Hurling fans all over the country are still on a high following yesterday’s thriller in Thurles. Cork’s shock victory has added to an already exciting championship. We take a look at five crucial moments in yesterday’s Munster Championship opener.
Tipperary were expected to steamroll their way past The Rebels in Semple Stadium yesterday. As reigning All-Ireland champions, the game was anticipated to be a formality.
Written off by 90% of the country all week, a storm was brewing on Leeside. Kieran Kingston’s side entered the contest with a natural Cork swagger not seen for quite some time now.
With a team reminiscent of that 0f Jimmy Barry Murphy’s 1999 side, The Rebels shocked both the Munster hurling world and all those outside of it. An outstanding performance deserving of huge praise.
We look at some crucial points from yesterday’s action.
Tipperary’s early missed goal chances
In the early exchanges of yesterday’s affair, Cork raced out of the traps. Confidence was sky high and this proved a huge boost to Kingston’s side. Two chances to kill this confidence presented themselves early on however.
When Noel McGrath came bearing down on goal in the first five minutes, Cork’s old flaws appeared to be showing early on. Perhaps due to a slight bit of misfortune, Noel McGrath’s kicked effort raised a white flag rather than a gree one. Add to this the fact that Luke Meade responded with a lovely point, Cork’s confidence was boosted.
Just a few moments later however, alarm bells rang again as Brendan Maher tore through the centre. After a lovely pass from ‘Bubbles’ O’ Dwyer, Maher’s effort was deflected over the bar by Anthony Nash. Last year’s All-Ireland winning captain really should have done better however.
Had Tipp bagged two goals in the first five minutes Cork’s confidence would have been torn to shreds and victory would have become highly unlikely.
Shane Kingston’s first score
23 minutes had passed and Cork’s debutants had excelled up to now. All except f0r one, Shane Kingston had struggled to get himself into the game at this point. After conceding a free to Paudie Maher, it appeared it might not be the Douglas native’s day.
Maher took a quick free to John O’Dwyer whose speculative effort came down off the post to a waiting John McGrath. McGrath’s attempt at goal was calmly blocked down and the ball was cleared. Following this Shane Kingston broke on to a ball and landed his first score of the day.
This moment proved huge in the game. It will no doubt have been the catalyst to Kingston’s eventual 1-4 in an outstanding afternoon for the young man. A goal at this point would have sent Tipp into a four-point lead and may have sent them on their way to victory. This score instead brought Cork level and back into the game.
Nash save on Callanan
At level pegging heading into half time, Cork were right where they wanted to be. A massive boost to their confidence. Right on the stroke of half-time Tipperary were afforded another opportunity to strike a killer blow to The Rebels.
Ask any Tipperary fan who they’d give the ball to when in need of a goal and the majority will answer Seamus Callanan. The Premier County’s supporters were sure of a goal before half time as Callanan was bearing down on goal in the 35th minute.
Callanan’s effort was saved superbly by the brilliant Anthony Nash and Cork would enter the dressing room at half-time level. A goal for Tipperary here would have created a different team talk entirely for Kieran Kingston at half time and no doubt this was a huge point in yesterday’s game.
Cork response to Tipperary Goal
When John McGrath struck what could have been a killer blow to Cork in the 56th minute, questions were now to be asked of Cork’s metal. Would this be the nail in the coffin or could they come back once again?
Man of the match Conor Lehane took ownership and responded immediately with a stunning point along the sideline whilst under pressure from Paudie Maher. This was a huge statement by Cork and Lehane that they were not going to leave this game without a fight.
What happened next was even more impressive. With the game now level it was anybody’s match. Shane Kingston, son of manager Kieran, sent over a spectacular point along the same sideline as Lehane to regain the lead for Cork.
These points were perhaps the biggest turning points in the game. When all hope might have been lost for The Rebels they instead responded perfectly and regained the lead. This lead would be held until the final whistle.
Cathal Barrett knee injury
Alan Cadogan struck three points from play in the first half. Having caused significant damage whilst being picked up by John O’ Keeffe, Cadogan was then marshalled by Cathal Barrett.
Aside from a free right at the beginning of the second half, Cadogan was largely anonymous in the second 35, eventually being substituted. Barrett had neutralised one of Cork’s main threats. Cadogan’s replacement Luke O’ Farrell also failed to make any impact whilst being picked up by Barrett.
In the 62nd minute however, a crucial moment in Tipp’s season let alone the game occurred. Barrett landed awkwardly on his knee and appeared to pick up what looks to be a very serious injury. This proved to be a crucial moment in the game.
When a long ball was delivered with just minutes left towards the Tipp square, Barrett’s replacement Alan Flynn showed his inexperience. Rather than waiting for the break, he decided to join James Barry and Seamus Harnedy in contesting the high ball. The ball broke in behind and the unmarked Michael Cahalane happily finished.
Had Barrett been on the field would this have happened? Who knows, but most likely not. This all but put Tipperary’s hopes of retaining their Munster hurling title out of reach.