Cork began with purpose and brio, as if a place in yet another provincial final was theirs by right. They were fast, they were direct, and as Tipp appeared to be paralysed by an attack of big-day nerves, the home team led by seven, 1-8 to 0-4, after 23 minutes.
However, Tipp hung in, weathered that early storm, and once they found their feet thanks in the main to a sublime goal by Eoin Kelly, they managed to produce 40 minutes of hurling that was virtually unstoppable. It was as if the confidence that had seeped through the panel following their National League success overflowed in a welter of scores.
Trailing by one point at the interval, and then level with 20 minutes remaining, Tipp could sense that Cork were wilting. With Micheal Webster coming off the bench into full forward, they surged ahead as Kelly, Seamus Callinan, Eamonn Corcoran and Lar Corbett put clear water between the sides with some dynamic play.
Realising that his attack had all but dried up following a series of costly wides, Cork manager, Gerald McCarthy, re-jigged his full-forward line and threw Joe Deane into the fray, but to no avail. In fact, such was Tipp’s dominance, if the game had gone on a bit longer, the margin would have been even wider.
“We tried very hard to turn it around, but it didn’t happen for us,” said McCarthy. “There may be changes down the way. This bunch has been around a very long time, and their dedication has to be seen to be believed. Sean Og O hAilpin gave an absolute display of power hurling. These kind of players come around once in a lifetime, they did us proud really.”
If McCarthy was magnanimous, his Tipp counterpart, Liam Sheedy, was keen to keep things in perspective despite the rather large grin on his face. “Feet on the ground, we’ve won nothing yet,” he said. “But we finished very strong, and when we got the lead, we really kicked on. We had a lot of tight matches in the league campaign, and that stood to us.”
With center-back, Conor O’Mahony, and debutant Callinan catching the eye in particular, once again it was the gifted Kelly who probably turned the tide Tipp’s way with his first-half goal. Well shackled up to that point by Brian Murphy, he was fed a perfect low ball and even with the faultless Murphy in close attendance, he swivelled to blast a superb shot past Donal Cusack.
Tipp now await the winners of the Clare-Limerick tie in the final, and on the basis of this performance, they are not alone favourites to win a first Munster title since 2001, but they have shown themselves to be serious contenders for the All Ireland.
“I felt the intensity was good,” added Sheedy. “I we go the next day with the same application, we have a chance. Winning is a habit, nobody minds winning.”