IN THE 69th minute of Sunday’s game in Páirc Uí Rinn, Darren Browne came out of defence with a ball before striking it, just on the half-way line, into the Cork attack.
By that stage, Cork were trailing by 16 points but, bizarrely, there wasn’t one Cork player inside the 45-metre line. Browne’s clearance trickled harmlessly into Tipperary goalkeeper Paul Maher, who had all the time in the world to collect the sliotar and drive it back down the field.
When Cork won that clearance, Luke Meade scored a point within seconds. That score was quickly followed by good points from Mark Coleman and Patrick Horgan. Cork outscored Tipp by 1-7 to 0-4 in the last quarter but Tipp had switched off by then and Cork’s attacking set-up on that late Browne play encapsulated how all over the place they were on Sunday.
Cork were way off the pace. It was one of those anaemic performances that Cork are sometimes capable of producing but they were always open to being blown away when Tipperary turned up with their A game.
After the match Mícheál Ó Domhnaill put it to Liam Sheedy that he couldn’t in his “wildest dreams have imagined that ye would have that much of a gap between yereselves and Cork”.
“We came here to bring a performance with us and we put a lot of work into it during the week,” said Sheedy. “We worked on a fair few things.” Tipp had plenty of time to do so because the players and management flew from Shannon to Alicante for a five-day training camp last Monday morning. The squad flew back into Shannon on Friday evening before travelling to Cork for Sunday’s game.
At one stage, management were considering going this week but they didn’t change their plans when last week’s match was postponed due to bad weather. Tipp knew they would need luck — a win against Cork in Cork and other results falling their way — if they were to reach a league quarter-final but the camp had been planned long before Tipperary found themselves in that position.
Having less club games this April than last season will give the Tipp management more access to their players than they had in 2018. Yet Tipp’s trip so early in the season also underlined how much the GAA want to cut down on foreign training camps in April, especially when a number of teams breached the rule last year.
Teams are clearly looking at ways around that embargo now. And the work Tipp were able to do last week was clearly evident on Sunday.
“It’s nice to get away,” said Sheedy. “You get a chance to work on things consistently for a few days and I think it really benefited us. It’s been helter-skelter for us for the last number of weeks so it’s been great to spend some time together and work on things nine weeks out from championship. The championship build-up is starting for us now.”
Despite the fears that Tipp may be tired (especially when having trained three times a day), the main benefit with any training camp is the volume of work a group can get done in such a short period of time. Tommy Dunne told Donal O’Grady on TG4 at half-time on Sunday of those gains, both hurling and fitness wise, which were evident in the performance.
Tipp were on fire, nailing 30 scores from 49 scoring chances. Although the breeze was a significant factor, Tipp actually created more scoring chances (25) against the breeze than they did with the elements.
Cork on the otherhand had a conversion rate of just over 50%, with 17 scores from 30 chances over the 70 plus minutes. Given Tipp’s level of dominance in the match, and Cork’s struggles when it was a contest, most other statistics are irrelevant in trying to assess the match.
Cork will be disappointed. They played with no real intensity. Their attitude was poor. They lacked cohesion in defence. Their indiscipline was almost a metaphor for their performance.
It was obvious from the outset of the campaign that Cork’s interests in this league was never likely to extend any further than it has. Cork haven’t shown much interest in recent campaigns either but with no threat of relegation this spring, John Meyler has probably tried as many players as he could have, or would have wanted to.
Meyler will have learned a lot in defeat, and particularly how lethal this Tipp forward line can be when given the space they were afforded on Sunday.
These Tipp and Cork players know each other so well at this stage that setting down markers or making statements in league campaigns is far beyond them. Donal Cusack admitted as much on League Sunday on Sunday evening but — aside from the benefits of their training camp, combined with Cork’s general apathy — there was still a sense of Tipp making a statement on Sunday.
It carried slight echoes from the sides league meeting at the same venue two years ago. Back then, Tipp were flying, unbeaten in the campaign and still surfing the good vibes from being All-Ireland champions.
Cork, having won just one match to date in that campaign, went into that Tipp game with the threat of relegation hanging over them. Cork won by one point but the win, especially the manner of it when scoring 0-26, was significant when Cork turned over a highly fancied Tipp in Thurles two months later.
With Tipp under pressure (having won just one league and championship game since last April) heading into Sunday, they will feel that Sunday was a statement to Cork. Especially with Tipp opening their championship against Cork in Cork in mid-May.