By Noel Dundon
Tipp Manager Ken Hogan was as galant in defeat as he has been in victory – very typical of the man and the kind of ethos he espouses amongst his players. How heartening it was to see Tipperary’s hurlers exchanging handshakes and good wishes with their Rebel counterparts when the dust had settled after referee Michael Wadding (Waterford) had called a halt to proceedings. In spite of their disappointment , the Tipp hurlers were men enough to accept their fate with the kind of dignity rightly associated with The Premier County. Standing in the tunnel under Ardain Ui Chuinneain Ken Hogan too extended his congratulations to Cork and offered no excuses for Tipperary’s failure in their bid to defend the Munster and All-Ireland crowns annexed by his star studded side of 2010.
“No, we have no excuses tonight. We are disappointed, naturally enough, but we don’t have any excuses. Cork were that bit sharper and hungrier on the night and they showed that they have a conveyor belt of talent coming through. They had four or fove guys involved in the Cork senior team and they worked really well for them. I suppose we had the senior experience last year – they had it this year and it showed in the end. Their top players hurled to their potential and their forwards were really lethal. When they got chances they took them. We had our chances as well but unfortunately they didn’t work out for us,” Ken told The Tipperary Star.
However, while acknowledging how accomplished the Cork lads were on the night, Ken was also quick to praise his own charges for their attitude and for the huge efforts they have put in by way of preparation for the championship. “ We have tremendous guys on the panel who have worked hard right throughout the year. They knew that they were not as fancied as last year and they even worked harder as a result to try and make up for that. The experience of tonight will stand to those players though – there are a lot of 19 and 20 year olds in the squad and they will learn from that for next year and later on as well,” Ken said. The former Allstar goalkeeper and All-Ireland senior hurling medal winner in 1989 and 1991 was conscious of the need to shore up a porous defence. However, even the use of Noel McGrath at centre back failed to have the desired affect and Cork hit Tipp for four goals on the night and could perhaps have had a few more besides. They exposed the defence and used all the space afforded in Semple Stadium to stretch the backline to breaking point. Cork hurled with smartness and the stamp of that former goal poacher supreme Ger Fitzgerald, now trapsing up and down the tramlines as Manager of the U-21’s, could be seen all over the side – a contender perhaps for the senior hot seat on Leeside, if politics are left aside?
“We have been trying to patch up the backline all year. We brought Noel McGrath back to centre back tonight and he had an outstanding game, but it just goes to show you cannot plug all the leaks. At the end of the day that bit of knowhow that Cork had, showed and to hit 4-19 in a game is a fair indication of their strength. 4-17 from play is some cutting and they played the game very clever really – they negated our goal threats and were prepared to foul our lads 25 yards out where there was no goal threat – that was smart business on their part, in fairness,” Ken said.