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Nicky English: Cork are finding a flow that makes them All-Ireland contenders - if they get that far

Another great weekend in both provinces leads me to believe Wexford will win Leinster

I was watching the match from Ennis in Larry Mackey’s and the Tipperary crowd were significantly outnumbered by the Cork support, who were completely exercised by Clare getting the 65 at the end. When one hand rather than two was raised, there was phenomenal excitement.

It seemed a little harsh on Waterford but the last thing the Rebel entourage wanted was Waterford on four points.

Regardless of the result, it was a fantastic match to watch and both teams were impressive, but the biggest message for me from the weekend was that the Cork genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

Moving into Semple Stadium, you could see the impact. The Town End was all Cork but so was the Killinan End. The Cork public is mobilised and the overall effect creates some atmosphere.


Mark Kehoe has been good for Tipperary so far and gamely put up a “welcome to Thurles” statement with a goal in under 20 seconds, and Tipp’s good start demanded a response.

Shane Barrett was strong at centre forward and Darragh Fitzgibbon showed well in the early stages for Cork, but things started to go astray for them later in the first half. A couple of passes from Declan Dalton didn’t go to hand and Séamus Harnedy hit a wide and so did Patrick Horgan.

After the previous week’s fireworks against Limerick, there was something not quite right about Cork in the first half. They lacked the devastating flow they brought to the game after half-time and Tipp were resilient and competed better than in any of the previous matches.

But just before half-time the flow picked up when Horgan and Harnedy got a couple of beautiful points and Alan Connolly struck for the goal. It looked ominous for Tipp and so it proved.

A quick look at what the teams had been scoring: Cork had averaged 32.5 whereas Tipp were on 24. That’s where Tipp stayed but Cork pushed on their average by 10.

When Cork were labouring a bit, Tipperary stayed in touch and landed some good scores, but when the match switched to higher gears they were lost. The second half was one-way traffic and the danger of Connolly hung like a storm cloud which broke in another hat-trick for him.

As anticipated, Tipperary had no answer to the pace of Cork: Connolly, Barrett, Fitzgibbon and then Shane Kingston off the bench scored points with his first four attempts.

Noel McGrath scored a point with potentially his last ever puck for the county but Tipperary were outclassed, outrun, and although they did their best, that red tide is going to take some stemming and Tipp simply don’t have the talent just now.

Who does? John Kiely and anyone else watching will feel uneasy about Cork’s accelerating form because this is an uprising. They have pace, momentum and a massive following. If they find their way through to Croke Park, nobody is going to want to have to play them. They are contenders. Things that held them back, like indiscipline, weren’t in evidence at all.

The other All-Ireland contenders will simply be hoping that they can’t get out. Clare can beat Tipperary and should Waterford draw with Limerick next week, that is Cork out. Odds probably favour them but the simple truth remains: if they get into the All-Ireland, they’ll probably win it but they mightn’t get there.

Ennis gave us an unbelievable match. Up and down the field with goals galore. Clare were outstanding, especially Shane O’Donnell and Mark Rodgers. The hand pass for Darragh Lohan’s goal from Rodgers must have been hit from the 65 to the 20m line.

His footwork and performance overall would have got him player of the match on most days but O’Donnell again was phenomenal. We should be enjoying him because this could well be his last season. He’s running the show for Clare.

Intelligence, pace and reading the game are his big assets but his finishing has also gone up a level. He is a national treasure.

I felt a little sorry for Waterford. They showed resilience all the way through, hitting back at Clare with some fantastic scores. I wouldn’t underestimate them against Limerick next week, which could leave the champions in trouble.

The focus on Munster looked again justified, as Kilkenny struggled to beat Dublin, intensifying the question marks after they dropped a point to Carlow, who were overwhelmed by Wexford.

When I saw Wexford against Waterford in the league, I was impressed and feel confident enough to say that I think they will win Leinster. There’s another week to go and both provinces are up in the air. It would be hard to ask for more at this stage.