Horgan helps Rebels ride into sunset after old style shoot-out
CORK 1-25

A SEVEN-point win over Tipperary in a league semi-final in the big hurling house.

That’s the sort of thing that usually makes a Rebel tingle with anticipation, but no one was getting too giddy yesterday.

Yes, Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s ‘new Cork’, as they’re being billed, got stuck in and produced the answer when the question was really asked, to reach their second league final in three years.

But everything will be judged by the paucity of Tipperary’s challenge, and a much better barometer will be the big stripey lads in a fortnight’s time.

If you thought the earlier drawn league match between these two was a bit of shadow-boxing then, for a long time, yesterday’s rematch was like a bad game of poker in one of those old black and white Westerns.

Cards were dealt, eyebrows were occasionally raised but most of the onlookers in the bar struggled to stay awake and the only dramatic note in the first half was the sight of Cork’s veteran goalkeeper and captain Donal Og Cusack being stretchered off with a serious injury. It occurred when the 35-year-old dived to save a long-range rocket from Thomas Stapleton after 16 minutes and, initially, looked innocuous.

But he was taken to hospital subsequently with a suspected torn Achilles and, if it is as bad as feared, his season will be over.

His rarely-seen deputy Anthony Nash did well when he arrived and even did a ‘Cluxton’ by scoring a long-range free, but the sides traded leads throughout most of the first half.

It was still stalemate at half-time (0-10 apiece) and, in poker terms, neither side appeared to want to make a ‘call’ or have anything significant up their sleeves.

Cork had edged just two points clear when the saloon doors swung open after 45 minutes and in came that great grizzled Tipperary gunslinger Eoin Kelly to add the first bit of real menace to their attack.

Within minutes Kelly had unsettled the Cork defence and suddenly Tipperary full-forward Brian O’Meara found some space, rounded his man and grabbed a goal to put them back in the lead.

Cork still kept their cool, answering that blow with two particularly inspirational points from wing-back Willie Egan and centre-forward Pa Cronin, two men who were centrally involved all day.

The sides traded points for the next few minutes and then Kelly produced another ace: one of his trademark goals off a 20-metre free.

A minute later stand-in full-back Padraic Maher slalomed up the field and won a free with an emphatic shoulder, and when Kelly dispatched it to keep them two points clear they were on the front foot and should have seized the initiative.

But instead they let Cork pull out some winning cards of their own. The first was a marvellous three-man move to rattle the net just before the hour, started by Patrick Horgan, helped on by a beautiful flick from Niall McCarthy and finished by Luke O’Farrell.

Within a minute the excellent Horgan had tagged on one of his many frees and then Barry-Murphy played the cards that everyone was waiting for.

First Conor Lehane and then Darren Sweetnam arrived, the two youngsters that he had clearly been holding in reserve.

Lehane swaggered in like some modern-day hurling Billy the Kid.

The crowd cheered the very sight of him and then swooned when he scored a wonder point with his first touch, while Tipp seemed to blanch.

Within a couple of minutes Cork were four points up, scoring 1-4 without reply.

O’Meara got a point back before Cork added another 0-3 without reply, including a point from Leaving Cert student Sweetnam and another Lehane gobsmacker off a glorious cross-field pass from Tom Kenny.

Tipp tried to mount a rally but their hand was empty.

Kelly tried his 20-metre free trick a second time in the dying minutes but Nash got to it and they were consigned to dropping the ball in and taking desperate snapshots in the end, which all proved fruitless as Cork crowded them out.

With Padraic Maher forced to deputise at full-back for the injured Paul Curran, they badly missed his impetus at wing-back and had little other leadership.

Both of their midfielders were withdrawn, Noel McGrath and John O’Brien were both held to just a point, and Pa Bourke, who scored 0-7 (two from play) by half-time, was held scoreless afterwards.

They have some injury worries alright and in a game like this, when there was a lot of space to be exploited early on, they were crying out for the likes of Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher and Seamus Callanan, both expected back soon.

But their inability to grab the initiative once they got their goals was worrying, and there was a lack of power and fluidity from them which is a concern with Limerick just five weeks away.

In contrast Cork had plenty who stepped up to the plate and it’s worth pointing out that they were without Cathal Naughton and Brian Murphy too. Shane O’Neill and Stephen McDonnell did big jobs on O’Meara and O’Brien respectively, and Eoin Cadogan and Egan were outstanding in their half-backs.

Up front, old and young responded when they found some impetus.

Jamie Coughlan opened things up whenever he used his pace, Niall McCarthy got some very timely points in his 0-3 from play, and O’Farrell and Horgan provided 1-11 between them.

They’ll get nothing like the same time and space the next day but, as Barry-Murphy said, they’ve proved they’re “on the right road to being competitive” and now have a chance to measure themselves against the best.

Man of the Match: William Egan (Cork)

Scorers — Cork: P Horgan 0-9 (6f), L O’Farrell 1-2, N McCarthy, W Egan (2f) 0-3 each, P Cronin, C Lehane 0-2 each, J Gardiner, P O’Sullivan, D Sweetnam, A Nash (f) 0-1 each.

Tipperary: P Bourke 0-7 (4f, 1 ’65’), B O’Meara 1-2, E Kelly 1-1 (2f) G Ryan 0-2, J Woodlock, N McGrath, J O’Brien 0-1 each.

Cork — D Og Cusack; S O’Neill 8, S McDonnell 8, C O’Sullivan 7; S Og OhAilpin 6, E Cadogan 8, W Egan 9; J Gardiner 7, L McLoughlin 7; J Coughlan 7, P Cronin 9, N McCarthy 8; L O’Farrell 8, P O’Sullivan 6, P Horgan 9. Subs : A Nash 8 for Cusack (inj, 17), C Lehane 8 for Coughlan (60), T Kenny 8 for O hAilpin (60), D Sweetnam 7 for McCarthy (66), C McCarthy for McLoughlin (70).

Tipperary — B Cummins 7; C O’Brien 6, P Maher 6, M Cahill 6; T Stapleton 6, C O’Mahony 5, D Young 5; B Maher 6, J Woodlock 5; N McGrath 6, G Ryan 7, P Bourke 6; S Bourke 5, B O’Meara 7, J O’Brien 6. Subs: S Maher for Young (inj, 28), E Kelly for Bourke (45), S McGrath for B Maher (48), S Curran for Woodlock (61), J O’Neill for McGrath 67).

Ref — M Wadding (Waterford).

– Cliona Foley

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