Cork: D. Og Cusack; S. O’Neill; S. McDonnell; B. Murphy; S. Og O hAilpin; E. Cadogan; W. Egan (0-1f); L. McLoughlin (J. Gardiner 0-1); D. Sweetnam (0-3; T. Kenny); C. Lehane (1-2); P. Cronin (0-1); C. Naughton (0-4); J. Coughlan (0-2); P. O’Sullivan; P. Horgan (0-9; 0-3f).
Tipperary: B. Cummins; D. Maher; P. Curran; M. Cahill; T. Stapleton (0-1); C. O’Mahony; P. Maher (0-1); B. Maher (A. Ryan); J. Woodlock (0-1; J. Ryan); G. Ryan (0-2; S. McGrath); N. McGrath (0-5; T. Hammersley); P. Bourke (0-6; 0-2f); S. Bourke (0-3); B. O’Meara (E. Kelly 0-1); J. O’Brien (0-3).
A Patrick Horgan point ensured a draw for Cork in Thurles and a league semi-final spot for the Rebels. In an entertaining, skillful game short on physicality and cynicism both teams showed off some beautiful forward play throughout, with both sets of defences struggling to mark either men or space. Although the game in general bore little relation to championship fare due to the cavalier and care-free play of both teams, its clear that both Tipp and Cork are looking strong going forward, both teams looking very fit, and showing off some fine finishing and touch. In reality both sides will be pretty happy with a result that keeps both team’s momentum going forward into the play-off stages of the league.
For Tipp, the performances throughout the pitch were mixed. At the back, Cahill and Maher were fairly solid throughout and kept Coughlan largely in check although the marking on Horgan, and Lehane when he moved inside, was a lot looser. Along side him Curran kept O’Sullivan scoreless but the latter assisted numerous scores for Cork, including Lehane’s goal. Tipp’s half-back line was very solid, Paraic Maher close to putting in a MOTM display, destroyed Lehane under Cork’s puck-outs and generally showed the kind of physicality that very few hurlers in the country have. Stapleton generally had a good game but struggled to deal with Naughton’s pace on a couple of occasions in the second half. Tipp’s midfield seemed to get the worst of their battle with McLoughlin and Sweetnam, the former pretty much unmarked for large parts of the game although the introduction of Shane McGrath helped Tipp in this sector in the second half.
The Tipperary forward’s really stood out – Pa Bourke won some excellent ball off Sean Og in the second half and his finishing was excellent, while Noel McGrath ghosted into great positions and repeatedly again and again picked up breaking ball. Inside Shane Bourke performed well with whatever ball he was given knocking over three points and John O’Brien was excellent when moved into the half-forward line, again and again with aerial ball. Brian O’Meara however was largely anonymous and his finishing for his goal chance was very poor – still he revels in more physical encounters. All in all it was impressive Tipp performance, particularly considering they have Bonnar Maher, Eoin Kelly, Callinan and Shane McGrath to still come into their starting fifteen.
Again Jimmy Barry-Murphy will be happy with his charges performances, with a few qualifications. Cadogan was brilliant before tiring out in the last ten minutes, competing strongly for every ball and really leading the defence like every good center-back does. Sean Og was also strong and impressive in possession although Pa Bourke won rather a lot of ball off him under his nose in the second half. Egan, considering he had a championship game mid-week, did fine. Inside, Steven McDonnell had another very solid and mistake-less game. At midfield, the always stylish Sweetnam was excellent in the first half and grabbed three points, while McLoughlin was very influential throughout, winning breaking ball non stop. At the same time, the loose nature of the game would suit McLoughlin, but there is little doubt he is improving every game.
Up front, Horgan had his best game of the league campaign, and eye-catchingly won a difficult ball to grab the equalising point. Naughton put in a fine performance but again these kind of games suit him perfectly; Cronin had a good tussle with O’Mahony and largely broke even, and again did well considering he was again our only puck-out option. Lehane had very little luck all day and was largely out played by Maher, which says everything about his talent considering he still scored 1-2 from play. Padraig O’Sullivan’s link-up play was excellent, and the more intelligent style of play that Cork are using under Cunningham is bringing out the best of him.
There was a handful of worrying performances. Coughlan was pretty much out muscled all day long, and his touch is still very nervy. Both corner-backs had worrying days, their first touches very poor at times. Donal Og’s puck-outs were similarly quite poor, although it should be said the fact that Lehane was struggling on Maher under the dropping ball meant Cronin was his only option. Still, he hit at least four puck-outs inaccurately in the first half alone, his precision, usually excellent, not quite there. He also failed to try and hit McLoughlin when he was free on a couple of different occasions. Still, this situation will hopefully improve when Niall McCarthy returns. All in all, mission accomplished for Cork, who will now continue their league campaign against Tipperary again in three week’s time.