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Did the real Cork win?

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The winners of last Sunday’s engrossing Munster final, and their legions of supporters, are still not sure what to make of events at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Perhaps Cork manager John Allen’s admission that he was “relieved” at the end summed up the bitter-sweet reaction to this victory over traditional rivals Tipperary.
Strange that anyone could feel a sense of relief when his team had led by a massive 11 points at half time. In truth, Cork should have slammed the door shut after an imperious opening 35 minutes, but they let Tipp back into the contest, and if a turnaround was never truly on the cards, the closing stages were too fraught for comfort.
That was Cork last Sunday. Graceful and clinical one moment, hesitant the next. Credit to Tipp for the way they pulled themselves off the canvas when other sides would have gone quietly.
They were dejected and demoralized at the interval following a torrent of Cork scores, and still they demonstrated that all is far from lost heading into the qualifiers.
“It was hard to lift our heads,” said manager Ken Hogan, “but we decided at half time to restore pride for our people and for Tipperary hurling and for the youngsters coming along. We salute Cork for winning, great people, great ambassadors for hurling, but we’re delighted that we restored some lost pride.”
In essence, that was all Tipp had to play for during the second half. They were reduced to bystanders for much of the opening period, and a humiliation appeared to be the most likely outcome. Not even the departure of Brian Corcoran with a shoulder injury in the 13th minute could dampen Cork’s spirit.
With John Gardiner inspired at the back, and with Joe Deane causing the Tipp defense all manner of problems it was 1-13 to 0-5 at the changeover.
“It was a bizarre game,” shrugged Allen. “I should be feeling ecstatic but we were so good in the first half, I was saying to myself “when is it going to go wrong? I’m relieved that it’s over, but bizarre is the word that would describe it.”
Hogan’s changes just before the break, which saw Hugh Moloney and Redser O’Grady introduced instead of David Kennedy and Francis Devenney, certainly made a difference to Tipp’s fortunes. But quite why Tipp waited so long to alter a line-up that was being ravaged was hard to fathom.
With Tipp’s rearguard looking much more solid, they contrived to win the last 34 minutes by 1-11 to 0-7, hence Allen’s relief and Hogan’s positive gloss. But the real damage had been done during a first-half exhibition that was as good as the All Ireland champions can muster.
Cork watched for a couple of minutes as Eoin Kelly and his brother Paul bagged a pair of points apiece in the opening exchanges, and then they went to work.
With Sean Og O hAilpin, Ronan Curran and Gardiner dominating from half-back, Niall Ronan, who had come on for Corcoran, Ben O’Connor and Deane soon had the scoreboard ticking.
There was an element of chance about the goal in the 17th minute when Kieran Murphy’s lofted ball beat both Tipp keeper Brendan Cummins as well as Deane and continued unhindered into the net.
Yet, luck was certainly not the reason for Cork’s overwhelming superiority, and while the losers’ cause was not helped when Donal Cusack saved Eoin Kelly’s penalty after Diarmuid O’Sullivan had fouled Michael Webster, they had no answer to their opponents’ pace and precision.
At 1-13 to 0-5, it seemed as the game was over as a contest, but all was not well in the Cork dressing room.
“We certainly didn’t feel as if we were after winning it at half time,” said Allen.
“At the end of the first half, I felt we were showboating again.” As for captain O hAilpin, he could sense that Tipp had not been finished off.
“We told fellas to get ready for the onslaught because they’re a proud hurling county. We knew they wouldn’t give it up easy. We’ll have to assess our performance in the second half, but you’re better off winning with work to do.”
Re-energized, Tipp were a different team after the interval. Webster, O’Grady and another sub, John Devane, began to make inroads into the Cork defense, and with the Kelly brothers picking off their scores, Tommy Dunne scrambled the ball through for a vital goal in the 62nd minute.
When Eoin Kelly fired over a superb point, Cork’s lead was down to just four points with six minutes left.
“What actually pleased me about the second half,” explained O hAilpin, “was that when they put us under serious pressure we got a point to give us some breathing space.”
This time Ben O’Connor and Murphy calmed Cork’s nerves with a couple of scores, and the men in red were celebrating a 50th Munster title.
Meanwhile, in Group One of the qualifiers, Limerick crushed Antrim by 4-25 to 1-9 at Casement Park. Donie Ryan, with two, TJ Ryan and Andrew O?Shaughnessy were on target with goals for the winners.

ARMAGH 1-11 DERRY 0-10
Thrills, not too many. Spills, surprisingly few for an Ulster football semi-final. It was set up nicely at Casement Park last Sunday. Sunshine, 28,000 spectators in the ground, and a revitalized Derry ready to take on the provincial champions.
Instead, the game turned out to be something of a tepid affair.
Armagh did enough to book their place against Tyrone, and crucially they scored the only goal when sub John Toal finished to the net in the 17th minute of the second half after Aaron Kernan’s shot had been blocked.
As for Derry, they are still ruing a total of 14 wides.
With the threat of trouble simmering just below the surface, referee Michael Monahan, was keeping the players on an extremely tight leash. In the end, he flashed the yellow card 10 times, but no one was sent on the long walk.
While Armagh struggled to find their best rhythm – they had to look to subs Tony McEntee and Toal for inspiration – Derry needed Enda Muldoon to be more on his game, however, the usually reliable attacker looked too much like a player on the way back from injury.
Derry were in control for long periods of the first half as Paddy Bradley, Eoin Bradley and Mark Lynch put the Armagh defenders under intense pressure.
But for all their possession, Derry still turned over trailing by 0-6 to 0-4. “We missed at least six or seven chances,” said manager Mickey Moran, “and we could have been ahead at half time. We’re down in the dumps and hurting big-time. Last year we had no excuses, but this time we can say a little bit of luck didn’t go with us.”
The sides were level at 0-7 apiece 13 minutes into the second half, but then in a brief spell following the introduction of McEntee and Toal, Armagh scored 1-3 without reply.
Joe Kernan, who watched the action from the stand as he was serving a one-match touchline ban, agreed that the pair made a major impact from off the bench.
“It shows the caliber of boys we have that they can take a disappointment – and it’s a big disappointment not to start for this team – and then to come on and show what they can do.”

All Cavan’s chickens came home to roost. Everyone, bar their most staunch supporters, reckoned that if they were not able to beat Tyrone the first time, they would not have a prayer in the replay, and so it panned out at Clones last
Saturday where Tyrone easily secured a place in the Ulster decider against Armagh. Having battled superbly to survive in the drawn game, Cavan had precious little left in the tank as Tyrone took complete charge in the second half.
Inspired by Peter Canavan, who was back to his best with 1-7, the winners struggled to impose themselves during the first half, but despite Cavan’s best efforts, they still managed to hit three goals.
Stephen O’Neill, who finished with 1-5, fired home the first after Canavan had won a penalty, and then Canavan himself got in the act before he set up Philip Jordan for the third which made it 3-4 to 0-4 at the interval.
“We were flattered to be leading by that much,” admitted manager Mickey Harte, “because we weren’t nine points a better team.”
With Jason O’Reilly and Larry Reilly uncharacteristically off form with their shooting, Cavan were powerless to prevent Tyrone from surging clear at the start of the second half. They struck for five unanswered points, with O’Neill scoring two, and soon Cavan were 15 points down with half an hour remaining.
There was one game last weekend in the All Ireland football qualifiers with Donegal as expected getting the better of Wicklow by 0-16 to 0-12 at Aughrim.
However, it was never plain sailing for the Ulster county as they only led by two points going into injury time.
Meanwhile, the draw for the second round of the qualifiers has been made with the following matches scheduled for this weekend:
Monaghan v Wexford, Carlow v Limerick, Sligo v Kildare, Louth v Roscommon, Donegal v Cavan, Down v Derry, Westmeath v Clare, Leitrim v Meath.

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