We’ve learned to like the ball again – O’Shea
Tipperary 3-25 Cork 4-1
MARTIN BREHENY – PUBLISHED 31 MARCH 2014 02:30 AM
What was all the fuss about? In the space of a week, Tipperary have progressed from glancing over their shoulder to check the proximity of relegation’s grim reaper to booking in for a league semi-final clash with Clare on April 20.
The All-Ireland champions thumped Tipperary a few weeks ago and will, no doubt, be driven by an equally fierce determination next time, but they can expect a very different response from opposition whose confidence levels will have risen sharply after wins over Dublin and Cork.
The requirements in those games were different and so were the performances.
It took a lot of hard graft and sheer doggedness to dislodge Dublin whereas it was more about creativity and pace in Semple Stadium yesterday. Tipperary had both in glorious abundance, taking them to an impressive return of 3-25, a yield which could have been even higher.
They missed quite a few good chances but could afford to against a Cork team that was equally intent on shooting their way to success. Both defences were stretched to breaking point at times, a negative which Eamon O’Shea and Jimmy Barry-Murphy will no doubt address in the coming weeks.
Cork will have to do it all on the training ground in preparation for theirMunster championship opener against Waterford on May 25, but O’Shea will get an earlier opportunity to reassess the defensive operation against Clare.
O’Shea acknowledged that the concession rate remained consistently high (“I don’t have the answer to that right now”) but also had the look of a man who liked what he saw in many facets of Tipperary’s play.
“The pleasing thing today was that we were trying to play the ball to the right areas. We did a lot of work on that on the training pitch over the last two weeks to get us to like the ball again. When you like the ball you can do anything with it,” he said.
Tipperary certainly liked it in the opening eight minutes when they hit Cork for an unanswered 2-4, the goals coming from Denis Maher (first minute) and Noel O’Meara (seventh minute).
It looked at that stage as if Cork’s campaign in the less intense environs of Division 1B had left them ill-prepared for the step up, but once Patrick Horgan got them off the mark from a free in the 10th minute, the transformation was quick and effective.
Between then and half-time they outscored Tipperary by 3-11 to 1-5 to lead by two points. Two goals from Seamus Harnedy (12th and 15th minutes) and a 32nd-minute strike by Anthony Nash from a 20-metre free were accompanied by a string of long and short-range points in what was a very encouraging period for Cork.
Tipperary lined up four defenders to assist goalkeeper Darragh Egan against Nash’s missile but were beaten by a strike where the point of contact was no more than 12 metres from the goal line.
Nash appears to have refined his metre-grabbing routine even more this year, gaining at least an extra step on an already advanced run-in.
Tipperary regained the balance of power in the third quarter, outscoring Cork by 0-10 to 0-3 to lead by five points after 51 minutes, a margin which still prevailed after 65 minutes.
However, the drama was far from completed and when Horgan pounced for Cork’s fourth goal, their supporters in the 6,615 crowd had renewed hope.
All the more so when the margin was down to a point ticking into stoppage time before Noel McGrath and John O’Dwyer, man of the match with 1-7 from open play, added points.
Cork had one last opportunity to send the game into extra-time when Nash galloped forward for another 20-metre free. He gained almost as much ground as with the first-half effort but the strike wasn’t as powerful and a massed Tipperary defence made the block.
It was the last act of a most enjoyable game which will have done much to restore Tipperary self-belief. While Cork were disappointed to lose after recovering so well from a dismal start, they left Semple Stadium with plenty of positives.
Selector Seanie McGrath put Cork’s dishevelled opening down the adjustment required against 1A opposition.
“There’s a gap between 1A and 1B and our poor start was probably down to that. Tipp’s intensity was high and we also found it hard to deal with the their speed and movement. Fair play, the lads stood up for themselves – they were the ones who did it. They knuckled down and made a great fightback,” he said.
Cork’s revival presented Tipperary with their own challenges and they too responded in a manner which pleased O’Shea, who insisted all along that there wasn’t anything wrong that a win or two couldn’t solve.
“I know it didn’t look good from the outside when we were losing matches but the spirit was always very good. It was the same today. It wasn’t the perfect performance but the good thing was that they played some nice hurling. It’s the way the way we want to play the game,” he said.
O’Shea was also delighted with the leadership qualities displayed by the team when Cork really put it up to them.
“The most pleasing thing was that the lads sorted things out themselves on the pitch. People like to think of managers doing this, that or the other on the line but we’re not that powerful really.
“The players deserve great credit for the way they sorted things out when they had to,” he added.
The other semi-finalists, Clare, Galway and Kilkenny, all beat Tipperary this season which offered O’Shea the chance to play down their prospects.
However, there’s no doubt that if they can improve the defensive security – a process which will be enhanced by the return of Padraic Maher – their high-yield front-line are capable of racking up enough scores to worry any opposition.
“We have to defend better, stop goals going in and keep our consistency. We weren’t consistent; we were up and down,” said O’Shea.
“There were lots of lessons, so many lessons we’ll be learning for the next three weeks, but it’s nice to have something to aim for. That’s the main thing. It keeps everybody engaged but we’re just happy to be here, in the last four.”
As for Cork, they signed off in a reasonably contented mood, believing that the league campaign had served its basic purpose.
“Our target at the start of the year was to win promotion and find a few players. We’ve done that. We’d have liked to have another game but we can have no complaints about today,” said mcGrath.
“The result was disappointing but the overall performance was excellent, especially coming from 10 points down. The character was immense – we couldn’t be happier with it.”
Scorers – Tipperary: J O’Dwyer 1-7, S Callanan 0-8 (0-3fs, 1 ’65’), D Maher 1-1, N O’Meara 1-0, N McGrath, J Woodlock, S Bourke 0-2 each, K Bergin, B Maher, C O’Brien 0-1 each. Cork: P Horgan 1-8 (0-5fs, 1’65’), S Harnedy 2-0, A Nash 1-0 (f), C Lehane, J Coughlan 0-3 each, D Kearney 0-2, K Burke, P Cronin, W Egan 0-1 each.
Tipperary – D Egan 6; P Stapleton 7, C O’Mahony 7, C O’Brien 7; J Barry 6, B Maher 8, T Stapleton 7; K Bergin 7, J Woodlock 7; D Maher 7, N McGrath 8, J O’Dwyer 9; S Bourke 6, S Callanan 8, N O’Meara 7. Subs: R Maher 7 for O’Mahony (h-t), J Forde 5 for O’Meara (53), L McGrath 5 for Bourke (61), E Kelly for D Maher (66), J O’Brien for Callanan (71).
Cork – A Nash 7; E Keane 7, D Cahalane 6, K Burke 6; L McLoughlin 6, C Joyce 6, W Egan 6; D Kearney 7, P Haughney 5; B Lawton 6, S Harnedy 8, P Cronin 7; P Horgan 6, C Lehane 7, J Coughlan 6. Subs: R O’Shea 6 for Lawton (49), C McCarthy 5 for P Haughney (60), A Cadogan 5 for Coughlan (61).
Ref – B Kelly (Westmeath)