By Noel Dundon
Without a shadow of doubt, the big difference Tipperary and Cork in the big game on Sunday, was the ability to take goal chances.
Tipperary were presented with three clear cut chances and they took all three – the sources being Lar Corbett, Eoin Kelly and Benny Dunne.
Cork, on the other hand, had two very clear cut goal chances early on through Paudie O’Sullivan and Pat Horgan, and failed to take either. Imagine the difference to the tone and texture of the game had Cork managed to rattle Brendan Cummins’ net on two occasions in the first five minutes – it would certainly have left an already jittery defensive unit with much soul searching.
Instead, Tipperary were let off the hook and at the other end, when the chances materialised, they took them – Corbett and Kelly both showing why they are amongst the most feared attackers in the game.
In the cut and thrust of high octane championship action, a team will always look to it’s leaders to do the heavy lifting – Corbett and Kelly were those leaders on the day and they proved it again in the second half when they reversed the rot with points, after Cork had bagged seven on the trot.
Another aspect of the match, which will be pleasing to Tipperary supporters, is the coolness of the side when the tide was flowing against them in the second half. Having amassed a seven point half time advantage and watched it being whittled down to nothing between the 12th and 21st minutes of the second half, it would have been quite easy for Tipp to press the panic button and capitulate completely. They didn’t. Instead they were able to call on the bench and send James Woodlock, Conor O’Mahony and Benny Dunne into the fray as well as the impressive Pa Bourke later on who created two points for Seamus Callanan.
Yes, Tipperary’s experience was vital and while Cork might have had a wealth of maturity running through their side as well, it didn’t add up to the same total as Tipp’s store – the All-Ireland success in 2010 tipping the balance in the Premier County’s favour.
Experience counts for so much in the heat of battle. It’s the subtle incidents which make the difference – Callanan inviting a Cork foul in the 24th for Kelly to point; O’Mahony driving out against a Donal Og puckout in the 25th to set up Noel McGrath; Patrick Maher looking up to find men to finish off his good work; Pa Bourke holding possession until satisfied that a pass is on. These, and many more, are the small things which win games – Tipp, it seems have learned from their experience and matured as a team.
Tipp struck just five wides in the game – an indication that they are not shooting from impossible positions. Again, this shows a level of patience and calculated measure in the build-up. But, it also highlights the degree of movement and potency in the forward division with multiple options cropping up for the player in possession.
The key now is for Tipperary to push on again. Sunday’s win, welcome though it was, did highlight a few difficulties which need to be ironed out. Conceding ten points from frees inside your own half will not go unpunished as the championship continues. And, remember that Cork should probably have gone in front in the second half had they been more economical with possession. Tipp, from being in the driving seat, were suddenly passengers in a game they were hot favourites to win.
Giving up the initiative is not advisable – Tipp were seven up and full of fizz on two occasions in the game prior to Cork’s second half rally – before emerging nine point winners. The Cork surge was conceived in the half back and midfield sectors with their half forwards also chipping in for good measure.
Tipp were being somewhat over run and it was only when Lar Corbett came outfield as a running reader of the game, that the landscape began to change.
Credit to the Tipp management for the shrewd reshuffling they undertook. Shane McGrath’s departure was enforced, but Woodlock freshened the scene. Conor O’Mahony returned to centre back with a bit of fire and brimstone in his play, while Benny Dunne got the all important goal.
Pa Bourke set up two points upon his second arrival – he had been on as a blood sub for Lar in the first half and got five minutes while the running repairs were underway.
Declan Ryan, Michael Gleeson and Tommy Dunne will be very pleased to have leaped over a potential pitfall – thing is, within Tipperary, they were always expected to do so.