By Brian McDonnell
DROM & Inch’s Seámus Callanan was like a wasp in a bottle on Sunday.
And, who could blame him.
Callanan had not started a championship game for Tipperary since last year’s qualifier against Wexford and had then missed out on the entire Allianz National League campaign due to a misfortunate shoulder injury.
Declan Ryan, however, remained steadfastly loyal to Callanan and that faith was repaid against Cork.
In his 14 appearances in a Tipperary jersey since Callanan made his debut against Cork in 2008 the Drom & Inch man had accounted for a whopping 6-22 from play, but it could be argued that Callanan’s performance on Sunday was his most accomplished to date. Seámus notched five points from play (three off his right and two off his left), but more significantly he destroyed Cork centre-back William Egan and led Tipp to a stunning eight-point win over their fierce rivals.
Lorrha’s Patrick Maher, who set up two goals (one for Lar Corbett and another for Benny Dunne), was certainly a candidate for the man of the match award, but no one will begrudge the popular Drom & Inch star following such a display.
Seámus Callanan contributed most handsomely of all to Tipp’s 3-22 to 0-23 win - Callanan helped himself to Tipp’s opening point of the afternoon, then smacked over a wonderful effort from distance, pushed Tipp into a 2-12 to 0-10 lead with the opening point of the second half and then closed out the Premier rout with two more superb efforts as this game ticked toward its inevitable conclusion.
When Cork fought back from seven points down at the interval to level matters (2-15 to 0-21) with 14 minutes to play the Rebels asked Tipperary a huge question. A question Declan Ryan’s men answered.
“There was a good breeze there,” Seámus Callanan explained.
“In the first half things started to go well for us, but we always knew that Cork were going to have their spell as well. They’re a great team Cork and any time they come to play us or we go to play them it’s always a great game. That was a factor. We knew they were going to have their good patch, but we came through strongly in the end thankfully.
“We never doubt ourselves. You can’t get worried.
“We look around and we have leaders on the field everywhere. So, we don’t have to look around for some lads to step up. You have to take the game by the scruff of the neck yourself really. Obviously to see them get back into the game and get a run of points it was hard, but we believe in ourselves and you have to believe in yourself to get through it in the end.
“You set out to win the game, that’s our job done now and we’re just concentrating on Clare now in three weeks’ time. That’s our next goal and we’ll prepare for that now come Tuesday night,” added an obviously relieved Seámus Callanan.
During last year’s surge to the All-Ireland title Callanan had seen his role reduced from a starter to impact substitute.
So, to start and star for Tipperary against Cork must have involved a fair degree of personal satisfaction.
“I was delighted,” Seámus Callanan said, “number one to get my place back and then to get a few scores.
“It helps with the confidence after a long lay-off and hopefully it will build onto the next day.
“Everyone chipped in there with great scores today and, overall, we’re happy with the team performance. We know there are things that we are going to have to work on again. We let Cork back into it there in the second half and we’re going to have to work on that in training for the next few weeks to get that right.”
Thurles’ Lar Corbett appeared for the 45th time in the blue and gold on Sunday.
In the first half he scored his 19th goal for Tipperary, then, early in the second half, he notched his 61st championship point. But it was Corbett’s 62nd which proved priceless.
After Cork scored seven consecutive points to level matters (2-15 to 0-21) with 14 minutes to play Tipperary looked to be in real trouble. That is until Corbett struck for a rousing point, a point which was added to by Eoin Kelly (free) and Noel McGrath; points which wrestled the initiative away from Cork.
“The boys showed great character out there,” a thirlled Lar Corbett told the assembled press corps in Semple Stadium.
“I suppose that when it came back to a draw there it was great to see it.
“It comes back down to the character of the team and experience. It’s just great to see it. You don’t really know where you are until you get to championship hurling. We got a good start and we got that good win there today, but we’re under no allusions. It’s only the first round of the championship and it’s a long year ahead.”
Corbett, the 2010 hurler of the year, was also eager to deflect all praise: “that’s just down to the character of the Tipperary team over the last couple of years. No matter who gets the score you know that there’s someone there to get it. It just shows the character of the fellas there that when we’re under pressure to get the score we can get it.
“Thank God we got them there today when we really needed it. The boys showed that character. It was out in midfield, it was in the half-forward line. Questions were asked and they were answered there today.”
Lar Corbett also highlighted the efforts of Patrick Maher who worked incredibly hard before setting up the Thurles man for his goal in the 28th minute of the opening half.
“I never played against a Cork team who don’t get a run on you. If it’s down in Cork or it’s in Thurles they always get a run on you.
“And, usually when they get a run on you they usually drive it home and you might not even get the result that you want on the day.
“But thank God the boys stood up there, they got a run on us, it looked like Cork were going to take it on the day, but fair play to the boys.
They stood up and one by one they worked it, worked it and worked it.
“It went back down to lads like (Patrick) ‘Bonnar’ Maher. If the rest of the Tipp players, including myself, could learn from him and the way he works so hard.
“The last three times we togged out against a Cork set-up in the league and in the championship we did not get a result. We knew that.
“We were under no allusions. We might have been favourites going into it, but that doesn’t guarantee you anything. We were favourites going in last year and we got a lesson.
“We are just trying to learn from it and thank God we got the result.
“There’s three weeks of a break now, we’re back out the next day and we’re under no allusions again. It’s going to be a tough task just to win any of the rest of the games.”