Lessons for Cork from two epic hurling clashes in Croker

Lessons for Cork from two epic hurling clashes in Croker
WARZONE: TJ Reid takin on Limerick. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

YESTERDAY’S men are this year’s All-Ireland finalists.

Kilkenny and Tipperary will contest the decider after an epic pair of semi-finals at Croke Park. The empire struck back on Jones Road, as the reigning champions Limerick and the people’s favourites this summer Wexford were cut down with history beckoning.

It’s back to a ‘traditional’ All-Ireland, a repeat of 2016 when Tipp tore Kilkenny asunder, while there were also memorable battles in 2014 (times two) and 2009-2011, featuring many of the same players. For all the brilliance of Cian Lynch and Aaron Gillane in green and Lee Chin and Conor McDonald for the Yellow Bellies, Seamus Callanan, TJ Reid, the Mahers and Paul Murphy will again be centre-stage.

Limerick appeared to have an unbeatable combination of power and pace in demolishing Tipp in the Munster final but Kilkenny outworked them for long stages of Saturday’s semi-final and were more than worthy winners. While John Kiely’s men were hard done by in added time when a Darragh O’Donovan sideline was waved wide when it should have been given as a 65, they never hurled at full tilt.

Or rather they weren’t allowed to. Kilkenny were patchy during the league and in the Leinster series but have proved why they are the greatest hurling county of them all. TJ Reid was ferocious, securing possession in the air and on the decks he’d no right to.

Walter Walsh started and lobbed over a couple of points, Colin Fennelly was a threat throughout to the tune of 1-3, while Adrian Mullen, who the Cork U20s will face in next weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final, slammed over four points.

Adrian Mullen on the turn. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Adrian Mullen on the turn. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Pádraig Walsh was wearing six on his back but covered every blade of grass from the halfway line towards his own goal while also nabbing a score.

Most would agree this isn’t the most talented group on Noreside, but like the previous incarnations, they have the will to match their skill, as Cork found out in the quarter-final. Underdogs make ferocious Cats and Cody’s record in semi-finals now reads 16 victories from 19, with just two defeats and a draw (to Waterford in 2016 when they inevitably won the replay).

Limerick had dangermen in Graeme Mulcahy and Aaron Gillane who combined for 1-9 while Shane Dowling brilliantly improvised for a goal off the bench but they were flat elsewhere. Their shooting was poor, even allowing for the Kilkenny pressure, and losing Declan Hannon to injury didn’t help their cause.

Graeme Mulcahy is tackled by Conor Browne and Paul Murphy. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Graeme Mulcahy is tackled by Conor Browne and Paul Murphy. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Perhaps their bench had been over-rated and despite their league and Munster triumphs, they were are dethroned as All-Ireland champs. Given the age profile of the group, Limerick will again be serious contenders for Liam McCarthy in 2020, but they didn’t get the breaks in this semi-final that saw them past Cork at the same stage 12 months earlier. Such is sport, and hurling in particular.

Tipperary showed astonishing resilience, the type they hadn’t managed to produce when under the cosh in the Gaelic Grounds, by coming back from five points down against Wexford despite losing John McGrath to a red card. McGrath was deservedly dismissed, and lucky is wasn’t a straight red, but Davy Fitzgerald’s outfit had fortune in their favour as three Tipp goals were ruled out for a variety of reasons.

Noel McGrath passes away from Conor McDonald. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Noel McGrath passes away from Conor McDonald. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Yet they never handled the expectation when they were in the driving seat in the last quarter. Tipp warriors like Callanan, who did his best work when switched out to the half-forward line, Noel McGrath, Pádraic Maher, though he coughed up a few cheap frees, and Ronan Maher, stood up.

What will have thrilled Liam Sheedy, even more, was the contribution of Jake Morris, who buried the winning goal against Cork in last week’s U20 Munster final, Ger Browne, Willie Connors and Mark Kehoe off the bench. Looking ahead to the final and even beyond this season, that sets Tipp up brilliantly.

Seamus Callanan and Jake Morris celebrate at the final whistle. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Seamus Callanan and Jake Morris celebrate at the final whistle. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

For Cork supporters watching over the weekend, the lessons were no different than after the Rebels’ defeats this summer.

To succeed in the latter stages of the championship you need relentless work-rate, monster physicality and an almost insane appetite. Whether John Meyler stays on or a new manager comes in, finding hurlers who relish those aspects of the game will be essential to have any chance of regaining Liam McCarthy.

Kilkenny 1-21 Limerick 2-17

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-8 (0-7 f, 0-1 sl), C Fennelly 1-3, A Mullen 0-4, W Walsh 0-2, J Donnelly, P Walsh, R Hogan, J Maher 0-1 each.

Scorers for Limerick: A Gillane 1-9 (1-0 pen, 0-6 f), S Dowling 1-0, D Byrnes (0-1 f, 0-1 65), G Mulcahy 0-2 each, D Reidy, B Nash, P Casey, T Morrissey 0-1 each.

Tipperary 1-28 Wexford 3-20

Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde 0-12 (0-8 f, 0-2 65), S Callanan 1-2, N McGrath 0-4, J O’Dwyer 0-3, R Maher 0-2, M Breen, G Browne, W Connors, M Kehoe, J Morris 0-1 each.

Scorers for Wexford: L Chin 1-7 (0-6 f, 0-1 65); C. McDonald 2-1, R O’Connor 0-3, J O’Connor, P Morris, D O’Keeffe 0-2 each, P Foley, L Ryan, K Foley 0-1 each.


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