Tuesday 21 August 2018

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Trip to Tipp on the double

Wednesday, 23rd May, 2018 5:08pm

Cork v Tipperary

Tipperary manager Liam Kearns has really got a bee in his bonnet over this game claiming “we have been thrown under a bus” by the fixture makers playing two games in the space of six days. Michael Ryan, John Meyler or Gerry O’Connor have not made any comments about their teams been placed in a similar position, and with games of higher intensity.

With all due respect to the Waterford footballers, they are at a level much lower than the Cork, Tipp and Clare hurling teams.

I am sure Ronan McCarthy would have liked a nice handy workout, as Tipp had last week, ahead of this game. Win and it opens up all sorts of possibilities, apart from a Munster Final v Kerry in the Páirc and one game less to make it into the last eight.

All sounds so simple, but Cork face a difficult task as this is a very good Tipperary team, who came close to winning in Páirc Uí Rinn last year and might have had not Michael Quinlivan been injured early on.

The big full forward is back and fully fit and along with the likes of Conor Sweeney, Steven O’Brien, Evan Comerford, John McGrath and Robbie Kiely, they have a nicely balanced side. When the sides met in the league in January, Tipp won.

On that night, Cork could have won. The focus for Cork since the conclusion of the league has been Tipp and with a five week uninterrupted run in, the preparation has been good.

There are championship debuts for Mark White and Kevin Flahive and it’s good to see that Stephen Cronin, Aidan Walsh and Luke Connolly all start having missed the league campaign. Brian Hurley’s inclusion on the bench is a testimony to his resolve after serious injury and he, along with Paul Kerrigan, are great options, as is James Loughrey.

In fact Ronan made that point recently, “with injuries and championship commitments we were limited and lacking experience during the league, while at the same time it afforded us the opportunity to give game time to a lot of players”.

Cork’s midfield have key roles and if Walsh and team captain Ian Maguire can get a grip, the attack has potential with Mark Collins, Colm O’Neill and Luke Connolly well capable of troubling the Tipperary rearguard.

The Cork defence will need to be at their best as Tipp have a very dangerous attack, with Quinlivan the fulcrum, so the experienced Jamie O’Sullivan and Tomas Clancy have key roles to play.

A good start is also essential, to get a bit of confidence and put some doubt in the minds of the Tipp players. Most have the home side as favourites - they did win in Thurles two years ago, their first in 72 years - but it would be foolish to write off Cork; they are better equipped, despite the injuries, than in previous years and they get the nod to win.

Hurling

It’s a case of contrasting fortunes for these two old rivals coming into Sunday’s game in Thurles. Cork arrive on the back of a good win over Clare, Tipp after a damaging defeat to Limerick, so beware the wounded animal.With the league final loss to Kilkenny, it’s not been a great few weeks for Michael Ryan’s men, so Cork can expect a backlash.

In the aftermath of last Sunday, John Meyler said “today is history, the focus now switches to Tipp next Sunday and they will be hurting after their loss, so they will be really up for it, but so will we”.

Cork played very well last Sunday; the defending was top class, the basic of hooking, blocking and work rate was as good as we have seen in recent years, a repeat and more will be required on Sunday in Thurles, where a win would really set the side up for progress.

Robbie O’Flynn apart, and it’s good that he is well on the way to a full recovery, the team is unlikely to change, with who takes his place the big call.

Will they go with Tim O’Mahoney as an attacker, Shane Kingston who has pace to burn or Dean Brosnan who made a vital contribution when introduced as well as scoring a neat point?

What of Tipperary, there was a lot of comment when the team was announced for the Limerick, was Michael Ryan gambling on winning without declaring his full hand, was he using his full panel with the round robin format in mind, or was it a form of training?

The selection backfired and Tipp now face the prospect where a second defeat on the bounce will have them facing an early exit from the championship. Expect huge games for Padraig Maher, John Dwyer, Seamus Callanan, and Jason Forde, and they will surely hope for a better return of just five points from play this time.

Tipp will have been stung by criticism from pundits, who were in agreement that it was the worst performance from them in a while.

Cork will be confident after their win and in particular the form of so many, especially Patrick Horgan, Conor Lehane, Darragh Fitzgibbon and the defence as a unit.

Tipp won the league encounter in March, but forget that Cork were out of contention; the championship outing last June maybe a better guide.

It’s a hard game to call - away wins in both Munster and Leinster have yet to happen in the new format - Cork have the capacity to get the first one on Sunday.

Elsewhere

In minor hurling, it’s also Cork v Tipperary in Thurles at midday; these two are favoured to make it through to the knockout phase of the championship, but Cork are slightly better off having won last Sunday. Tipp, like their seniors, will want to bounce back and Cork will need to be focussed from the off, and hopefully tighter in the full-back line.

The third Cork v Tipperary game is the Munster Senior Camogie Final on Saturday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 1.30pm, where the home side are fancied to win even if they will be without a few important players.

Rena Buckley

Much has been said and written since Rena announced her retirement from inter-county on Monday; she was one of the best exponents of the games she played and her record will surely never be broken. Over the years, I had many occasions to interview Rena, and whether it was after a win or a loss, she was courteous and helpful at all times, the mark of a classy lady. Rena owes the games she adorned with distinction nothing and carries the best wishes of everyone. Enjoy, it is well deserved.

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