Cork 4-19 Tipperary 1-21 – Munster U-21 Hurling Championship

Cork: D. McCarthy; C. Joyce; E. Finn (D. Cahalane); S. Corry; J. Nagle; W. Egan (0-1f); M. Ellis; S. O’Farrell (0-1; E. O’Sullivan); D. Roche (D. Drake); D. Brosnan (1-2); C. Lehane (1-4); A. Walsh (1-1); L. O’Farrell (1-3); M. O’Sullivan (0-2); J. Coughlan (0-5; 0-2f).

Tipperary: P. Ryan; C. Haugh; K. O’Gorman; S. O’Brien (S. Maher); J. Barry (J. Gallagher); N. McGrath (0-3f); P. Heffernan; B. Stapleton; A. Ryan (0-2); J. O’Neill (0-1); S. Curran (0-2); P. Murphy (W. Maher); K. Morris (0-1; M. Sheedy); B. O’Meara (1-1); J. O’Dwyer (0-11; 0-10f).

On one of Cork hurlings better nights in some time, a highly motivated Cork U-21 side comprehensively beat Tipperary in Thurles on Friday last. The difference between the performance of the U-21s and the Seniors against Galway couldn’t be more pronounced – the U-21’s work rate was incredible throughout, our forwards looked for and took their goal chances while the confidence running through the side was clear to see. At the same time this was only a Munster semi-final against a mediocre enough Tipp that didn’t look overly bothered in the closing stages of the match. The final in the beginning of August will be against either Clare or Limerick, and both will be hugely motivated, particularly Clare who like Cork will want to salvage something from their so far disapointing year.

For Cork, there were many impressive individual performances. Over the 60 minutes Luke O’Farrell and Jamie Coughlan were probably Cork’s most consistent forwards, O’Farrell physically dominating his man throughout and showing the clinicalness and assured play missing from his performances for the seniors. Coughlan offered a huge amount from play besides his 5 points, creating a number of Cork’s goals. Similarly, Dean Brosnan was brilliant in the opening half, his bullet of a goal a real highlight while Conor Lehane was brilliant in the second half after being well marshalled by Noel McGrath in the opening 30 minutes. Elsewhere Aidan Walsh won a half a dozen clean balls from puck-outs, one resulting in an incredible solo goal while Micheal O’Sullivan slotted over a pair of points and worked exceptionally hard all day. All and all the forward unit’s performances was hard to fault.

Our backs and midfield were maybe a little less impressive. By and large our half-back line had a good day, Ellis playing a lot of ball and Egan leading well at center-back. Both corner backs performed well with Joyce in particular standing out – despite playing out of position he put in a powerful display that underlined his strengths, primarily his physicality in the air and on the ball. Inside both of them however Edward Finn had a hard day, his inexperience at inter-county along with the fact that he was marking the extremely powerful Buggy O’Meara meaning he was probably the only one of the backs to not get the better of his man. His replacement, Damien Cahalane, was typically all-action and will surely start at full-back the next day. Regarding the defence as a whole, it was good to see the players were cynical and physical when they needed to be – anytime a Tipperary player ran in on goal he was closed out or fouled. In midfield, Seamus O’Farrell toiled hard all day and popped over a nice long distance point in the first half but Daniel Roche struggled badly to impact on the game, and once again his replacement David Drake was excellent and a change here for the final is again almost certain.

For Tipperary, its difficult to pick up on many positives. They showed a lot of heart to come back from such an early deficit, and Noel McGrath was on top form in the opening half destroying Lehane in the air – however there was no such second comeback when Cork began to pull away in the second half however. In contrast to Cork’s defence, Tipp were badly short of the cynicism needed at this level at the back. The sight of Aidan Walsh catching ball over ball over his man’s head with impunity was quite incredible, while the huge space afforded to  both Brosnan and Walsh for their goals was inexcusable. Besides McGrath, Ryan in midfield put in a fine performance and was probably the only Tipperary player to put in a consistent shift over the entire game, while Buggy O’Meara was dangerous at times, O’Dwyer was excellent from placed balls and Stapleton showed some flashes of class.

All in all Cork were more then good value for their win. However, one must express caution – it is easy for Cork hurling fans to over-react to such a victory considering the otherwise dismal state of hurling in the county. This was a pretty poor Tipperary side, and particularly naive at the back – Clare or Limerick will have a number of individually talented players and will want the victory far more then Tipp did. They will also now be completely aware as to this Cork team’s full ability. A large part of our victory was down to Aidan Walsh’s strength in the air – whether or not he will be available further down the line is doubtful. Finally, over the past few year’s Cork hurling at all grades has struggled badly to put in back to back performances – remember the exuberance of our Minors defeating Tipperary last year before being tamely knocked out by Waterford. Hopefully things won’t go the same way this year.

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