By Brian McDonnell
SUNDAY’S pulsating clash with Cork proved once more the ability of the Tipperary players to think straight when push comes to shove.
Although Tipperary led 2-11 to 0-10 at the break Cork recovered and levelled matters with 14 minutes to play - 2-15 to 0-21. With a gale at their backs Cork were now favourites to force their way into a Munster semi-final against Clare on Sunday, June 19, but Declan Ryan’s Tipperary wrestled the initiative away from the Rebels in emphatic fashion before racing to a 3-22 to 0-23 win at Semple Stadium.
“I think the performance the players came up with there today was fantastic and I’m very proud of all the players,” a delighted Declan Ryan told the Tipperary Star.
“That was a culmination of a lot of work that they have put in there since January so I’m delighted for the players,” Ryan added.
“The most pleasing thing about the game today was that we hurled very well there in the first half. We got a couple of goals and we were a few points up at half time, but the most pleasing thing about the game was the way we came back.
“We held our nerves and we didn’t panic. I think that shows a lot of the character that is in this team. We are very lucky in Tipp at the moment that we have players of such character.”
The Rebels scored seven points without reply in the second the half, but Ryan refused to accept that fact as an indictment of this Tipperary team: “any time Tipp and Cork play you always know that it is going to be a fairly close match and we were expecting a huge challenge from Cork coming up today. We knew they would be very well prepared under Denis Walsh and his team and it wasn’t anything more or less than we expected”.
Ryan also indicated that he expected Shane McGrath, withdrawn with an injury in the second half, to be fit to face Clare before highlighting the contribution of second half substitute Conor O’Mahony. The half-back line struggled to cope with Cork prior to the appearance of O’Mahony - the introduction of the Newport man in place of David Young allowed Pádraic Maher’s move to right wing-back, a switch which propelled Tipp toward a stunning eight-point win.
“I think he (Conor O’Mahony) did himself no harm at all there when he came on,” explained Declan Ryan.
“To be fair to Conor he had been a little bit sick there over the past couple of weeks and he was carrying a little bit of an injury, but when he came on there I think he proved what a fine man he is. He stood into that position there at number six and he drove the whole thing forward. I’m really delighted for him because he has worked hard.”
Tipperary’s goal-scoring ability also caught the eye. After Cork fought their way into a 0-7 to 0-6 lead in the first half Tipp responded with 2-3 in a devastating seven-minute spell.
“I suppose if you give Lar (Corbett) and Eoin (Kelly) a chance there in front of goal they are going to take it,” Ryan said with a smile.
“They’re fantastic ball strikers and I suppose Dónal Óg (Cusack) had no chance with them. But I’m thrilled for the team, for the back room team, for Tommy Dunne, for Michael Gleeson and for Cian O’Neill. They have put in a huge lot of work with these guys, preparing them and it was great to see that in action there today.”
Ryan also spared a thought for a Cork side which obviously impressed him: “I think Cork can take a lot of positives out of the game today as well. They were tremendous there for most of the second half and they are certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with in the championship yet”.
It was hard to draw a smile out of distraught Cork manager Denis Walsh, however: “In fairness to Tipp you would have to say that they were excellent. They really drove on when the thing was in the melting pot. They really drove on and I would have to congratulate them. If we were playing a lesser team today I have no doubt that we would have put them away”.