Tipperary Under 21 footballers celebrate the 2015 Munster Final win over Cork at Semple Stadium with many faces who will line out in next Sunday’s senior final. Photo: Bridget Delaney

Underage record suggests Tipp players have nothing to fear from Cork

While many footballing observers will suggest that if Kerry couldn’t beat Cork, what chance have Tipperary, the sight of the red jersey doesn’t hold the same fear as a the green and gold one does.

By Shane Brophy

When Cork’s Mark Keane broke Kerry hearts with the last gasp goal in the Munster semi-final, it also put a spring in the step of the Tipperary footballers watching on at home.

While many footballing observers will suggest that if Kerry couldn’t beat Cork, what chance have Tipperary, the sight of the red jersey doesn’t hold the same fear as a the green and gold one does.

That is because over the last decade Tipperary have been just as good, if not better than Cork and while the trajectory suggests the rebels are back on an upward curve and Tipperary’s underage progression has stalled, this could be the last chance for the senior footballers to end an 85 year wait for a tenth Munster title.

Since 2006, Tipperary have beaten Kerry on just four occasions at underage level, 2010 in the Munster under 21 final while there were minor victories in 2011 and twice in 2012. However, against Cork, the Premier County have recorded six victories, with five coming at minor level. It’s easy to focus on the 2016 Munster semi-final when Tipperary broke a 72-year hoodoo against the rebels, kickstarting their amazing run which went all the way to an All-Ireland semi-final.

In their two championship meetings since in 2017 and 2018, Cork got their revenge, including a 1-17 to 0-8 win in Thurles in 2018. However, that margin of defeat has been an outlier in recent meetings between the sides, league, and championship, which provides Tipperary with more than just hope that they can beat Cork once more. This included a 3-16 to 1-16 win at the new Pairc Ui Chaoimh in January 2018 in the very first game to be played at the renovated ground so playing the Munster Final in Cork’s backyard will hold no fear either.

But going back further than that, the vast majority of this Tipperary panel would have a recorded victories against Cork teams at underage level, particularly at minor level, while Cork have tended to get the upper hand at under 21 level.

The big breakthrough for Tipperary came in 2006 when Tipperary defeated Cork 2-10 to 2-7 in a Munster minor semi-final in Limerick, a Tipp team that contained Brian Fox, while at under 21 level, Tipp lost a Munster Final to Cork 3-19 to 3-12.

Three years later, Tipperary broke new ground in defeating Cork at minor level in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 0-13 to 0-10.

However, earlier in the year Tipperary’s hearts were broken as a last gasp Noel Galvin goal as a Cork side that contained future stars in Aidan Walsh, Ciaran Sheehan and Colm O’Neill denied a first Munster under 21 title for Tipperary in a team that had current seniors Brian Fox and Alan Moloney.

Tipperary didn’t have long to end their wait for a first Under 21 title, as a year later they defeated Kerry 1-7 to 1-6 in the Munster title with a side captained by Peter Acheson and containing Robbie Kiely and Conor Sweeney. Tipperary went onto lose the All Ireland semi-final to a Donegal side that contained Michael Murphy.

That same year, Cork defeated Tipperary 2-12 to 2-9 at minor level, again another competitive peformance from the premier county.

In 2011, Cork easily defeated Tipperary at under 21 level but later that summer at minor level, the great Tipperary team that went onto win the All Ireland, defeated Cork 3-11 to 1-9 in the Munster Final in Killarney, with a who’s who of players who went onto play senior hurling, as well as senior football for Tipperary, including Evan Comerford, John Meagher, Seamus Kennedy, Colin O’Riordan, Steven O’Brien, Liam McGrath, John McGrath, Colman Kennedy and Michael Quinlivan.

A year later, Tipperary with largely the same squad, repeated the dose again at minor level with what will go down as one of the great campaigns as not only did they defeat Cork in a semi-final in Pairc Ui Chaoimh 1-10 to 0-9, they defeated Kerry, not just once, but twice, including a first round game in Tralee and the Munster Final in Limerick to complete the two-in-a-row with largely the same side.

There were no underage meetings in 2012 but in 2013 the rivalry resumed at under 21 level as Cork defeated Tipperary in the Munster Final in Thurles 1-17 to 0-9 with many of those minor players part of the Tipp team while the Cork side contained Brian Hurley, John O’Rourke, Luke Connolly and captain Ian Maguire who will line out next Sunday.

However, at minor level, Tipperary were successful once more, winning 0-11 to 0-8 in the semi-final in Thurles although the win was far more convincing than the final score line suggests with a team that contains Jimmy Feehan, Kevin Fahey, Liam Casey and Colin O’Riordan, while that Cork team contained Sean White and Michael Hurley.

A year later, at under 21 level the sides met again in the Munster Final in Pairc Ui Rinn where Cork again emerged winners 1-18 to 3-8 with current seniors Sean White and Killian O’Hanlon also part of that set-up against a Tipp team who much was expected of as it was it contained the majority of the 2011 minor winning side.

However, twelve months later Tipperary denied Cork a three-in-a-row with a 1-15 to 3-8 Munster Final win in Thurles, with up to ten of that starting Tipperary team in contention to start in next Sunday’s Munster Final with that Cork team including goalkeeper Micheal Martin.

However, since then at underage level it has been one-way traffic with Cork successful at minor level in 2016 and 2017 and at under 20 level in 2018. However, many of the players involved on both senior panels next Sunday were part of underage teams prior to then when Tipperary were more than a match, if not better than Cork. This is the reason why there is more than just hope that Tipperary can claim a first Munster senior football title since 1935 and doing so on the weekend that marks the centenary of Bloody Sunday would only make that extra special.