By Mark Jones
Cork 0-23, Tipperary 3-12
The summer of football shocks at last gave way to the summer of hurling style as Cork and Tipperary served up a vintage Munster hurling final Sunday. Admittedly, the first half at a jam-packed Semple Stadium mightn’t have been one for the history books, but this contest exploded into life after the interval with Cork surging to another provincial title and a guaranteed semifinal place in the All-Ireland series.
And it certainly wasn’t all gloom and doom for Tipp, who now step through the back door into the quarterfinals. Disappointment on the day no doubt, but the two-point winning margin was enough to suggest that the counties could well do battle again in Croke Park in September.
The losers’ shooting left something to be desired — 12 wides in the first half alone — and with the injured Declan Ryan missing from the attack, Tipp struggled to stay with Cork when the tempo increased. Equally, there was a below-par performance from John Leahy, who had starred in the earlier victories over Waterford and Clare.
Then there were two costly penalty misses, one in each half. Tommy Dunne blasted the first only for Diarmuid O’Sullivan to beat the ball away and when Leahy stepped up for the second, goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack smothered the shot.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Cork’s attack turned the game. Joe Deane had an outstanding match, hitting 0-10 (seven frees) and his touch and accuracy frequently had the Tipp defense in knots. Seanie McGrath and Ben O’Connor both found their hurling feet after the break, and although Philip Maher, Michael Ryan and Paul Ormonde put up stern resistance, man of the match Deane, along with McGrath and O’Connor, contributed 16 points between them.
Tipp had more of the possession early on, but they failed to take full advantage. There was Dunne’s penalty miss in the 11th minute after a high challenge by Cusack on Shelley, but when Eugene O’Neill drove home a goal, Cork had to respond with two quick points to make it level, 0-8 to 1-5 at the break.
In the second half, with Cork just a point in the clear, Fergal Ryan was deemed to have fouled O’Neill and referee Pat Horan awarded a second penalty. Leahy shouldered the responsibility, but failed to convert and all but the most blinkered of fans in the 55,000 crowd sensed that Tipp’s chance had gone.
Deane whipped over two points, Pat Ryan also obliged for a confident Cork and although the never-say-die Dunne cracked home his second goal with a blistering shot, Tipp were playing catch-up.
Leitrim 1-13, Roscommon 3-6
No one gave Leitrim a hope in last Sunday’s Connacht football semifinal at Hyde Park. Five championship newcomers, a team in transition against Roscommon who had made the League semifinal. Not a hope.
And there were no about turns in forecasting at halftime, by which stage Roscommon had plundered three goals and Leitrim were five points adrift. Gerry Lohan and Frankie Dolan had terrorized the Leitrim defense, both had found the net and John Gillooly had grabbed a third. The gaps were so big that, that Roscommon could have helped themselves to three more.
Yet it soon transpired that the imbalance had nothing to do with Roscommon’s collective skill. It was more because Leitrim were in the doldrums and when they emerged in more determined mood, the game shifted dramatically.
The margin steadily decreased and when Dermot Reynolds forced the ball home for a goal after a long ball in by Paul Kieran, Leitrim were level.
A Dolan point in the 51st minute put Roscommon back in front again, but there was no denying Leitrim now. Fintan McBrien and Kieran found the range and then Seamus Quinn finished the job a minute from time.
Derry 1-17, Antrim 2-5
No mistake this time. Caught napping in the first game, Derry swept past Antrim’s challenge in the last Sunday’s Ulster football semifinal replay at Casement Park. Not even the loss of inspirational captain Anthony Tohill with a hip injury early in the second half could prevent Derry from setting up a provincial decider against reigning champions Armagh.
With manager Eamonn Coleman banished to the stands following an eight-week suspension for criticism of a referee, Derry looked as if they had a point to prove. Clever running and incisive passing were the order of the day, while Dermot Heaney compensated for Tohill’s departure with a magnificent performance in midifeld.
"We were better prepared this time," said Coleman, and that was reflected by a goal from Paddy Bradley after just 20 seconds. Soon Antrim were six points down, but they hit back emphatically with goals by Peter McCann and Shenny McQuillan who fired home a penalty when Kevin Brady was fouled by Henry Downey.
At that stage, Derry would have been wondering if recent history was going to repeat itself. There were a few edgy wides, but the favorites eventually settled into a rhythm and by halftime, they were 1-9 to 2-1 in front.
The arrival of Joe Brolly and some superb shooting by Enda Muldoon saw Derry increase their lead to 10 points and go through to a fifth Ulster final since 1992.
Dublin 1-14, Westmeath 0-11
Hardly convincing, but Dublin are still through to another Leinster football final. Nine points clear at one stage, that was whittled back in the in the closing minutes leaving a few questions still unanswered about manager Tom Carr’s side.
The underdogs were off to a quick start with points from Joe Fallon and Des Dolan. However, Westmeath’s attack soon found itself well shackled. Ger Heavin was tied down by Jonathan McGee and Dolan was having an off-day, while only Martin Flanagan threatened.
Jason Sherlock, now approaching the sort of form that earned him in cult status in Dublin’s All-Ireland year of 1995, poached the game’s only goal with a clever take and shot, while the impressive Jim Gavin accounted for three points.