Bord Gáis Energy
Munster Under-21 Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Tipperary 5-19 Cork 2-13
Ken Hogan captured the mood beautifully. Speaking in the aftermath of Tipperary’s fifteen-point win over Cork at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Wednesday evening Hogan railed against those who might question the heart of Tipperary hurlers. And, the Lorrha man insisted that “there is still life in us”.
Following the trials of the senior side Tipperary hurling people needed to hear those words. And, Tipperary hurling people needed to see their under-21 hurlers go about their work in a robust and enterprising manner. Tipperary needed a lift, badly. And, Ken Hogan’s under-21 hurlers delivered.
Since 1964, when the Munster under-21 hurling championship was first inaugurated, only on three occasions (1966, 1977, 1994) have Tipperary failed to make a minor, under-21 or senior provincial final in a given year. There was a very real danger of that materialising this year, that is until Tipperary out-classed a poorly-prepared Cork side at Semple Stadium.
Cork, of course, had their moments. Initially Tipperary streaked into a 2-9 to 0-5 lead, but some sloppiness on the part of the Premier either side of the break allowed the Rebels to reduce the margin to just one point (2-9 to 1-11) by the 32nd minute. Tipperary, however, settled to their work once more and hit 2-8 without reply in a devastating twenty-minute spell.
In all this was a more than satisfactory display. The team featured a neat blend of workers, ball winners, man markers and sweet strikers. Indeed, this Tipperary side is as structurally sound as you could hope for with Andrew Ryan, Tomás Hamill and Séamus Kennedy in excellent form while corner-back Michael Breen was, once more, outstanding. Jason Forde and Bill Walsh enjoyed fine outings upfront while Niall O’Meara, a relentless force throughout, was fully deserving of the Bord Gáis Energy man of the match award.
Tipperary dominated from the outset with a Niall O’Meara point getting the home side off the mark in the second minute before a Tomás Hamill’s clearance found Aidan McCormack who wrong-footed his man and the Cork full-back before sending Bill Walsh clean through on goal. Walsh finished coolly and Tipperary led 1-1 to no-score.
Conor Lehane responded for Cork in the fifth minute, but the Rebels were finding it hard to find their feet in the game, especially at half-forward. Indeed, a Jason Forde free and a classy over-the-shoulder effort from the ‘Mines man forced Tipperary into a 1-3 to 0-1 lead.
In the 11th and 13th minutes respectively Aidan McCormack and Brian Murray traded efforts before a Jason Forde point left six between them as early as the 14th minute.
Jamie Coughlan, in a reasonable illustration of their anxiety, opted to go for goal from a 21-yard free in the 17th minute, but ‘keeper Darragh Mooney made a smart stop before Brian Murray swept over Cork’s third point while a Jamie Coughlan free left four between them (1-5 to 0-4) by the 20th minute.
Even at this early stage Tipperary were utterly dominant. That said the Premier had already fired five wides and dropped the ball into the hands of Patrick Collins in the Cork goal on three occasions. Tipperary needed to improve on a meagre thirty-eight per cent shot efficiency rate. And, they did so. In the 21st minute Jason Forde converted a free and a minute later the ‘Mines man raced onto a ball broken by Aidan McCormack before beating the Cork ‘keeper with a low right-handed effort - 2-6 to 0-4.
Rob O’Shea responded for Cork, but Tipperary were flying now with points from Niall O’Meara, Liam McGrath and another Jason Forde free handing the home side a 2-9 to 0-5 advantage by the 27th minute.
Sadly a distinct sloppiness crept into the hurling of the Tipperary lads prior to the break. Indeed, Cork hit six without reply. Rob O’Shea launched this onslaught in the 28th minute before Jamie Wall added to the tally. Then it was the turn of Jamie Coughlan to convert three placed balls before Mark Sugrue smacked over another point in the 33rd minute to leave four between them (2-9 to 0-11) at the break.
Two minutes into the second half Tipperary supporters were shifting uncomfortable in their seats when Mark Sugrue grabbed a Jamie Coughlan cross and buried a left-handed shot - 2-9 to 1-11.
Now was the time to roll up the sleeves and Tipperary, thankfully, did so. Tomás Hamill and Michael Breen set the tone with some storming defending, Justin Cahill emerged as a force in the middle of the field and Niall O’Meara started to dominate Cork senior Christopher Joyce. Indeed, O’Meara won a terrific ball in the 34th minute and fired over a point which seemed to change the mood of this encounter entirely. A minute later Jason Forde blocked down Joyce and Bill Walsh fired over a great point to leave three between them (2-11 to 1-11).
Following points from Brian Stapleton, Jason Forde (free) and Liam McGrath Tipperary led 2-14 to 1-11 by the 39th minute. Seconds later Tipperary found themselves nine points clear when Bill Walsh struck for a third goal. Once more a Premier move featured some resolute defending, a rousing clearance, unselfish work from second half substitute John McGrath and a clever pass to Walsh. The Carrick man still had plenty to do, but rounded the full-back in bustling fashion before beating Patrick Collins with a smashing right-handed finish.
In the 42nd minute John McGrath left ten between them when the Loughmore-Castleiney man fired over a point despite shooting off his knees. Two minutes later Bill Walsh was pulled down for a penalty which Jason Forde converted while points from Forde (free) and Justin Cahill opened a five-goal gap (4-17 to 1-11) by the 50th minute.
Cork’s Jamie Coughlan elected to go for goal from a placed ball fully thirty metres from goal which the Tipp defence dealt with it before Christopher Joyce notched his side’s first point in twenty minutes to leave fourteen between the sides in the 52nd minute.
Tipperary’s fifth goal materialised in the 53rd minute when Tommy Heffernan rounded his man and beat Cork ‘keeper Patrick Collins with a rasping right-handed shot from a tight angle. Jason Forde added a free in the 56th minute and Tipp now led 5-18 1-12.
Darragh Mooney, who looked more than assured in the Tipp goal throughout, made a neat save to deny Jamie Wall a goal in the 57th minute, but the Éire Óg Annacarty ‘keeper was helpless to deny Cork’s Cian Buckley in the 58th minute. On the hour mark Rob O’Shea added to the Cork tally while it was fitting that man of the match Niall O’Meara had the final say in the matter with a point in the 61st minute.
Tipperary: Darragh Mooney (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Andrew Ryan (Toomevara), Michael Breen (Ballina), Séamus Kennedy (St Mary’s Clonmel), Tomás Hamill (Killea), Joe O’Dwyer (Killenaule), Justin Cahill (Kilruane MacDonagh’s, 0-1), Brian Stapleton (Templederry Kenyons, 0-1), Jason Forde (Silvermines, 2-8, 0-6 frees, 1-0 penalty), Niall O’Meara (Kilruane MacDonagh’s, captain, 0-4), Tommy Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg, 1-0), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-2), Bill Walsh (Carrick Swans, 2-1), Aidan McCormack (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1). Subs: (35th) John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-1) for Aidan McCormack, (50th) Colin O’Riordan (JK Bracken’s) for Liam McGrath, (55th) Conor Kenny (Borris-Ileigh) for Bill Walsh.
Cork: Patrick Collins, Colm Spillane, Patrick O’Mahony, Diarmuid Lester, Daniel O’Mahony, Christopher Joyce (0-1), Damien Cahalane, Brian Murray (0-2), Rob O’Shea (0-3), Daire Lordan, Jamie Coughlan (0-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ’65), Conor Lehane (0-1), Alan Cadogan, Jamie Wall (0-1), Brian Hartnett. Subs: (27th) Mark Sugrue (1-1) for Daire Lordan, (38th) Nicky Kelly for Alan Cadogan, (44th) Stephen Murphy for Patrick O’Mahony, (50th) Kevin Kavanagh for Brian Murray, (52nd) Cian Buckley (1-0) for Brian Harnett.
Referee: Shane Hourigan (Limerick).