Aisake O’Hailpin whose high-fetching had Padraic Maher in early difficulty. We could easily have leaked a few goals at this juncture and were indeed grateful for one superb block by Michael Cahill on O’Hailpin and an equally crucial stop by Cummins when Paudie O’Sullivan was put through.

A familiar difficulty was immediately evident as our half forwards were winning little ball and the defence was consequently under severe stress. Luckily the likes of Cahill and Stapleton were especially strong in defence and Cork never managed to fully exploit their supremacy at this juncture. Luckily also their sideline made the strange decision to move O’Hailpin to the ‘forty’ where his impact diminished and the Tipp defence earned breathing space after the early onslaught.

Still our forwards, despite lots of positional movement, were making no impact. A few Kelly frees before our opening point from play by Gearoid Ryan and then a smart pair from Noel McGrath, were the individual highlights of the half – McGrath’s second point from out on the sideline was the best score of the period. We escaped to the break at just four-down and I’m sure there were sharp words in the dressing room at the interval because overall it had been an ineffective half from Tipperary.

Immediately on resuming a changed mood was evident. A few early wides were annoying but at least we were taking the game to Cork now. Significant in our improvement was Brendan Maher’s impact at midfield. It was a typical Maher run that set up Paul Kelly for our goal, superbly executed by the Mullinahone man. Brother Eoin supplied Paul for a pair of easy points too and the cumulative effect was to see Tipp go from four-down to four-up in the third quarter without a whimper of response from Cork.

This was far more pleasing from Tipperary. Fore and aft the team was more forceful now, dominating in defence, getting the midfield edge principally through Brendan Maher and finding the openings in attack. But we’d been in this position against Waterford too and had let it slip so there was little surprise when Cork came out of their lull period to ensure the tensest of finishes.

Cork’s revival owed most to their goal. Paudie O’Sullivan brought the initial save from Cummins who pushed the ball away before Pat Horgan sweetly did a one-two over Cahill’s head to volley to the net. It was an artistic goal one that revived Cork and ensured a dramatic final quarter. Cummins’s tendency to push shots away like that instead of killing the ball dead isn’t always the wisest because inevitably forwards are going to be inrushing for the rebound.

Cork were back in the contest and this one was always going to go the distance now. Lucklessly we lost Brendan Maher to injury, which was probably the principal cause of our narrow loss in that hectic finish. Cork levelled, we regained the lead through a Kelly free followed by another leveller through Cathal Naughton and again a lead point from Noel McGrath. It was hectic and tense now, Cork getting valuable assistance through dubious refereeing – there were phases when the Tipp defence couldn’t buy a free.

A Pat Horgan levelling free came after a baffling piece of refereeing. A free to Cork was blown but then in the follow-up a Cork forward sunk the hurley into the lower reaches of Fanning in full view of the official. Inexplicably Fanning was booked, the Cork player went unpunished and the free stood. Will there be any follow up against the Cork player based on video evidence and the referee being asked to review his decision? Probably not. Cork tend to get away with these things whereas you might remember Shane McGrath being suspended last year because of pushing a player in the game against Galway.

At the climax Cork shaded the issue. Gerry O’Connor hit the lead point and the vital cushion point came from another Pat Horgan free, as soft an award as you will ever see in inter-county hurling. Last week I referred to poor standards of refereeing at inter-county level; as if to reinforce my view you had this show on Sunday. I know that our County Board and team management will feel they can’t really make an issue of this but this column feels no such need for reticence. Refereeing is abysmally poor and unfortunately we seem to be on the receiving end of it most of the time – and let that raise whatever hackles it will.

On a related point it annoys me that press coverage of games tends to gloss over such issues – unless you have a dust-up of some sort and then there’s coverage to the point of over-kill. Even ‘The Sunday Game’ offers pretty drab coverage at this time of year.

We’d have liked a win but the defeat is no great deal in the overall context. What were the positives and negatives from the game? On the plus side Cummins is in top form and Michael Cahill delivered more evidence that he’s well equipped for this level of combat after another right sticky performance. Paddy Stapleton too continues to enhance his reputation. On the negative side there is some concern that Padraic Maher, for the second game running, had his problems. It will certainly keep alive that debate about where best to deploy the Sarsfields’ man. Conor O’Brien was on for Curran this time and gave a capable display.

At midfield Brendan Maher was the best, especially during that second half spell. His partnership with Shane McGrath has been one of the products of this league series. The attack, however, is as variable as ever and at this juncture I suspect the management isn’t much wiser about the half line. Paul Kelly could have been substituted at half time but redeemed his day with that second half spell. Gearoid Ryan and Noel McGrath had individual moments of merit while Timmy Hammersley found the going tougher this time and Lar Corbett had a modest influence by his standards. Eoin Kelly remains central but gets no protection from referees.

Some of the substitutions were enforced through injury but others were somewhat strange and overall they did little to pull us through in that tense finish. Like others I was unaware that a slimmer-looking Darragh Egan was back on the panel.

Our final game against Offaly is now effectively downgraded to the status of a challenge match. It’s a fault with this present league structure that an entire round of the series is rendered irrelevant. Only the Dublin\Limerick match on Sunday week will have any significance with Cork and Galway already safely through to the final. The fact that they meet in this last round ahead of the final meeting is yet another absurdity produced by a flawed system. Ultimately a return to a two-group system with semi-finals seems a more coherent structure.

The other big talking point about the system to emerge in the last week or so was the realisation that head-to-head would decide placings in the event of a tie, instead of the previously used system of score difference. This was one of the best kept secrets ever by the G.A.A. It could keep Waterford out of the final because if they win on Sunday week and Galway lose the teams will finish level and the Deise are ahead of score difference. However, Galway won their head-to-head so they go through irrespective of the outcomes of the games on Sunday week.

It could have an even more crucial bearing at the bottom of the table where Dublin and Limerick meet to decide who’s relegated. If Limerick win the teams will be level on points but the Shannonsiders will survive in the top division even though their score difference will be vastly inferior to Dublin’s. That’s going to be a big game for Dublin and Limerick but for very different reasons.

It’s difficult to understand how such a revolutionary change in procedure could go unnoticed until the final rounds of the series. There are a few individuals who I rely on to notice any factual errors in this column – last week, for example, I got the date of the colleges’ final wrong and it was corrected before going to print – yet nobody picked up on the issue of score difference, which I referred to regularly in recent weeks. Last weekend I even checked the GAA’s widely-trumpeted and revamped website but there was no reference there to the new structure. Given modern communications technology it’s an extraordinary lapse by the association.

Anyway I’d suggest that the league be restructured into a two-group format with semi-finals and with score difference to decide placings in the event of a tie. Incidentally I hope the experimental rules are heavily defeated at Congress too, though I worry because they’ve mostly gone unnoticed. The rule about the ‘square’ ball is a ridiculous lurch back into the past and the hand pass change has effectively been ignored by referees in this league. The rules are fine so please don’t mend what’s not broken.

Finally, while the inter-county team will have a long break before the championship opener, the club scene is kicking into gear with county league matches in past weeks and now first rounds of the championship taking place in several divisions. It is a bit ridiculous that the county league has played just two rounds and already the divisional championships are over-lapping with it. It’s a consequence of a divisional system where so many games are needed just to eliminate a few teams later in the summer. Anyway watch the fixture list for key championship games in your patch this coming weekend.

P.S. Well done to the U21 footballers on their long overdue Munster win. Doing it to Kerry in their back yard adds enormously to the achievement. Let’s hope for a grade double when the hurlers see action.



Allianz National Hurling League

 

Cork 1-16 Tipperary 1-15

By Cathal Ryan

Cork emerged the narrowest of victors Sunday afternoon in the Allianz National Hurling League against their near neighbours and First Round Championship opponents Tipperary in the Pairc Ui Chaoimh. The pitch looked far from healthy in front of the stand and a strong breeze blew towards the Blackrock Terrace end of the ground making for tougher shooting conditions than both sides experienced last weekend.

The Rebels retreated to the changing room for half time with a four point advantage leading 0-11 to 0-7 after playing with the wind. But Tipperary began the second half with far more intent and they capitalised when Brendan Maher surged forward from the middle of the field and laid a pass to his left to Paul Kelly. The experienced Kelly skipped past two Cork challenges and powered a left hand side shot to the back of Martin Coleman’s net to put the Premier County in front in the 46th minute.

Denis Walsh’s side responded to the increased intensity promptly when Tadhg Og Murphy fizzed a ball from the left wing into Paudie O Sullivan’s hand. O Sullivan scurried away from would be challengers before firing at the target only for the ever agile Brendan Cummins to repel the effort up into the air. The sliotar seemed to hang for an eternity before Pat Horgan took two touches on the stick and fired once more to find the back of the Premier net leaving Cummins with no chance of further heroics.

The tide of proceedings had swung again back to Cork and with only four minutes remaining Cork edged ahead with a point from their Energiser bunny like centre forward Jerry O Connor. A soft free follow that was converted by Pat Horgan just two minutes later to leave Liam Sheedy’s troops with too much to do in order to retrieve the situation.

Cork manager Denis Walsh will be delighted with this win as it sends the Rebels into the league final and shows how far this side have come in a year having been on the back end of another player strike at this time last year. They showed great enthusiasm in regaining the lead after falling behind early in the second half against the strong breeze.

This dress rehearsal for the Munster Championship clash in June will leave Liam Sheedy with plenty to contemplate as his side have escaped with just one point from two tight finishes to matches in the last two weeks.

The opening score of the game came as Aisake O hAilpin claimed his third consecutive high ball at full forward. He was consequently fouled and Pat Horgan scored the resulting free in the third minute as the Rebels dominated the opening stages of the game.

Cork began the game at a rate of knots and had Tipperary on the back foot as they attempted to drive home the advantage of the strong breeze and Tom Kenny found himself in 15 yards of space in the fifth minute to add a second point for the home side.

Tipperary showed their dogged nature that kept them in the game through two Eoin Kelly frees, the second of which was a massive strike from the middle of the field five yards in from the touchline. This however merely covered the cracks as to who was the dominant force at this period of the game and Kenny scored his second of the half as he burst past two challenges before scoring on the run off his left hand side.

This was followed up moments later by Kenny’s midfield partner Lorcan McLoughlin scoring another after some strong play from Pat Horgan, the blindingly quick Cathal Naughton added with a left hand sided strike in the 13th minute and Horgan notched another from a tight angle after catching a John Gardiner free.

The men in blue and gold began to find their feet after 20 minutes and kept in touch with two classy points from the supreme finishing of Noel McGrath. However, as the break beckoned a second score from Naughton and a free from Horgan left the home side with a four point advantage at the break on a score of 0-11 to 0-7.

Whatever Tipp had in the half time tea defiantly worked as they came out rejuvenated and Shane McGrath clawed the first point back for the Premier men after a lovely pass from Lar Corbett. Eoin Kelly added another before his brother Paul took centre stage contributing 1-2 in a dazzling three minute spell.

Cork dug deep and the pride they possess came galloping to the fore as they claimed their first score of the half 16 minutes into the second period with that finish to the net from Horgan. The game ebbed and flowed from here on and both side never relented in their pursuit of victory but it was Cork who asked the questions on the scoreboard taking the lead twice with Tipperary responding to level before O Connor and Horgan erected the two point gap that a Darragh Egan point could only half before time ran out.

Teams:

Cork: Martin Coleman, Shane O Neill, Eoin Cadogan, Brian Murphy; John Gardiner(0-1,1f), Ronan Curran, Sean Og O hAilpin; Tom Kenny(0-2), Lorcan McLoughlin(0-1); Tadhg Og Murphy, Jerry O Connor(0-2), Cathal Naughton(0-3); Paudie O Sullivan, Aisake O hAilpin, Pat Horgan(1-7,6f). Subs: Kieran “Fraggy” Murphy for L. McLoughlin (52), Marc O Sullivan for T. Og Murphy (52).

Tipperary: Brendan Cummins; Paddy Stapleton, Padraic Maher, Michael Cahill; Declan Fanning, Conor O Mahony, Conor O Brien; Brendan Maher, Shane McGrath(0-1); Noel McGrath(0-3), Lar Corbett, Gearoid Ryan(0-2); Eoin Kelly(0-6,5f), Timmy Hammersley, Paul Kelly(1-2). Subs: John O Brien for T. Hammersley (49), Jody Brennan for B. Maher (53), David Young for D. Fanning (62), Hugh Maloney for G. Ryan (62), Darragh Egan(0-1) for P. Kelly (64).

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)

 


 

Focused Cork fire out signal of intent

Cork 1-16 Tipperary 1-15

By Diarmuid O’Flynn for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Monday, April 05, 2010

ALL week leading into this match, the big question was which – if either – of these teams would be going all out for the win. A win for Tipp would have opened up the possibility of the teams meeting again in the final, just weeks ahead of their opening-round Munster championship match on May 30, while a win for Cork (or a draw), then a loss for them next week against Galway and a win for Tipp over Offaly, could still have resulted in the same scenario.

Well, shadow-boxing it certainly was not, especially after Patrick Horgan’s brilliant goal for Cork in the 53rd minute, the Leesiders’ first score of the second half. At that stage, Tipp had turned a four-point half-time disadvantage into a four-point lead and looking to be heading for a comprehensive win. Horgan’s goal changed all that, and from there to the finish it was hell-for-leather, Cork just about deserving the win, setting up a league final against Galway. Mind you, it could have been over at the break; three times in the opening five minutes Aisake O hAilpín caused chaos around the Tipp kitchen, three superb catches that could have resulted in goals.

For the first, he failed to spot the run of Paudie O’Sullivan, had his close-range shot blocked by the superb Michael Cahill; for the second he was fouled by an increasingly panicky Pádraic Maher, the free ! converted for a point by the excellent Patrick Horgan; for the third Aisake did lay off to Paudie, but the Cloyne youngster took a step too far towards the Tipperary goal, and Brendan Cummins duly body-blocked. Cork continued to dominate, however, led at the break 0-11 to 0-7, having conceded a few soft frees to the accurate Eoin Kelly, but a major talking point afterwards was the shifting of Aisake to centre-forward after about 10 minutes.

Why, when he was doing so well inside? A pre-planned move? From manager Denis Walsh, an enigmatic answer. "It was something we looked at," he said, "It would have depended on whether we had the wind or not in the first half (they had). As it turned out Paudie (O’Sullivan, shifted to full-forward) probably played better against the wind, so that little test stood up today – will that do you?" It will have to do us, but it begs the question – in shifting Aisake from where he was causing serious damage and thus solving a problem for Tipp, were Cork simply being too rigid in sticking to that pre-game plan, or were they being clever, holding something back for the championship? Whatever, with Aisake now in the half-forward line – where he continued to cause problems – there was very definite relief inside for Tipperary.

The second half saw an almost total reversal of hurling fortunes, and it was Tipp’s turn to show profligacy in front of goal, two good chances gone a-begging in the opening minutes, Martin Coleman with a super save off Lar Corbett, Eoin Kelly then closed down by Brian Murphy. Five points on the trot saw Tipp lead for the first time in the game in the 46th minute; then came their goal, a beauty. Cork were having difficulty winning their own puckouts, far too predictable in putting everything down on top of Aisake, who was simply being spoiled, a Tipp man always on hand to pick up the break. On this occasion midfielder Brendan Maher picked up the pieces, taking off on a run, parting to Paul Kelly, who beat three defenders before blazing past Coleman.

It put Tipp in the driving seat, 1-12 to 0-11, signalled a real test for Cork – and how they responded. A low Tadhg Óg Murphy cross was superbly taken into the hand by Paudie O’Sullivan, whose shot was parried by Brendan Cummins, and broke to the lurking Pat Horgan. Showing superb control, Pat brought the ball down inside Michael Cahill, drilled past Cummins – game back on. That was the 55th minute, and from there to the end it was tremendous fare, a fired-up Cork edging ahead, then managing to hold out against a late Tipperary surge.

Scorers for Cork: P. Horgan 1-7 (0-6 frees); C. Naughton 0-3; J. O’Connor 0-2; T. Kenny 0-2; J. Gardiner (free), L. McLoughlin, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Tipperary: E. Kelly 0-6 (0-5 frees); P. Kelly 1-2; N. McGrath 0-3; G. Ryan 0-2; S. McGrath, D. Egan 0-1 each.

Subs for Cork: M. O’Sullivan (McLoughlin 53); K. Murphy (T. Óg Murphy 53).

Subs for Tipperary: J. O’Brien (Hammersley 50); J. Brennan (B. Maher inj. 55); D. Young (Fanning 62); H. Maloney (O’Brien 63); D. Egan (P. Kelly 65).

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).

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