IN his man-of-the-match interview on TG4 after the Munster U20 final, Shane Barrett spoke about the attitude which has governed this Cork team’s mindset all season.
“We’ve a big emphasis that we’re a different Cork team this year,” said Barrett. “Cork teams have gone in the past, or whatever, but we’re not really interested in that. We’re here to make our own history. We’ve no baggage. We’re a completely different new team.”
A host of the current squad had endured heartbreak at the hands of Tipperary in last year’s Munster and All-Ireland U20 finals but this time just felt different. There was a defiance to Cork throughout the contest, an attitude that just smacked of ‘Not today’.
When the game was there to be won in the last quarter, Cork emphatically grabbed it by the throat. Ahead by 0-13 to 0-12 at the second water-break, Andrew Ormond had levelled the match up by the 51st minute. And then Cork took over.
Over the next 10 minutes, Cork won a colossal seven Tipp puckouts and sourced 1-2 off that possession. That total could have been higher if Cork hadn’t hit a couple of narrow wides. Tipp did come with a late scoring surge but Cork had six more shots at the target than Tipp in that final quarter.
That area was also where Cork sourced their first scoring surge in the game, in the second quarter. When Eoghan Connolly levelled the match at 0-4 each in the 18th minute, Tommy O’Connell won the puckout and fed Brian Roche, whose pass inside was brilliantly caught by Colin O’Brien, which resulted in an Alan Connolly converted free.
After O’Brien scored an excellent point in the 21st minute, Eoin Carey knocked the resultant Tipp puckout down to Shane Barrett, who nailed another score. Cork also won the next Tipp puckout, which led to another O’Brien score. Within three minutes, Cork had suddenly doubled their score.
It was a huge statement of intent but when Tipp had the deficit wiped out by the 28th minute, their period of dominance had also largely stemmed from securing a grip on puckouts.
Cork were the better team but they also had the better squad. Similar to the Limerick game, the bench was decisive. No score reflected that depth more than the Cork goal; Seán Twomey played the ball across to Brian O’Sullivan, whose shot was saved by Aaron Browne, before Jack Cahalane struck the rebound to the net.
Cahalane was fouled for two frees. So was Shane O’Regan.
Taking off Alan Connolly was a big call, especially when Cork had to rotate three free-takers afterward. But that decision provided further proof of the conviction of Pat Ryan and his management, and the belief they have instilled in the players to get the job done.
When the third quarter descended into a dogfight, with just eight shots in that period, Cork dug in and refused to budge. Their defence was excellent throughout; Eoin Roche was outstanding on Tipp’s danger man up front, Conor Bowe, who was restricted to just one point and one assist from eight plays; Ciaran Joyce finished the game brilliantly at centre-back while Eoin Davis produced three excellent saves.
Their conversion rate dropped in the last quarter but Cork had so much possession by that stage that they had six more shots than Tipp in that period.
It was another highly productive evening for Barrett who scored five points from 10 plays. Some of those scores were of the highest standard, especially in tight scenarios when a gang of Tipp defenders were trying to swallow Barrett up.
The most impressive aspect of the performance though, was Cork’s willingness to go into the trenches and fight on their backs to secure the result; they set that tone from the start when two early scores were sourced off turning over Tipp players in possession.
This was a huge result for Cork, not just because of the disappointment Cork have endured at this level over the last couple of years. But because the performance showed a steely determination, a lust for combat and the absolute desire and attitude to loudly state to Tipperary that, this time, it was going to be different.