Tipperary survived a last-gasp Cork onslaught to retain their Munster intermediate hurling title in a nail-biting finish at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Friday evening last, winning 0-19 to 0-18.
In a free-ridden encounter that could have gone either way, Tipperary had goalkeeper Darragh Egan to thank for their ninth title and their first back-to-back successes as the Kildangan man pointed three frees from inside his own half, and crowned his night with two top-drawer saves, the second, in injury time, denying Cork what would have been a match-winning goal.
Tipperary made most of the running but Cork, with the very accurate Peter Oâ€™Brien on song, stayed on their heels all the way. Indeed, when Cork nudged ahead by a point with ten minutes to play, a victory to give Cork their fourteenth title looked on the cards.
A number of Tipperary substitutions freshened up the side who hit four unanswered points in four minutes but Cork were not giving up. Oâ€™Brien twice pointed for them and in injury time, sub Michael Oâ€™Sullivanâ€™s rasper for a goal was stopped by Egan, and a couple of Cork attackers fluffed the opportunity to finish off the rebound before Tipperary scrambled the ball clear.
Though Cork had the aid of the light breeze, Tipperary opened well with Orrie Quirke twice pointing inside three minutes. Colm Casey had a Cork point and Daragh Egan showed his class with a point-blank stop off Caseyâ€™s shot in the 4th minute. Oâ€™Brien levelled almost immediately to establish the pattern that was to prevail all through.
Cork goalie Martin Coleman, a former senior, was subjecting Tipperary to great pressure with the length of his puck-outs, and with the Tipp backs also conceding frees too readily, six of Corkâ€™s ten first half scores came from placed balls, one by Coleman from well inside his own half in the 18th minute.
Two minutes before the break, Joey McLoughney almost had a Tipp goal when he moved on to a break but Cork goalie Coleman got his stick to the shot to turn it away.
The ball was definitely in Tipperaryâ€™s court with the breeze to aid them in the second half and when they fired over four points without replay through Timmy Hammersley (free), Danny Oâ€™Hanlon, and two mighty frees from inside his own half by Darragh Egan, a comfortable Tipperary win was in prospect.
No so however. Egan saved an Oâ€™Brien shot and Casey whipped over a Cork point, Two Oâ€™Brien frees had them only one adrift by the 40th minute. Timmy Hammersely eased Tippâ€™s growing anxiety with a pointed free but then Peter Oâ€™Brien put Cork in front by the 50th minute with three pointed frees without reply.
Once more Tipperary responded, Ruairi Gleeson, Darragh Egan (free), sub Pat Shortt and Joey McLoughney reeled off four points in as many minutes to put Tipp three clear with five minutes to play.
Safely home? Not so again. Oâ€™Brien twice pointed for Cork to leave them only one behind as injury time beckoned. Cork threw everything into attack. Sub Oâ€™Sullivan had the chance to level the game but opted for a goal. Egan saved, two or three Cork players had the chance to finish the job, but somehow Tipp survived and scrambled the ball to safety to secure their ninth Munster title in the grade.
Darragh Egan was star of the show for Tipperary inspiring confidence in those in front of him. Miceal Butler was very sound at fullback with Willie Ryan and David Young also to the fore. Joey McLoughney finished very strongly at midfield while in attack Danny Oâ€™Hanlon, Ruairi Gleeson and Orrie Quirke contributed valuable scores, as did Timmy Hammersley despite a few lapses. It was a welcome win but there is plenty of room for improvement as Tipp face into the all-Ireland semi-final
So Cork finish their Munster hurling campaign without silverware, a big disappointment for this proud county. They came very close to lowering Tippâ€™s colours and no fault could be placed on such as Ross Cashman, Mark Ellis, Michael Walsh, Brian Lawton or the very accurate Peter O Brien.
Tipperary â€“ D Egan(0-3, 3fs); S Oâ€™Brien, M Butler, T Treacy; W Ryan, D Young, P Heffernan; J McLoughney(0-2,1f), S McCormack; O Quirke(0-2), T Hammersley(0-6, 5fs), D Oâ€™Hanlon(0-2); R Gleeson(0-2), T Butler (0-1), P Greene.
Subs- P Shortt(0-1) for Greene; P Molloy for Oâ€™Hanlon; P O Leary for T Butler, B Fox for Quirke.
Cork â€“ M Coleman(0-1,1f); J Oâ€™Callaghan, E Dillon, M Walsh; M Ellis, R Cashman, T Healy; J Cronin, S McCarthy; B Lawton(0-2), P Oâ€™Brien(0-12, 10fs), R Oâ€™Shea; C Casey(0-2), J Wall, M Kennefick(0-1).
Subs- Barry Lawton for Wall; M Oâ€™Sullivan for Oâ€™Shea; A Watson for McCarthy; B Cooper for Casey.
Ref eree - D Fox, Clare.