Special Sunday left Cork footballers on the wrong side of history

Special Sunday left Cork footballers on the wrong side of history

Cork’s Mark Keane and Colin O’Riordan of Tipperary. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

FOR every underdog story in sport, there has to be a favourite left cursing their inability to justify that tag.

Tipperary and Cavan ensured this championship will never be forgotten by upsetting the odds last weekend; Cork and Donegal were the fall guys. 

Cavan players celebrate the win over Donegal. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Cavan players celebrate the win over Donegal. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

While it was magical stuff, from a Cork perspective it was a sickener. A first Munster title since 2012 slipped through their fingers.

What makes the defeat so infuriating for Leesiders is that they'd been in the opposite corner two weeks earlier. With Kerry slain, Cork were always going to be vulnerable but they had so much going for them it shouldn't have been an issue.

Cork certainly didn't have any reason to underestimate their opponents, having lost league and championship outings in recent years to the Premier, as well as underage ties. And starved of silverware, after enduring a succession of devastating defeats in the modern era, hunger shouldn't have been an issue.

Yet Cork lacked the energy, attitude and cohesion that Tipp had. They only played in patches, always chasing the game but never dictating the pace. 

They had a few decent chances when Tipp retreated to defend their second-half lead but that was about it. They paid a heavy, heavy price for a performance that didn't merit a Munster final victory. 

This was more than a harrowing one-off loss. It was a body blow that will significantly damage Cork's confidence from here.

Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

As is always the case following a defeat, there was a massive outcry from the GAA contingent in Rebel county. While the level of criticism was excessive, they raised some valid points.

Kevin Flahive, a starter in the Kerry win, didn't even make the bench this time. While the management can be commended for opting for a youthful defence, the Douglas club man's physicality was missed.

The failure to utilise Paul Kerrigan was another surprise. Now 34, Kerrigan is vastly experienced and still able to carry and distribute the ball at pace. 

Mark Keane the hero against Kerry came on with 12 minutes of normal time remaining. His athleticism would have been a real asset in the second half, especially when Luke Connolly was forced off through injury at the break.

To be fair to Ronan McCarthy and his selectors, losing Seán Powter to injury in the build-up robbed them of a line-breaker and the ideal sweeper. Yet tactically, Cork simply weren't set up to neuter Tipp.

Páirc Uí Chaoimh, given the exquisite new surface, plays big and Cork needed to contract the space around marquee forwards Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan.

At the other end, there was no foil alongside Brian Hurley. A bit of muscle and another outlet for a few long deliveries. When Tipp dropped deep, Cork lacked the patience to work the ball to their shooters. 

The rest is history.

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