From a Cork perspective…Cork vs. Tipp

There is one all-important question in Gaelic Hurling – how do you beat Kilkenny? Anthony Daly’s answer, as we will see this Saturday, is that you can only beat them by joining them, by matching their intensity and imitating their swarm tactics. Liam Sheedy seeked something similar, with added emphasis on movement and pace to beat what has been historically seen as a Kilkenny defence susceptible to being run at. Evidently Offaly’s Diarmuid Healy believes ground hurling – and just moving the ball as fast as possible – is the way to un-do Kilkenny, a style akin to how Wexford competed with Kilkenny in Leinster in the mid-00s.

One may ask why I am talking about Kilkenny in an article on Munster hurling, but such are the cat’s presence in hurling that they loom greatly even over Sunday’s game. After all, the last team to beat Kilkenny in a truly important match was Tipperary, and as such its towards Tipp that most hurling fans look to make the sport really competitive again. More importantly for us though, this is Cork’s first game post-league final, where we were destroyed by a rampant Kilkenny side, and where we will see what it was Cork’s management learnt from that game, or more precisely how it is Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Ger Cunningham think they can beat Kilkenny. With this question in mind, the Cork team and panel selected for Sunday is illuminating. 

Rather then imitate Kilkenny (and Dublin) JBM has decided that we were defeated in the league final simply because our hurling wasn’t quick enough. We got bogged down with the ball in hand not because we weren’t strong enough, but because the ball should have been moving up the pitch before Kilkenny’s swarm tactics kicked in. This isn’t a strange solution to the quandary that faces every inter-county hurling team – after all the emphasis from the start of the year for Cork has been on quicker, more intelligent hurling while the whole concept of ‘greyhounds over elephants’ has been bandied about in the media in every article involving Cork hurling. Very simply, says JBM and Ger Cunningham, we need better hurlers, not bigger ones. 

Sunday’s panel makes that clear. Out are physical but not exceptionally talented hurlers like Brian Corry and Ross Cashman, and in are physically middling but classy players like Steven Moylan, Daniel Kearney and Killian Murphy. The team itself shows the same trend – Steven McDonnell, a aggressive but erratic hurler, is replaced by the stylish Conor O’Sullivan, while speedster Cathal Naughton has been picked over the powerful Cian McCarthy and Lorcan McLoughlin has been picked before John Gardiner to partner Sweetnam at midfield. The only exception here is the picking of Tom Kenny, although I guess one could argue that Kenny has always been a superior stickman to Sean Og.

As such, the picking of the actual team and panel, at first a little odd, makes perfect sense in what JBM and Cunningham are trying to achieve and have been trying to achieve all year – skill players first and foremost, and work from there. And by and large an emphasis on youth. But what will this actually mean for Sunday? Well unfortunately for Cork fans, we should be worried – this isn’t a team to inspire confidence.

Coleman is dropped from the entire panel on the back of his performance against Kilkenny which seems harsh but (a) Nash deserves a crack and was always going to start and (b) Darren McCarthy is the long term successor to Donal Og. This is one of the more positive developments in my opinion – Darren McCarthy is an exceptional goalkeeper and has looked like a future number one since he appeared on the scene at Minor.Moreover Nash is competent, and is finally someone who can put away penalties and 21 yard frees.

The full-back line looks dodgy to say the least – its surely the least physical full-back line of all the ‘major’ hurling counties. Moreover the Tipp full-forward line is nicely set up to punish our lack of size, which makes the decision to drop McDonnell more disappointing as I believe he would have been an ideal candidate to man mark O’Meara. This author, at least, has some doubts over Conor O’Sullivan, a classy hurler no doubt but one that isn’t particularly big or quick. Brian Murphy playing full-back is unimportant – the three lads will be given their men to follow, and positions won’t matter massively. However, the size of the inside backs.has repercussions further up the pitch – as Tipp will know they have a size advantage inside, they don’t need to put as much effort as we do to playing intelligent ball inside. Simply, direct, not completely accurate and long balls are far more likely to work for Tipp then they are for us, leaving some of the pressure off those that are delivering the ball inside for Tipperary. 

The half-back line will be interesting – I have a sneaky feeling Joyce may start, but if it is Kenny I can only assume its because he has been exceptional in training. Kenny has looked like a person who spent too long in the gym building up his body muscle to the detriment of his greatest asset, his pace. Moreover, he was moved out of half-back by Donal O’Grady, largely because he wasn’t much good in the air. Cadogan’s hurling was poor Kilkenny, and its obvious playing football is dimming his ability to become a top class hurler. Still, he is so competitive and aggressive it would be difficult to see him having a poor game on Sunday. Egan has slowly turned into one of Cork’s best players, the stingiest of our half-backs and the best in the air, hopefully this progression will continue on Sunday. 

In reality, its in midfield and the half-forward line that Cork will have to win the game. We can’t let Tipp get any kind of decent direct ball into their inside forwards, so its even more essential than usual for McLoughlin and Sweetnam to hook and block constantly. There is huge responsibility on Sweetnam’s shoulders – McLoughlin works best as a foil making runs and offering support, but he falls down in winning 50/50 ball in close action, an area that Sweetnam already looks like he will excel in. Moreover, Sweetnam is far better at both scoring and at breaking tackles, so we’ll need him to offer the drive and physicality in the middle of the field.

The half-forward line needs to be exceptional for us to win – Naughton is pretty much our only goal threat while Lehane will have to try and keep Maher quiet and win at least a few puck-outs. Cronin will be asked to keep O’Mahony quiet and win puck-outs under pressure from 2-3 Tipp players – another huge ask. Moreover Lehane will only win puck-outs that he can run on to with space around him, while the same can be said for Sweetnam/McLoughlin, so one hopes JBM and co have a plan to find someone other then Cronin for puck-outs in room. Still it looks like 80% of Nash’s deliveries will be dropping on the head of Cronin with O’Mahony and co hanging off him. It is in this area of the pitch that the sideline will have to be particularly astute.

Our inside forwards are all wrong – Coughlan is the only one with real pace but he is too frail physically – at least a year too early for this level, but Luke O’Farrell is injured so there is no other real option. Horgan and Padraig O’Sullivan neither have enough pace our enough physicality, and their stylishness doesn’t really make up for their lack of goal threat. O’Farrell is a loss because, in my opinion at least, he is a proper goal threat – his first instinct is to run at the full-back with the ball, and he has a bullet of a shot. Coughlan, Lehane, Horgan and Padraig O’Sullivan’s instincts are largely to take points, so again we’ll need to get Naughton into some kind of space to run at the goals. Tipp’s one glaring weakness is their lack of pace out wide at the back – again hopefully this is something that the sideline will try to punish.

Finally, we get the biggest obstacle for Cork on Sunday – the respective benches. Tipperary have Eoin Kelly, Lar Corbett and Seamus Callinan to call on, we have…well no one really. Sean Og and John Gardiner will get a cheer when they come on but if we struggle up from we have very little there bar Cian McCarthy, who hasn’t played a senior inter-county game all year and Steven Moylan who hasn’t played a senior inter-county game ever. 

As such, its hard to look past Tipp, probably by 4-6 points. But hopefully we show some progression, and pride after the Kilkenny match.

 

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Blarney 1-15 Castlelyons 0-12 – Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship

Blarney: P. Hallisey; J. Barrett; D. McSweeney; P. O’Leary; J. Jordan; J. Hughes; M. O’Leary; B. Hurley; B. O’Connell (0-2); E. McCarthy (0-2; J. Hurley 0-1); J. O’Sullivan (1-0); M. Cremin (0-6; 0-4f); P. O’Driscoll (0-2, 0-1sl; S. Mulcahy 0-2); R. McNamara (E. O’Connor); C. Murphy.

Castlelyons: S. O’Sullivan; B. Carroll; C. Barry; S. Kenny; L. Sexton; C. McGann; A. O’Sullivan; P. Murphy; E. Maye; C. Spillane (0-3); P. Mahon; B. Fitzgerald (0-2); R. Feeney (0-2, 0-1f; A. Spillane 0-1); T. McCarthy; D. Tobin (0-3; A. Fenton 0-1f).

Blarney defeated Castlelyons in a relatively close and entertaining game tonight in Riverstick. There wasn’t much between the teams, but a scrappy goal before half-time set up a physical and miserly Blarney side and a second half comeback was too much for the young Castlelyons side. Besides the goal, the Blarney defence was much more experienced and powerful then their counterparts and in general the quality of their defenders alone will make them extremely hard to beat in the following rounds.

For Castlelyons, there were a number of decent performers. Colm Spillane tried exceptionally hard in the half-forward line and has inter-county player written all over him; Colm Barry had a good second half, although he and the rest of the full-back line struggled with the sun in their eyes in the opening half, while Anthony Spillane scored a beautiful point from near the sideline when he came on and in general looked all class. Elsewhere, Ciaran McGann was powerful under the dropping ball, Peter Murphy worked hard and played a lot of ball in the middle of the field, Brian Carroll was very solid at corner back and Shane O’Sullivan was excellent throughout in goals. However, things never really clicked for Castlelyons – they started Timmy McCarthy on the square with both corner-forwards playing deep, but they completely failed to play decent ball, being hassled constantly in the middle of the pitch by Blarney. When the ball did go in, it went in high and suited the likes of McSweeney and Paul O’Leary perfectly.  Little changed when they moved Fitzgerald inside and Timmy McCarthy out, although substitutes Fenton and Spillane did improve things quite a bit. In general, it was clear Castlelyons came up against a more powerful, and experienced team that was more deserving of victory.

For Blarney, the back six as a whole really stood out. Joe Jordan had an exceptional second half at half-back and was vital in stomping out any Castlelyon’s comeback. Darragh McSweeney was his usual uncompromising self on the edge of the square and neither Timmy McCarthy or Barry Fitzgerald got much of anything off him. Finally, James Hughes had a great battle with Colm Spillane, the classy Blarney center-back barely coming out on top as the game wound on. Blarney have a couple of pacy stylists in Barra O’Connell and Mark Cremin further up the pitch but what got the relegated from senior, their lack of class up front, may ensure that they do not get promoted, although to be fair O’Driscoll and Mulcahy had their moments in the corners. Blarney are really one of those teams that excel in low scoring matches, etching out victories through physicality, organisation and a miserly defence, but nonetheless one worries what happens when they do concede a couple of goals and need to go all out to win a game.

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Blackrock/Ballymartle & Glen Rovers/St. Finbarrs – Cork Senior Hurling Championship

Ballymartle 3-13 Blackrock 1-13 FT.

Ballymartle: Declan McCarthy; Declan Dwyer (C. Coleman); M. Tobin; D. Coleman; D. Edmonds; J. Kelly (P. Dwyer); S. Corry (0-1); Dan Dwyer (0-3); S. O’Mahony (0-1); B. Dwyer (0-5; 0-2f): J. Dwyer (1-1); B. Corry (0-1); K. Fitzpatrick (R. Cahalane); R. Dwyer (1-0); Darren McCarthy (1-1).

Blackrock: A. Long; W. Sherlock; E. Cantwell; R. Laide (A. Hayes); B. Ahern; K. Murphy; C. Cormack (E. O’Farrell 0-1); R. Dineen (E. Smith); D. O’Shea (C. Crowe 0-1); S. O’Keeffe; C. O’Leary (1-0); P. Deasy (0-1); O. Kelleher (0-8; 0-4f); M. Ryan (0-1); B. O’Keeffe.

Ballymartle again overcame the Rockies in an entertaining first round championship match in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Although the winning margin was considerable, this was a game between two evenly matched sides, the main difference between both teams being Ballymartle’s class close into goal. All three of their goals were marked by first class finishing, all three slotted into the bottom corner of the net while bar O’Leary’s goal the Rockies fumbled their goal chances. Although the Ballymartle full-back line did a better job then their counterparts in hassling and hooking close in on goal it was obvious which team had the superior finishing.

For Blackrock, it was a pretty promising performance, certainly in comparison to prior years. They worked hard all day, but as noted lacked the class of their opponents close in on goal – however, they seem to have found a couple of new forwards in U-21 Patrick Deasy and in particular Olan Kelleher, the latter putting over some excellent points from difficult angles. Elsewhere Shane O’Keeffe did well in winning a number of puck-outs, although he does have a habit of running down cul-de-sacs while Colin O’Leary took his goal well. Both subs Callum Crowe and Eoin Farrell grabbed a couple of points. They were less impressive elsewhere however – both midfielders were subbed while the full-back line gave too much space to their men resulting in all three goals. The half-back line similarly struggled to get a grips with Brian Corry, while Jamie Dwyer and Darren McCarthy terrorised the Rockies defence with their movement. Still, with Kevin O’Keeffe and Stephen Murphy to come back in and a little re-jigging to be done up front, it looks like Blackrock will at the very least avoid a relegation battle this year.

Ballymartle looked as solid as ever, even without center-back Patrick Dwyer. Their backs harassed and bullied their counterparts constantly and rarely let Blackrock get off a clean shot close into goal while Kelly had a solid game at 6 and Seamus Corry largely got the better of Shane O’Keeffe throughout. Elsewhere Dan Dwyer got three excellent points from the middle of the pitch while further up Brian Corry won numerous puck-outs brilliantly. Finally the touch and skill of Jamie Dwyer and Darren McCarthy was great to watch throughout and all three Ballymartle goals were delightfully taken. In general it was a performance from Ballymartle that suggests that again they’ll be competitive to the very end of the championship, although they maybe still lack a little star quality to really challenge for the championship.

St. Finbarrs 0-18 Glen Rovers 0-9 FT.

Glen Rovers: D. Hourihan; S. Kennefick; B. Phelan; A. Dunlea (G. Moylan); B. Moylan; P. O’Brien; S. McDonnell; G. Callinan; D. O’Callaghan; D. Brosnan (R. Whitty); D. Goggin (J. Anderson); C. Healy (B. Hackett); C. Dorris (0-1); P. Horgan (0-7; 0-6f); E. Cronin (0-1).

St. Finbarrs: D. O’Gorman; D. Cahalane; E. Keane; J. Burns; R. McCarthy; R. Curran; P. O’Brien; G. O’Connor (0-4): S. Callinan; E. Finn (0-6; 0-2f); J. Goggin; E. Maher (C. McCarthy); R. O’Mahony (0-2); J. Crowley (0-1); I. Lordan (0-5; 0-3f).

A mini-shock here as a dire Glen side were comprehensively out played and beaten by the Barrs. Glen, a team who have enough talent to at least make it to the business end, were hopeless for pretty much the entirety of the game, showed no energy and were completely out fought be a relatively young Barrs side. St. Finbarrs, who were missing a number of starters, showed a lot more fight and effort then in their performances last year and could and should have won by a lot more.

For the Glen, there were very few decent performances. Patrick Horgan tried hard up front, pretty much on his own, but his shooting was off and he got little to no support. Elsewhere only Hourihan – who pulled off a number of excellent saves – and Brian Phelan in front of him impressed. Besides their players being flat-footed and easily demoralised, the Glen looked lost tactically – they played with a two man full-forward line and an extra man in the middle of the pitch for most of the game, presumably as a gambit to create room for Horgan and Brosnan to play hurling in, but it was completely ineffective as the Barrs half-back line was on top throughout. The fact that Goggin and Dorris (neither player blessed with speed) made up the two man full-forward line for most of the opening half was bizarre, as was the decision to move one of the best club midfielders in the county, Denis O’Callaghan, back corner back to man mark Robert O’Mahony. To be fair though, its hard to blame the selectors too much for the fact that the likes of Brosnan and Callinan never looked like they were going to get into the game.

For the Barrs, it was impressively tough and hard-working performance. Their full-back line was exceedingly solid throughout while Ronan Curran showed superior form at center-back. Similarly Damien Cahalane man marked Patrick Horgan out of the game. Further up Glenn O’Connor was close to MOTM and led the attack brilliantly throughout while Cork U-21 Eoghan Finn again showed some exceptional point-scoring. Inside the corners both Robert O’Mahony and Ian Lordan grabbed some eye catching points. In general it was a whole hearted and confident performance from the Barrs, and it’ll be interesting to see how they progress from here on out considering they were missing a number of quality players like John Neville and Cathal McCarthy.

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Na Piarsaigh/Douglas & Carrigtwohill/Courcey Rovers – Cork Senior Hurling Championship 2012

Douglas 2-14 Na Piarsaigh 0-11 FT

Douglas: T. Delaney; P. Clarke; D. McSweeney; J. Collins; M. McGrath; M. Harrington; C. Lucey; D. Hanrahan (0-1); M. O’Callaghan (0-2; J. Moylan);  M.Collins (0-2); O. Mulrooney (0-2); E. Cadogan; A. Cadogan (0-1); R. Murphy (1-3; 0-2f); S. Moylan (1-3).

Na Piarsigh: A. Keating; D. Mannix; Adam Dennehy; E. Moynihan; S. Og hAilpin; J. Gardiner (0-2f); R. McGregor; A. Brady (0-1); C. Buckley (0-1); P. Gould (0-4; 0-2f); S. Glasgow; C. Joyce (0-1); S. Duggan (S. Curtin); E. McCarthy; Anthony Dennehy (0-2; S. O’Sullivan).

A disappointing city derby saw Douglas beat an incredibly poor Na Piarsaigh in Pairc Ui Rinn. In a game often played at league intensity, neither team was impressive, both sides failing to show any real style of play, organisation or decent touch. Douglas won out largely because they used the huge wind to their advantage more effectively – Tom Delaney’s puck-outs dropping on top of the Na Piarsaigh full-back line throughout the first half – and because they were more clinical up front. Douglas were mediocre but undeniably they have one of the stand-out forwards in club hurling in MOTM Stephen Moylan. Yet again, Na Piarsaigh hit numerous bad wides, as has been their downfall for years now, but at least under past managements they showed an ability to run at the goalkeeper and get goals, something that was completely absent today. This was an exceedingly flat performance from Na Piarsaigh from beginning to end and a stark contrast to their performances under Paul O’Connor for the last couple of years.

For Na Piarsaigh, only Christopher Joyce, roving between the half-forward line and midfield, was impressive. He worked hard all day and was Na Piarsaigh’s only consistent puckout winner. Alan Keating was solid in goals and didn’t look like he could have done much for either goal – however the small, inexperienced full-back line in front of him had a nightmare, unable to deal either with Moylan’s movement or Delaney’s long distance puck-outs. To be fair, they got little assistance from their half-back line, who were just as poor – Sean Og was anonymous, and Gardiner came off second best to Mulrooney all day – both player’s performances are exceedingly worrying in the build up to the Tipp game. In the middle of the pitch, Joyce and to a lesser extent Buckley and Brady won a lot of ball, albeit to little effect.

The Na Piarsaigh attack was largely toothless bar Anthony Dennehy in spurts and Padraig Gould, both of whom contributed two points from play. Na Piarsaigh failed almost completely to get the ball into Shane Duggan and it seemed strange that they would play a traditional three man full-forward line when they could keep Duggan and Dennehy (both of whom have natural pace) inside on their own and play ball into them in space. In general, there was no obvious plan to play to the strengths of Duggan, Gould etc – i.e. free up space for them to run at their opponents full-back line – and there was little method to Na Piarsigh’s forward play as a whole.

For Douglas. there were a few stand-out performers. Colm Lucey was excellent throughout at half-back and and the defence as a whole was solid, although why Harrington was at 6 and Cadogan in the half-forward line I’m not sure. Both midfielders chipped in with a few points while center-forward Mulrooney ran aggressively at the Na Piarsaigh defence, in particular setting up Douglas’ second goal. Eoin Cadogan was largely anonymous at half-forward. Inside, Richard Murphy was again quietly effective, pilfering 1-3 from play, although it was more Moylan alongside him that terrorised the Na Piarsaigh defence. With the talented Alan Cadogan also in there Douglas have one of the more dangerous full-forward lines. Its difficult to tell how good Douglas really are however – both Harrington and Eoin Cadogan can play better, and they were short a couple of players through injury, but their performance on the day wasn’t anything beyond mediocre and their opponents were very poor.

Carrigtwohill 0-17 Courcey Rovers 0-13 FT

Carrigtwohill: W. McCarthy; A. Garde; P. O’Sullivan; R. Power; C. O’Connell; N. Furlong; M. O’Riordan; D. O’Mahony (0-2); L. O’Sullivan; S. Dineen; B. Lordan; R. White (0-4); M. Fitzgerald (0-5; 0-2f); N. McCarthy (0-5); T. Hogan (0-1; J. Leahy).

Courcey Rovers: S. Nyhan; D. Lordan; B. Hayes; G. Moloney; D. Murphy; V. Hurley; O. Gately; G. Moloney; K. Moloney; S. Lordan; D. Lordan (0-7; 0-2f); S. Moloney (0-1; J. O’Regan; S. Hayes (0-2); N. Murphy (0-1f; J. Duggan); G. Minihane (0-2).

Thankfully, this was a far superior spectacle then the opening game, with Carrigtwohill struggling to overturn a dogged and impressive Courcies side. Even though both defences were on top and there was almost no goal chances, both sides – Carrigtwohill in particular – showed decent approach play and some excellent long distance point-taking (Niall McCarthy and Daire Lordan stood out in this respect in particular). Although Carrigtwohill showed the better passages of play and won more possession, Courcies could have brought the game to within a point going into extra-time if it wasn’t for a last ditch Pat O’Sullivan flick.

For Carrigtwohill, it was another impressive team performance. They play to a pretty simple but effective game plan – Liam O’Sullivan drifts in front of the half-back line picking up loose ball, sometimes dropping on top of the center-forward so Furlong can win ball in front of and protect his full-back line, while they excel at making space both for players to run on to puck-outs and for their inside forwards to receive ball in one on one situations. The brilliance of Niall McCarthy helps – even though he hit some poor wides in the first half today, he was incredibly accurate in the second. Elsewhere Noel Furlong again hit a huge amount of ball although he should be said Daire Lordan bested him in the air throughout. Both Liam O’Sullivan and Daniel O’Mahony played considerable amounts of ball – the latter was instrumental in the last ten minutes of the game in getting Carrig the win – while Stephen Dineen showed the odd flash of his impressive pace when on the ball. Robert White was also excellent in the second half, scoring four points. He is a player Jimmy Barry-Murphy and co should look at more closely – even if he is raw and has to be used in a particular way, he has a combination of pace and power that is sorely missing from the current Cork inside forwards.

For Courcies, Daire Lordan starred, and probably won himself a center-forward starting berth for the Cork U-21s in their upcoming game against Tipperary. He was pretty much unmarkable, repeatedly winning puck-outs and showing some unerring shooting throughout. To a certain degree his class stood out like a sore thumb in the Courcies attack, although Seamus Hayes and Gary Minihane were effective in parts in the corners and no doubt have more to show. Elsewhere Gavin and Killian Moloney showed some drive in the middle of the pitch, while Vincent Hurley had a solid second half. Its hard really to fault the Courcies defence individually but it seemed pretty clear that collectively they struggled to deal with the pace and hard running of White, Dineen etc, and they looked somewhat short in class in attack. Still, they were well organised, tough in defence, showed efficient shooting and going on this performance have a decent chance of staying up.

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Tipperary 1-10 Cork 0-9 FT – Munster Minor Football

Cork: M. Martin; S. O’Leary; T. O’Rourke (C. Ryan); S. Cronin; K. Crowley (0-1); C. Hyde; J. Davis; B. O’Driscoll; I. Maguire (0-2); S. O’Sullivan (K. McIntyre 0-1); A. O’Donovan (0-1); P. Fitzgerald; C. Vaughan (0-2;0-1f); C. Horgan (A. Moynihan 0-1); K. O’Connor (0-1).

Tipperary: E. Comerford; D. Cass; J. Feehan; L. Egan; K. Fahey; D. Fitzell; B. Maher; S. O’Brien (0-1); P. Quirke (1-2); J.Lonergan (J. Maher); J. Martin; G. Henry (I. Fahey 0-2); J. Shelly (TJ. Ryan); J. McGrath (0-4;0-2f); C. Kennedy (0-1f).

Another disappointing result for Cork underage GAA with this unsurprising defeat at the defending All-Ireland champions. Although the Cork team worked hard and generally did themselves proud we were defeated by a bigger, more clinical Tipperary team that had the game sown up early in the second half with Phillip Quirke’s goal as Cork had no goal threat whatsoever. Tipp will now go on to play Kerry in the final who struggled past Clare in Ennis tonight.

Even though Tipp struggled to win possession in middle of the pitch for most of the game, unlike Cork they did have an effective and pronounced game plan, hitting direct ball on to Quirke, Kennedy and McGrath all of whom had an effective physical edge over their Cork markers. This long ball style yielded in the games only goal as Quirke fisted a long ball into the net – both before and after the goal Quirke was a very willing target man for Tipp’s fast counters and was at the heart of most of Tipperary’s scores. The introduction of Ian Fahey and his two points further helped Tipp turn the game in their favour while elsewhere in attack both John McGrath and Colman Kennedy showed considerable flashes of class. In midfield Steven O’Brien won some incredible first time ball while in the backs Tipperary were physical and mean throughout. Finally Evan Comerford had a solid game in goals. Tipperary should at least get five inter-county seniors out of this team and hopefully victories like this will propel them to make the Munster championship more competitive at a senior level in the near future.

For Cork, one has to say the team tried its hardest. Some of our finishing  however (we left at least five handy points on the pitch) and passing was very poor and even though we dominated the breaks around the middle of the pitch we struggled to do much of anything with the ball we won going forward. Tipp effectively closed down the space in front of our inside forwards and both Vaughan and Horgan never got the ball or room to do any real damage. There were some noteworthy performances – Crowley was again excellent, carrying the ball with real pace and showing elan throughout while Sean O’Leary tried very hard in the corner. Ian Maguire, Paul Fitzgerald and Brian O’Driscoll toiled throughout in the middle of the pitch and could never be faulted for effort while Killian O’Connor showed some class the few times he got the ball. Finally Aidan Moynihan was eye-catching on the ball when introduced. In generally though our inside backs were physically out matched, our finishing was inferior, we lacked quality up front and Tipperary deservedly march on to the Munster final.

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Limerick 0-16 Cork 1-12 FT – Munster Minor Hurling Championship

Cork: P. Collins; S. Murphy (J. McCarthy); K. O’Connor; A. Dennehy; K. McIntyre; M. Cahalane; P. Fitzgerald; C. Twomey (D. Mangan); B. O’Connell (0-1); J. Cashman (0-1; T. Horgan); D. Cahill (0-3; 0-1f); K. O’Neill; A. Sheehan (A. Spillane 1-0); R. Cahalane (J. O’Brien 0-2); P. O’Callaghan (0-5; 0-3f).

Limerick: D. Stapleton; S. Irwin; R. English; J. Carrig; D. Byrnes; B. O’Connell; E. Fitzgerald (D. Donovan); B. Finn (0-1); K. Cleary (D. Dee); R. Lynch (0-11; 0-9f); D. Condron; E. O’Farrell (A. La Touche Cosgrave); K. O’Brien (0-1; L. O’Sullivan 0-1); B. Griffin (0-1; P. Ryan); C. Lynch (0-1).

A disappointing result for Cork in a pretty mediocre first round Munster Minor hurling championship match in Cork tonight. Limerick, much stronger and more physical, were deserved winners, bullying Cork on the ground and in the air – beyond their opponent’s size, there wasn’t much of a difference in ability between Cork and Limerick. However, and even accepting for first round nerves, both sides looked pretty mediocre and even un-fit, neither team showing much or anything in the way of pace or style. Still, considering Limerick’s size and their consistent free-taker, one would think they are the very least going to be hard to beat.

For Limerick, there were a number of decent performers. The full-back was line ultra consistent from beginning to end, while Barry O’Connell was powerful at center-back. Brian Finn dominated the Cork midfield and won some eye catching aerial ball while Ronan Lynch was imperious from the dead-ball, never missing. Both corner-forwards were lively and dangerous the few times they got the ball, with Kevin O’Brien in particular playing well around the middle of the park when he was re-introduced in the last ten minutes. Finally substitute Liam O’Sullivan scored a brilliant point to win the game. In general, it was a decent Limerick performance, and both of the Lynch’s up front were impressive considering they have two more years at this grade.

For Cork, it was a slightly less impressive performance. Patrick Collins – another U-16 – was brilliant in goals, while Killian O’Connor and in particular Alan Dennehy were impressive in front of him. Our half-back line was decent throughout – in particular Paul Fitzgerald – but generally Limerick’s half-forwards bullied their counterparts under the dropping ball. Moreover, one can’t help but think McIntyre’s pace and drive would be better suited to midfield. The midfield struggled in the opening half but improved in the second, with Barra O’Connell having a purple patch in the closing ten minutes and substitute Daniel Mangan offering some physicality and aggression.

The half-forward line was mixed – Cahill and Cashman showed some nice flashes of class but O’Neill really stood out, working exceptionally hard throughout and regularly winning puck-outs. The inside forwards struggled, but the ball into them was poor, the complete inability to get the ball into the hands of Pa O’Callaghan costing Cork dearly.  Finally, it seems like Cork got their starting 15 wrong – James O’Brien (two points when he came on) and Daniel Mangan impressed, while Micheal Cahalane was far superior at half-forward then he was at center-back. Possibly the next day both O’Brien and Mangan will start, with Twomey at half-back, Fitzgerald at 6 and Cahalane in the half-forwards. However, and more worryingly, Cork showed little to no pattern to their play, and seemed determined to hit high first time ball into their forwards, suiting Limerick perfectly. In truth, it didn’t look like a talentless Cork side, but it also didn’t look like a particularly well trained one, and with Clare and Limerick blocking our way to a Munster final one would assume Cork’s woes at this grade are likely to continue.

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Dublin 3-11 Cork 0-14 – All-Ireland U-21 Football Semi Final

Cork: S. Mellett; D. O’Donovan; D. Cahalane; A. Cronin; J. Cronin; T. Clancy; J. Wall (C. O’Sullivan); R. Deane; E. Healy (B. O’Driscoll); K. Hallisey (0-2f; D.McEoin 0-1f); D. Og Hodnett (0-1); J. O’Rourke (0-2); B. Hurley (0-5; 0-4f); L. Connolly (0-2; 0-1f); M. Sugrue (0-1; A. Cadogan).

Dublin: J. Carty; M. Concarr; K. O’Brien; S. George; L. Fletcher; J. Kelly; J. McCaffrey (1-0); E. O’Conghaile (0-2); D. Byrne (0-1; P. McGuire 0-1); C. Reddan (P. O’Higgins); G. Sweeney (0-1; E. Keogh); M. Schutte (G. Seaver); C. Kilkenny (0-1); P. Ryan (2-3; 0-1f); P. Hudson (0-2; H. Dawson).

A disappointing and rather tame end to the All-Ireland series for the Cork U-21 footballers today as a far superior Dublin team clinically put us to the sword. Sporting a powerful team from 1-15, a much better organised defence and more clinical forwards Dublin dominated the game after then opening 15 minutes and were in first gear for most of the second half handily keeping Cork at bay. In contrast, Cork’s obvious frailties in the full-back line and midfield were obvious, the three goals conceded thanks to organisational errors – poor marking and positioning –  while even if Deane and Healy worked hard they were very poor moving the ball forward.

For Dublin, there were a number of excellent performers. George was excellent in the opening half at corner-back while McCaffrey at half-back was also excellent even chiming in with a goal – just as a whole the Dublin backs were consistent and well organised. In midfield O’Conghaile dominated proceedings  while both half-forwards were excellent, particularly in the opening half. Elsewhere, and even though Kilkenny is understandably seen as the star of the team, Sweeney, Hudson and Ryan showed the more nuance and touches of class. The latter two in particular got some delightful scores, and considering the sometimes pedestrian play of the Dublin senior forwards as of right now, one would assume that they may be drafted into the senior set up soon enough. All in all the Dublin performance – very much a team display – exemplified the importance of organisation, gym work and conditioning in the modern game.

In contrast, Cork worked hard and played with a decent amount of possession, but we looked ragged and dis-organised in comparison to our opponents. Too often Deane, Hallisey and others ran the ball into Dublin bodies and gave up possession, while the ball into our inside forwards was often poor and inaccurate. In general the Dublin forwards operated in considerably more space then our forwards did, which suggested tactical naivety on our part. Best for us was John O’Rourke who carried the ball as confidently as he always does and was at the heart of Cork’s only good spell in the opening 15 minutes. Elsewhere Brian Hurley was our only consistent threat inside and often looked to have the beating of his man while Connolly and Og Hodnett played well in parts. Hallisey however hit a lot of frankly awful wides. At the back, our inside line was in disarray all day, our two corner-backs in particular struggling badly to deal with the physicality of their men while in front of them Wall had one of his poorest outings, consistently losing track of his man while Cronin often overran the ball along with Deane in midfield. In reality it was a poor team performance overall and one that contained only a handful of decent Cork performances.

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