THIS was a serious display by the Cork hurlers to secure their place in the All-Ireland series.
They arrived in Semple Stadium knowing a victory would set up a qualifier against the winners of the Joe McDonagh Cup final and, after a shaky first 10 minutes it was a case of TCB: Taking Care of Business. Conor Lehane was sensational, his best display since collecting Man of the Match against Tipp in 2017, but Cork dominated in every sector.
The starting half-forward line of Shane Kingston, Seamus Harnedy and Robbie O'Flynn shared 0-10, while they could have had more than the three goals buried by Alan Connolly, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Tim O'Mahony if they were more clinical. Ciarán Joyce, Mark Coleman and Seán O'Donoghue anchored a defence content to give up frees rather than a second green flag to go with Jake Morris' opener.
Restoring Luke Meade to midfield, Coleman to wing-back and trusting rookie Joyce at centre-back has added balance missing in the defeats to Limerick and Clare, while the work-rate and tackling is far greater throughout the pitch.
Now it must be acknowledged that Tipperary are a shadow of their former selves, paying the price for not blooding the main players from their All-Ireland winning U21 and U20 teams in 2018 and '19 sooner.
The first quarter, on a damp pitch with a squally wind, was actually ominous. Cork's hitherto impressive full-back line looked vulnerable while over-elaboration in the middle third was leading to cheap turnovers. It was 1-3 to no score after just four minutes, Lehane blocked down for Jason Forde's point.
At 1-4 to 0-3 came the key phase of the game, Noel McGrath missing a penalty at one end, O'Flynn sending Connolly through for a brilliant goal at the other. Cork's upped the tempo considerably and when Tipp inexplicably backed off Fitzgibbon they allowed him to rifle in a killer second goal.
Lehane, after that earlier block, couldn't miss, going in at half-time with 0-6 from play to his name, along with an assist for an O'Flynn score and he was fouled for a Patrick Horgan free. Tipp got the last three points of the first half, after a hellish 20-minute spell when they were outscored 2-11 to 0-2, but they were clearly a beaten docket
The second half was muted, in that a Premier revival never looked likely, though Patrick Collins did make a smart stop soon after the break. Subs Tim O'Mahony (scoring 1-1), Jack O'Connor (0-2) and Tommy O'Connell were all very lively and there were sporadic Rebels chants as Cork coasted to the finishing line.
While Tipp were extremely poor, it was a statement of intent from the Cork players and a vindication of the management. Again they withdrew Horgan early in the second half and there was a ruthlessness to how they handled the last 15 minutes, still hunting goals to the final whistle.
Kieran Kingston's championship record across his five seasons at the helm now reads:
, won 1, lost 2;
, won 3, lost 1;
, won 1, lost 2,
, won 3, lost 2;
, won 2, lost 2.
Overall that's 10 wins and nine defeats, with a Munster title and an All-Ireland final appearance. There have been some exhilarating victories, in the 2017 Munster quarter-final capped off by Michael Cahalane's late goal, the 2021 All-Ireland semi-final thriller with Kilkenny, and the gritty upset over Waterford at Walsh Park recently. Plenty of lows too of course, modern Cork hurling summed up.
What represents a successful season from here? A first All-Ireland title since 2005, obviously, but more realistically reaching the last four again is a minimum requirement. That would probably be another joust with Limerick...
To make it that far, Cork must get the better of the Joe McDonagh Cup winners, Kerry or Antrim, and then an All-Ireland quarter-final against the Leinster runners-up, Galway or Kilkenny.
At least the season is still alive. To be out of the championship in May after three underage All-Irelands last summer and making the senior final would have been a hammer blow.
Let's see where the road takes Cork from here.