Cork and Tipperary was nearly everything I expected. Fireworks and relentless scoring, going all the way to the wire amid mounting excitement and scores. A game like that takes on a life of its own and it was hard to keep track of scores – especially in injury time. Overall, the teams alternated the impressive with the distinctly average.
If there was a team to be disappointed, it was Tipperary. At various stages they were in firm control. Coming right down the stretch with five minutes left, they were five points clear and actually got a goal and would have had another but for a fantastic save by Pa Collins.
They maintained their momentum from Ennis but again their Achilles heel was the concession rate – 4-19 is a huge score to absorb.
At the end of it I can’t figure out if a point is good for both sides. It’s better than nothing but certainly doesn’t clarify the picture in Munster. Worryingly for Tipp, they lost Jason Forde in the first half to a hamstring injury and I’d be surprised if he makes an appearance in the last two round-robin matches.
Although Gearóid O’Connor slotted in seamlessly on the frees, Forde would be a huge loss in the coming weeks. On the other side, Robbie O’Flynn, who was only just back for Cork, got injured in the act of scoring a goal. He too would be a serous loss.
Coincidentally, both replacements had a significant impact. Mark Kehoe was dangerous all through and finished with 1-4, and Shane Kingston – together with another bench option, Tim O’Mahony – did as much as anyone to get Cork back into it. Food for thought for both managers.
In the first half Tipp were almost totally dominant except for a mad phase at the start when Cork could have had three goals but took only one. Patrick Horgan and Brian Roche had equally good chances that weren’t converted. Put together with the three goals in Ennis, this looked ominous for Tipperary.
But that was the end of that for nearly the entire remainder of the half and Cork were ultimately glad to get another in injury-time, however questionable the number of steps. They were very fortunate to go in just two points behind because of the amount of play Tipp had.
Noel McGrath was dictating matters in the middle of the field. Séamus Kennedy and Alan Tynan were rampant in the same middle third. Cork were out of it.
Both teams could take something out of the match. Cork advanced further evidence of enhanced resilience or fight – in the rising mayhem of the second half they survived and avoided defeat.
Tipperary confirmed they have successfully integrated some really talented young players, notably Bryan O’Mara and Tynan. Even off the bench they are getting impact. An improving package.
They still can’t afford to be conceding as much as they are. In some respects it’s hard to understand why that is happening – unless the yellow cards for Cathal Barrett and Ronan Maher were an inhibiting influence in the later stages.
For most of the match the defence were well on top. Cork came at them in waves in the frantic conclusion and I’m not sure if I were Liam Cahill that I would feel the need to abandon the defensive formation just yet.
Overall I make it advantage Tipp – slightly. They are unbeaten on the road and their remaining matches, against Limerick and Waterford, are in Thurles but Cork have to go to the Gaelic Grounds and Ennis.
In the bigger picture, Limerick won’t get it easy against either of these teams and after two rounds, the champions are actually out of the top three because of Saturday’s draw and the head-to-head with Clare, whose stock I think has been enhanced by what we’ve seen since that disastrous spell against Tipperary on the opening weekend.
Earlier in Croke Park, the contest between Dublin and Wexford was equally intense but for lower stakes. All either want is to get out of Leinster in third place. It was a competition within a competition.
Dublin were the better team, if purely on the basis of economy. Wexford had 19 wides. Down the stretch they came back hard but, although they levelled it, they couldn’t get ahead.
Donal Burke is a class forward and he took some great scores. The free to win it – effectively the last one that put them two ahead and meant Wexford had just seconds to find a goal rather than an equaliser – was a monster score.
Wexford now have to win against Kilkenny. I know they did so this last year but at present they are off their best – hardly surprising given the nagging injuries to a number of their players. In the rush hour of the current fixtures schedule there’s no real time for recovery.