Conor Lehane deserves all the plaudits after a hurling masterclass

When the Cork clash with Tipp was tight in the first half, the Midleton forward was on fire
Conor Lehane deserves all the plaudits after a hurling masterclass

Cork’s Conor Lehane with Michael Breen of Tipperary. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

MIDLETON’S Conor Lehane gave a first-half masterclass of point-scoring to help Cork to a huge victory over old nemesis Tipperary at Semple Stadium on Sunday.

Cork have now qualified for the All-Ireland series later in the summer — which looked so unlikely after losing the opening two games to Limerick and Clare.

Any day that you get your record score in championship history against Tipperary is going to be a good day.

The 3-30 that Cork registered on Sunday usurped the 2-27 that Cork scored in 2017 when beating Tipp.

Interestingly, Lehane was key to that triumph too, when he notched 10 points, while Shane Kingston’s 1-4 was also extremely significant.

Lehane may have only managed 0-8 on this occasion, but he was simply unplayable in the opening half when the game was there to be won. He scored six incredible points from play in that blistering first half, as he did an extremely passable Tony Kelly impression.

Cork fans will be hoping that the Midleton maestro can maintain this level of form for the rest of the campaign.

Conor Lehane hit 0-8 for Cork in Thurles on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy
Conor Lehane hit 0-8 for Cork in Thurles on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

Kingston lanced over four points from play himself, while Seamus Harnedy, Mark Coleman and Robbie O’Flynn struck three each, and late sub Jack O’Connor even had time to land a lovely brace of points himself, as Cork’s leading attackers did wreck.

And that is not even mentioning the goal-scoring qualities of Alan Connolly, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Tim O’Mahony.

Cork had taken six minutes and 12 seconds to get their first score, by which time they already trailed by 1-3 to no score. Amazingly, the Rebels outscored Tipp by 2-14 to 0-3 between the sixth and 31st minutes to take complete control of the tie.

Cork won comfortably in the end but going forward Kieran Kingston’s side needs to work on their starts, as they also had poor starts to the Clare and Waterford games. This certainly needs addressing going forward.

KEY

The key moment of the half was the missed Noel McGrath penalty in the 11th minute. The ball ricocheted off the post and Cork worked the ball down the other end, with Alan Connolly expertly finding the top corner of Barry Hogan’s net.

It was a huge six-point turnaround and it had a huge impact on the mental resolve of both teams. Cork were suddenly a foot taller per man while every Tipp player seemed to visibly sink after this minute of madness.

The eight wides that Tipperary struck in the opening half also sucked the wind from their sails, as Tipp had to suffer the ignominy of being beaten by every team in Munster in the one championship for the first time in their history and have now lost a record six championship games in a row.

Robert Downey had a tough opening 10 minutes, getting caught on the wrong side for Jake Morris’ goal in the opening minute, and then being penalised for the penalty. But he was a huge figure in the centre of the Cork defence thereafter.

Ciarán Joyce and Mark Coleman mopped up a world of ball in front of him, while Tipperary couldn’t get a handle on Darragh Fitzgibbon in midfield at all.

Cork’s third goal in the 62nd minute was a thing of beauty. That game may have been over as a contest at that point but that does not take away from its brilliance. Tommy O’Connell got on the ball in midfield and released a lovely pass over the top for the raiding Darragh Fitzgibbon to chase in the left corner-forward position.

Instead of picking it up, where momentum would have been lost, he instead pulled first time across the Tipp square, between his legs, where the waiting Tim O’Mahony was waiting to brilliantly flick home for a true North Cork special.

Tipp really hurt themselves with their puck-out strategy, or rather lack of one.

Cork’s Patrick Collins with fans after the game in Thurles on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy
Cork’s Patrick Collins with fans after the game in Thurles on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

They did not attempt a short puck-out until the 20th-minute mark, and even then they were so unused to the ploy that they turned the ball over for a Cork point from play. Cork ended up getting 1-11 of their total direct from Tipp’s own puck-outs.

From Patrick Collins’ restarts it was a similar tale, as Cork scored 1-14 from their own puck-outs. Meanwhile, Tipp got 10 points in total from their own puck-outs while they scored seven from Cork’s.

That’s 2-25 to 0-17 from puck-outs. It is safe to say that Cork well and truly won this battle hands down.

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