Jake Morris gets away from Mark Coleman. Photo: Bridget Delaney Photo by BRIDGET DELANEY

Character to the fore as Tipp progress past Cork

It wasn’t pretty but it was effective as Tipperary got the result, they wanted to progress to the next round of the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.

By Shane Brophy

It wasn’t pretty but it was effective as Tipperary got the result, they wanted to progress to the next round of the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.

It didn’t come in the manner that would have been hoped to take into a quarter final against Galway, but a lot of that has to be put down to the conditions, which in the first half were equally as awful as to what Tipperary endured against Limerick in the Munster semi-final.

It has been suggested in some quarters that a winter championship won’t play to Tipperary’s strengths, and there could be something in that considering when the rain disappeared in the second half for the first time in a match and a half, the Premier County finally found some rhythm and it was enough to see off a Cork side that will feel they let this game slip through their figures.

Trailing by two points at the break having played into the elements, it was teed up for a Cork victory but Tipperary showed their mettle as defending All-Ireland champions as they dug in, and despite falling behind on 59 minutes, won the final period of the game 1-4 to 0-2 to claim victory.

They made hard work of it, eighteen wides ensured Cork were still in the game at half time, but they were a more composed side in the second half when they had to use the ball more effectively into the elements. They also moved the ball a lot quicker in the second period. While Cork sat deep in the opening half and had Mark Coleman as a sweeper, Tipp were still not playing the ball in quickly enough. They were trying to make the extra pass but, in the conditions, they were not working out and couldn’t get decent openings.

They were largely restricted to long range efforts where they struggled to find the target, apart from Michael Breen, who has adapted well to the winter championship conditions. It is great to see the Ballina man back to his best after a below-par a couple of years and when he believes in himself his is a destructive player when in the mood as we saw with his five point haul.

And Tipperary needs their physical stronger players to stand out in this championship and with Dan McCormack and Patrick Maher also returning to the starting line-up, there was greater physicality to the middle third. McCormack was superb throughout while Patrick Maher was sharp in the early going before tiring in the second half as you would expect for a man playing his first championship game in seventeen months.

Defensively, Tipp were quite solid although Jack O’Connor did give them some trouble in the opening period but they will be disappointed with how they lost their shape for the Cork goal where five of the six backs were outside the 45-yardline when Patrick Horgan was handed possession and had no one to oppose him as he soloed on to fire to the net in the 22nd minute.

However, it was the only sight of goal Cork got in the game with Brian Hogan untroubled thereafter. The keeper also had a better outing in terms of his puckouts with only five finding their way into Cork hands as Tipperary brought a greater physicality to proceedings right around the field.

When the game was there to be one in the last ten minutes, the defence really stood tall with Ronan Maher, Brendan Maher and Niall O’Meara coming out with a lot of ball and it is in this direct style the Tipp to excel defensive and few will better them in the air. O’Meara’s first start at wing back in inter-county hurling was surprising but he dealt well with Seamus Harnedy for the most part until the Cork forward managed a burst of four points in the third quarter when he was pulling in towards centre forward, but the was soon quietened when Padraic Maher went over on him in the final quarter as he was the only Cork forward that offered a consistent threat in the second half.

Scoring remains and issue and with an average of 2-17 per game, only Wexford have had a poorer return from their forwards this year although Tipp maybe deserved a pass in the conditions. Certainly, in the second half they showed what they were about with Jason Forde and Seamus Callanan finally finding some space and they made it count, with better ball being sent in, taking sweeper Mark Coleman out of the game.

Forde’s 43rd minute goal was crucial in giving Tipperary some breathing space into to the breeze and showed just what a threat the Silvermines man is when he uses more of his power to win the ball and shake off defenders as he has one of the most powerful shots in the game.

Forde and Callanan got some joy when Jake Morris was withdrawn into a deeper role in the second half where he got onto the ball and brought others into the play, including delivering the pass to Forde for the goal as well as a later point for Callanan.

This was the role initially identified for John & Noel McGrath whose vision to pick out passes is outstanding but the Loughmore/Castleiney duo are well off the pace and one wonders how much the lengthy club campaign took out of them. John McGrath was subbed before half time but the change was needed and worked with Willie Connors coming on to great impact and his ability on the ball was what was needed with the manner in which he won the ball and the pass he laid of for Jake Morris’ goal not getting the credit it should have.

Indeed, Connors and Kiladangan clubmate Paul Flynn contributed on the scoreboard as what looked like a week subs bench turned out to be one with some impact with Paddy Cadell providing some extra mobility there in the last ten minutes when coming on for Noel McGrath and from there Tipperary went onto dominate the remainder of the contest.

In terms of performance it was better than against Limerick but that wasn’t particularly difficult but there is certainly more scope for improvement which is only a good thing in this sprint of a championship where it is all about survive and advance.