Nicky English Article on Cork game

Goals win prizes as Tipperary look forward

GAELIC GAMES: The big difference between the sides was Tipperary took their scores with greater ease than Cork, writes NICKY ENGLISH 

TIPPERARY DID enough to win and the difference was goals. Last year Cork got them; this year it was Tipp, but Cork had their chances in the first five to 10 minutes. Brendan Cummins made a brilliant save from Paudie O’Sullivan and Pa Horgan was just wide after that. Those misses were vital, as they’d have put Tipp on the back foot from the start.

A lot of point chances also went wide and all told, Cork left at least two goals and three points behind them, which was significant in the end.

At the stage before Tipperary got the goals, Cork were level and playing against the wind with just minutes to go in the first half. Then the deadlock broke with some typical industry from Bonnar Maher to set up the first goal for Lar Corbett.

Then Eoin Kelly got an excellent goal. The two scores were particularly positive from a Tipperary perspective. As mentioned in the preview, I had concerns about both players because of the amount of distractions they had as part of the All-Ireland winning formalities. But both are experienced and have been in this position before.

Nonetheless both of them, and Eoin Kelly particularly, looked sharp. Those goals were really the difference and they also illustrated what separated the teams: Tipp got their scores with greater ease than Cork. A good example was the almost effortless way Noel McGrath struck over two line-balls.

Cork surprised me. I didn’t expect them to get as many chances and that’s Declan Ryan’s main worry: even if the Tipperary forwards were impressive, the defence looked under pressure and Conor O’Mahony made a big impact coming in at the end.

At half-time you’d have imagined that after surviving the early scare, Tipp should have been able to move on. Instead Cork took over and their comeback should have put them into the lead. The amount of balls dropped into Cummins was ridiculous and Niall McCarthy hit a couple of wides.

In fairness to McCarthy, he played well and has almost been re-born. If his shooting had improved he could have ended up with five or six.

The most impressive part of the Tipperary performance was how they responded when Cork pulled level. They underlined the contrast with Cork by how comfortably they took the scores.

There was a moment in the second half when Cian McCarthy got a chance from distance and put it well wide. In almost exactly the same position in the first half Séamus Callanan scored a point. It was a good day for Callanan. He’s a big man and has great skill and is very economical with the ball.

Declan Ryan and his management would have to be happy. Kelly, who I though was outstanding, and Corbett were top-class and he has Conor O’Mahony fit to come back into the team.

Defence, however, is the area that will provoke the most thinking from Ryan and his selectors – how to accommodate O’Mahony and Paudie Maher, who are both central players. John O’Keeffe can also play corner back and I’d be tempted to use Brendan Maher in defence when he’s recovered, to expand the options there.

Shane McGrath had to go off injured and that’s a concern. If you go through the league matches he was replaced in quite a few and it looks as if he’s becoming quite injury prone. Gearóid Ryan came into the game strongly in the second half and did a lot of work. I think he’ll stay in the position.

Cork can take positives out of this as well. They created plenty of chances – enough to win. Stephen McDonnell had a sound debut at cornerback, even if he struggled at times to clear the ball and Pa Cronin was outstanding in midfield, forcing Tipp onto the back foot at times.

Cronin was one of the best midfielders during the league and he maintained that form yesterday.

I was puzzled that Denis Walsh took off Pa Horgan and Paudie O’Sullivan, who always looked dangerous.

Going into this I felt that Cork’s “middle generation” of hurlers really needed to stand up and be counted: players like Horgan, Cronin and O’Sullivan. So the Cork management can be well pleased with that as all of them played well.

It depends how they respond to this in the qualifiers but I expect Cork to trouble a lot of teams yet.

From Tipperary’s point of view I think there’s more in the tank. They’ll be in Croke Park in August and if they maintain the sort of improvement they’ve managed in the past couple of years as the summer progresses, they’ll take a lot of beating by the end of the championship.

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