THE Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde character that is the Cork football team reared its ugly head yesterday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
A poor Cork performance allowed Tipperary to win a deserved Munster Senior Football Championship for the first time since 1935.
It was difficult to begrudge Tipp their victory. Eighty-five years was too long a wait, but from a Cork perspective, this was certainly an opportunity lost.
The defeat now detracts from the historic victory over Kerry in the semi-final, as there is no point winning a big match like that if you are not able to follow up in the Munster final when you are favourites.
The wait for a Munster title now stretches to at least nine years, matching the long wait from 1974 to 1983, and the opportunity to play in a huge All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo in Croke Park is now lost.
Ultimately, Cork’s error count was through the roof and the application levels never got close to matching their effort from their semi-final triumph over Kerry.
A noticeable aspect of Cork’s play was the glaring lack of kick passing. There seemed to be a genuine fear to put ball to boot meaning that the Cork play was pedestrian and predictable throughout.
Cork registered a big score from Brian Hurley in the 42nd minute, but a look at the scoreboard 10 minutes later showed that Cork had failed to add to their tally, with some poor wides from Mark Collins, Sean White and Ruairí Deane.
At this point, Tipp had frozen and were in containment mode. Cork just did not seem good enough to reel them back in.
Tipp clearly emerged from both water breaks a different side though. The Tipp manager David Power clearly took full advantage of the opportunity to talk to his troops in order to regalvanise their efforts.
Tipp effectively won the match in the minutes after these water breaks, as they approached the game with a sense of adventure and kicked some important scores in these periods.
Sean Powter and Kevin Flahive proved to be huge losses to Cork as there were very few penetrating runs from deep in their absence while losing Luke Connolly at half time proved a fatal blow to Cork’s hopes.
In the first half, he looked like the one attacker capable of hurting the Premier county.
It is noteworthy that the U20 All-Ireland winners from last year are slowly but surely becoming integrated into the Cork side.
Sean Meehan, Maurice Shanley and Colm O’Callaghan all started against Kerry, with Damien Gore and Paul Ring coming on in that game, and the Aghabullogue corner-back made his first start against Tipp.
Cathail O’Mahony came off the bench to replace Connolly to become the sixth of this bunch to play at this level, but Sunday afternoon will have been a big wake-up call for this group.
Five of the starting six defenders in the Munster final were 22 years of age or under.
While this fact was painted in a positive light pre-match it turned into a negative based on the game itself, as the Cork defence struggled to contain the Tipp attack and seemed to lack a reassuring presence to take control back there.
When Tipperary scored the first three points of the game in the opening couple minutes there was an immediate worry that Cork were not fully switched on for the challenge.
And while Cork got level by the 10-minute mark through two Luke Connolly scores and a free from Mark Collins they never really got out of second gear over the 70 minutes.
The Cork build-up play was much too slow in the first half. Every free around the middle of the park was kicked sideways, allowing the Tipperary defence to funnel backwards.
Then the movement just wasn’t there to breach it, as the driving runs of Powter were badly missed.
In contrast, when Tipp broke Cork did not scramble back in the same manner in which they did against Kerry.
There was a lot of lazy running back and this turned into lazy tackles which allowed simple free opportunities for Tipperary sharpshooters Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan.
And while the tempo levels were increased in the second half the error count remained high, and Cork never really looked like reeling in a Tipp side who were deserving champions on the day.