Tipperary senior footballers’ year began on Sunday last with defeat in the McGrath Cup quarter-final against Cork in Clonmel.
In their first competitive outing of 2015 the home side went down by five points to Division One side Cork who always looked likely winners after they hit the front midway through the first half. The Rebels dominated the game after Tipp’s positive opening had waned, and in centre- forward Donncha O’Connor and full-forward Colm O’Neill had two superb scorers who contributed 1-11 of Cork’s 1-14 total over the 70 minutes.
For Tipp this was a stock take at the start of what they hope will be another progressive year. The result on the day was no major surprise even if the way Cork imposed their dominance at times was disappointing from a Tipp perspective.
However, by the very nature of these early season games, it is almost impossible to read too much into them. Sides are trying to learn the maximum without commiting fully, and why would they. No less than six Tipp players made their senior competitive debuts on Sunday last.
Sunday’s performance was a mixed bag for Tipp but management can’t be too disappointed with the outcome and will have gained from the outing. The reality check though would indicate that Peter Creedon’s side will now have to up a few gears to compete in Division 3 football this season with an away opener against Armagh at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday, 1st February, their next competitive outing.
On Sunday Tipp started with 10 of the 15 who began against Cork the last time the sides met in the 2014 Munster semi-final, and the home side started positively enough playing in to a strong cold wind. George Hannigan pointed within a minute from 35 metres and further points from play from Conor Sweeney and Barry Grogan had the game all square at 0-3 apiece 10 minutes in. Cork’s three early points coming from two by Colm O’Neill (one a free) and Donncha O’Connor.
Tipp had their only goal chance of the game as early as the third minute. Peter Acheson put Colin O’Riordan through and after a great run the JK Brackens player’s shot was easily saved by Ken O’Halloran in the Cork goal. Thereafter Tipp never really bothered the Cork custodian.
Midway through the first half Cork strung a nice passing movement together culminating in Jamie O’Sullivan being fouled and Donncha O’Connor blasted home the penalty. For the first time Cork had taken the lead and they were never to surrender it from then on.
Colm O’Neill and Conor Sweeney exchanged frees to leave it 1-4 to 0-4 for the visitors on 25 minutes. However the gulf in class came to the fore in the 10 minute pre- interval spell when Cork kicked a half dozen points from play. O’Connor landed three majestic points in to the town goal, all from long range, with Dan McEoin, Mark Collins and sub John Hayes also getting on the scoreboard.
Tipp could only manage two points in the same period, a 20 metre free from Barry Grogan after Michael Quinlivan was fouled, and then a nice point from Conor Sweeney after good work from Colin O’Riordan and Peter Acheson in the build-up.
At half-time Cork were full value for their 1-10 to 0-6 lead.
Like he did in the opening half, George Hannigan pointed within a minute of the restart. However, Cork with Kevin O’Driscoll and Mark Collins operating at centre-field, were winning most possession around the middle of the park. Cork’s dominance had Tipp defending in large numbers and the half-forward line were to spend most of the second half defending.
Seamus Kennedy, who played against Tipperary for Mary Immaculate College in the Waterford Crystal Cup the previous Friday night, had Tipp’s second point of the half on 42 minutes. But Colm O’Neill, in a excellent display of free taking (including a 45 against the breeze) had Cork eight clear at 1-13 to 0-8 midway through the second half.
Positively for the final quarter of the game Tipperary kept plugging away. Manager Peter Creedon took the opportunity to empty the bench and in the process introduce some of the under 21 panel to senior competitive action.
Michael Quinlivan scored a fine point on 57 minutes and two frees by Conor Sweeney narrowed the gap further before the last score of the game, a point by centre-back Robbie Kiely after he broke through the middle.
Cork’s team on Sunday last contained nine of the team who played against Tipp last June in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, so clearly they had a strong panel in Clonmel as they try to defend the McGrath Cup.
Tipp can take credit in that they held the winners scoreless from play in the second half, even if there were a couple of scary moments around the goalmouth. And that they were still chipping away at the end in a game long lost was uplifting for future days ahead.
With the likes of Ciaran McDonald, Steven O’Brien and Philip Austin to return the panel will be strengthened going forward. The introduction of so many under 21s over the course of the game was positive also for the year ahead.
Tipperary: Collie Nugent (Ardfinnan), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers), Paddy Codd (Capt, Killenaule), Andrew Morrissey (Galtee Rovers), Gerard Hally (Cahir), Robbie Kiely (Arravale Rovers, 0-1), Seamus Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials, 0-1), George Hannigan (Shannon Rovers, 0-2), Colin O’Riordan (JK Brackens), Ian Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), Peter Acheson (Moyle Rovers), Brian Fox (Eire Og, Annacarty/Donaskeigh), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen, (0-5, 0-3F), Barry Grogan (Aherlow, 0-2), Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials, 0-1).
Subs: Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule) for Hally (injured, 25 mins); Liam Casey (Cahir) for Fahey (56 mins); Daragh Kearney (Clonmel Og) for Acheson (injured, 57 mins); Paul Shanahan (Upperchurch/Drombane) for Grogan, Luke Boland (Moyle Rovers) for Hannigan, Josh Keane for Sweeney (all 68 mins).
Cork: Ken O’Halloran, Stephen O’Donoghue, Tom Clancy, James Loughrey, Jamie O’Sullivan, Eoin Cadogan (Capt), Daniel Hazel, Michael Cussen, Mark Collins, Colm O’Driscoll, Donncha O’Connor (1-4, 1-0 penalty), John O’Rourke, Dan McEoin (0-1), Colm O’Neill (0-7, 0-5F, 0-1 45), Brian Hurley.
Subs: John Hayes (0-1) for Hurley (injured, 25 mins);Kevin O’Driscoll for Cussen (35 mins) Fiachra O Deasuinaigh for O’Rourke (51 mins); George Durrant for O’Connor (57 mins); Padraig Hodnett for O’Driscoll (62 mins); Liam Jennings for Clancy (65 mins).
Ref: R. Moloney (Limerick).