Liam Boland came on as a second half sub against Cork and acquitted himself well scoring a point from play. One of just five from play Tipp managed all evening.
“I don’t have the answers for this performance. Why were we so poor, I don’t know,” so commented Tipperary football manager Liam Kearns following his side’s disappointing defeat to Cork in last night’s Munster Senior Football Championship semi-final at Semple Stadium in Thurles.
The defeat means that Tipperary must now take the qualifier route and wait a month for a Round 2 game. To get to the so-called Super 8’s (two groups of four teams, with three games guaranteed) Tipp must now win twice.
The first round draw includes some big hitters that you normally wouldn't expect to be involved in early qualifiers such Mayo, Tyrone, Cavan, Kildare and Meath.
Kerryman Kearns simply had no answers as to why his team had uncharacteristically underperformed on the night, especially as he felt coming into the game that his side were ready for the challenge.
“We were in good form coming into the match. We felt we were going to perform well tonight, but you have got to give credit to Cork. Cork performed and we didn’t and that’s the bottom line and you can’t take it away from Cork. They are into a Munster final now and the best of luck to them.”
“The players are gutted, I am gutted and the management are gutted that we just underperformed so badly on what was a big occasion for us,” (with the prize of a home Munster final against Kerry also at Semple Stadium if they had won).
But it was not to be in the end despite a reasonably good start by Tipperary in which they were level with Cork after 20 minutes after a very lively opening which promised the attendance of 3,339 another semi-final treat. In that opening period Tipperary did have two half-decent goal chances both of which were saved by Cork keeper Mark White. In the 11th minute Michael Quinlivan got inside the Cork defence but couldn’t get enough on the ball as he tried to slip it into the net; and in the 18th minute Quinlivan played a superb pass into Liam Casey whose attempt on goal was also blocked by the Clonakilty custodian.
Tipp manager Kearns lamented these crucial misses in his after-match talk…
“If you create the chances you have got to take them and we did have their rearguard in trouble at the start of the first half. We didn’t take the chances and if you don’t take chances at this level you get punished. In fairness Cork punished us. I thought that Cork were very good and we didn’t have the answers for them tonight. I thought they were clinical and took their scores and we didn’t. I don’t know how many chances that we butchered in the first half,” added the disappointed Tipp boss.
“So many of our players just underperformed - Bill Maher tried all through the game but when you have so many players underperforming then it’s hard to come up with answers. We just had so many players that did not perform that it’s hard to put your finger on why we were so bad. We were in trouble at midfield (Ian Maguire and Aidan Walsh ruled) and we were in trouble all over the pitch. We had an awful lot of problems in an awful lot of different areas,” he admitted, before adding “I don’t have the answers for this performance. Why were we so poor, I don’t know,” added Kearns who clearly has a major job on his hands in the run-up to the qualifiers on the weekend of 23rd/24th June.
But there was no getting away from where Tipp are now after this display which Kearns described as a “serious setback.”
“I would say it is probably our worst setback in the three years that we have been together. Our progress was pretty sustained up to this point and this is a setback, certainly. We were very unlucky last year above in Páirc Uí Rinn when we had a lot of injuries and problems, but we didn’t have injuries and problems (in Thurles). We played six days ago, but I can’t put it down to that,” he continued.
“We expected to perform a lot better tonight and we didn’t. We will take a little bit of time off now. We have a little bit of time to get over this and then we will just have to pick ourselves up again. We knew well the consequences of losing here. It’s now the qualifiers and that is a very difficult road. Certainly, we wanted to do better than we did out there and I don’t think anybody could be happy with that,” said the Tipp manager, having now faced Cork in semi-finals in each of his three years at the helm.
But in fairness, Kearns did credit Cork – and you would have to with a display that will give ‘The Rebels’ renewed hope under Ronan McCarthy this year. They packed power and pace and they have stars forwards in the likes of Mark Collins, Ruairi Deane, Colm O'Neill and Luke Connolly - although O'Neill did limp off badly in the 47th minute.
“We underperformed. Cork had a very good night you have to give a lot of credit to Cork, Cork were ready for the game and played really really well and we underperformed all over the field. I don’t have an answer as to why we were so poor. The reality is we weren’t anywhere near good enough,” were Kearns' opening words in trying to put sense on the night.
“I thought they were very good - they were ready for the game. They played a really good game, we underperformed and the result is more than double scores; that’s the reality of it. I thought they had the game won half way through the second half, maybe they had the game won, you could argue, by half-time. They had us in trouble in too many places for us to turn it around. I can’t put my finger on why that was,” stated Kearns who had neither answers nor excuses for how his team had performed.
Tipperary will have a quick break now before resuming training with a qualifier game in four weeks time – against a winner from the first round game. For Tipperary to get back to where they would love to be, i.e., the Super 8’s, they must win two matches, and with the likes of Cavan, Mayo and Tyrone already in the first round qualifiers, that may well be a huge ask. They can only wait now and hope they can yet make the sun shine this summer.