Sports

Tipperary Begin Title Defence Again Old Rivals Cork

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Tipperary Begin Title Defence Again Old Rivals Cork thumbnailTipperary’s full back James Barry and Galway’s corner forward Conor Whelan in action in last year's All-Ireland semi-final. Barry has made the full back position his own in recent seasons.

THERE was a time back in the 1960s and 1970s when it was expected that Tipperary and Cork would meet in the Munster final or the semi final at the very least.

However since the Munster Council decided on an open draw basis, and not for the first time in recent years, Tipp find themselves in the quarter final against Cork. Next Sunday will be Tipperary's sixth quarter final occasion in nine years and the fifth Munster senior hurling championship quarter final against Cork. Tipp played Limerick in the 2012 first round.

But let's return to the pairing at hand. In 2009, Tipperary, under the management of Liam Sheedy and beaten league finalists, produced a great win over Cork in Semple Stadium 1-19 to 0-19. Tipp went on to win the Munster final but lost to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland decider. The following year Pairc Ui Chaoimh was the venue but the team hit troubled waters and the 3-15 to 0-14 defeat left Tipp in tatters.

How could a Tipp team that had played so well in the previous two years fall to the biggest championship defeat to Cork since 1942 when Cork won the Munster final by 4-15 to 4-1 at the Cork Athletic Grounds.

Thankfully Tipp and Liam Sheedy were able to recover in time for a classic victory over Kilkenny at Croke Park in September. Sheedy left the managerial scene handing the baton over to Declan Ryan and Ryan's first championship game was another quarter final clash with Cork at Semple Stadium. A hot one to begin with but Tipp stormed to a 3-22 to 0-23 win. Tipp went on to win their third Munster final in four years.

The following year Tipp overcame Limerick in the 2012 opening round and the next quarter final clash for Tipp was last year against Cork when Tipp won by 0-22 to 0-13.

This year's opener against Cork comes with a health warning. All is not well in Tipperary as far as form and injury goes. After a great start to this year's Allianz Hurling league, the odds for Tipp to win the league and the Munster championship were shortening by the day.

However Tipp's loss to Cork in the final round of the group stage plus the heavy defeat to Galway in the league decider has created concern in the county.

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan has plenty to occupy his mind over the next few days as he tries to put out a team that will to help get over an improving Cork side. The current injury list includes Michael Cahill, Niall O'Meara and Patrick Bonner with the recovery of Donagh Maher and John Meagher setting them back for another few weeks. In addition the fitness levels of Cathal Barrett and Seamus Callanan remains to be seen. Both players are likely to play.

And that's just the injury concerns. At the time of writing, Tipperary were waiting to see if Jason Forde could be successful in appealing his one match suspension following his tangle with David Fitzgerald in the Allianz Hurling League semi final with Wexford last April.

Nothing but problems and Michael Ryan must look to other players such as Alan Flynn, Thomas Hamill, Barry Heffernan, John O'Keeffe in defence as well as Paul Flynn, Steven O'Brien, Aidan McCormack and Daire Quinn in the attack.

On a positive side of things, Tipp continue to have the best forwards in the country with Noel McGrath, Dan McCormack and John McGrath playing consistently well. The same could be said about Brendan Maher at midfield while Padraic Maher, Ronan Maher and James Barry will help keep the defence intact.

The task of beating an up and coming Cork side will be enormous. This new Cork team has plenty of talent. The recent meeting with Tipp in the league resulted in a 0-26 to 3-16 win. Patrick Horgan scored the winner at the end of an impressive display by the Glen Rovers man.

He scored 0-15 including 0-10 frees and one '65'. Indeed the Cork attack had many other players who caught the eye. Bill Cooper, Alan Cadogan, Seamus Harnedy and Luke Meade displayed the ability to grab a score or two. Young Darragh Fitzgibbon replaced Conor Lehane (who retired injured on the day) and scored 0-5 in an impressive day out.

Fitzgibbon was replaced the following day against Limerick in the quarter final as Cork lost narrowly. But the defeat may not cause too much disappointment down Leeside and apart from the named attack, Cork have plenty more experienced players like Mark Ellis, Christopher Joyce, Mark Coleman at half back plus Lorcan McLoughlin and Dean Brosnan at midfield. Indeed if Cork have a weak link it may be their inside backline of Stephen McDonnell, Damien Cahalane and Colm Spillane, who will be up against three formidable Tipp men in John O'Dwyer, Seamus Callanan and John McGrath.

If Tipp are to win they will need everything working at 100 percent. Hopefully Seamus Callanan has recovered sufficiently from his thumb injury - sustained against Wexford in the league semi final. We hope John McGrath has rediscovered his form that seemed to have deserted him in the League final against Galway. In support there should be plenty of it from Noel McGrath, Dan McCormack and Michael Breen.

Goals will win this game and Tipp scored a share of them in last year's brilliant season. Goals against Cork have averaged at over two per game. An interesting snippet surfaced last week that the last time a player scored three goals in a Tipperary v Cork championship game was in 1969 when Willie Walsh scored a hat-trick in Corks 4-6 to 0-9 win in the Munster final at Limerick. Who will be the next? Last year John McGrath scored 3-2 against Waterford in the Munster final. What are the odds he could do it again.

Goal scorers aside! Tipp have a major task ahead of them on Sunday and at 5.30pm we should see them as winners but only by the minimum.

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