Christy O'Connor on lessons learned by the Cork hurlers as fans get behind the new approach

Tipp exposed some flaws in the Rebels' tactics but their will to win carried them to an unlikely draw
Christy O'Connor on lessons learned by the Cork hurlers as fans get behind the new approach

The Cork team stand for the national anthem against Tipp at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

AS Declan Dalton was standing over his late free on Saturday evening, that thunderous war cry ‘ REBELS, REBELS, REBELS’, was booming out around the ground with more intent, fervour and passion than ever before in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

In an almost identical scenario over 10 minutes earlier, when Dalton was also standing over another free, that war cry was being roared with just as much loaded passion.

Cork had played six championship games in the Páirc in the previous five years since the venue had been redeveloped but, while that roar may have been heard, it had never been as raw, guttural and emotional as what was boomed out on Saturday night.

Cork had won three of those six previous games in the new arena and, while they didn’t win on Saturday night, the supporters had never been given more reason to reach deep into their souls and exhale and spew their passion into the night air.

Dalton’s pointed free came just after Darragh Fitzgibbon’s goal, when Jake Morris had been forced into overcarrying by relentless Cork tackling. The build-up to that moment, before Dalton drove the ball over the bar, saw it arrive at a crescendo through the sheer will of the players in wiping out a five-point deficit within the space of a handful of minutes.

When Pat Ryan and his management look back on Saturday night, they will be delighted with so many aspects of their performance, but none more so than their resilience and ability to dig deep when the need was greatest.

Mark Kehoe of Tipperary celebrates after scoring his goal. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Mark Kehoe of Tipperary celebrates after scoring his goal. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

When Mark Kehoe goaled directly after Dalton’s levelling point, Cork almost created a goal chance that ended in a 65, which Patrick Horgan converted. When Tipp scored another point directly from the puck-out from Seamus Kennedy, Cork engineered a brilliant goal through the ingenuity of Brian Hayes, Tim O’Mahony, Fitzgibbon and Shane Kingston.

When Tipp went ahead again through Seamus Callanan, Conor Lehane immediately set up Kingston for the equaliser. After Tipp again won the final puck-out of the match, Cork won possession back which resulted in Dalton’s late chance.

There is so much detail and learnings in that for Ryan and the players. For a start, Tipp were always able to win their own puck-out after those late Cork scores, the majority of which Tipp translated into huge scores. Yet just as importantly for Cork, they were always able to do something to redress the situation.

There were times over the years when Cork were accused of not being able to respond to those setbacks within games. Had they? Since their last Munster title in 2018, Cork had come up short in those situations in each of the following four seasons, with the exception of the 2021 qualifier against Clare and the All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny a couple of weeks later.

Jake Morris is hounded by Niall O'Leary and Declan Dalton. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Jake Morris is hounded by Niall O'Leary and Declan Dalton. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

In Cork’s defence, they hadn’t exactly been rolled over in some of those games they had lost but they hadn’t always responded in the clinical manner they needed to either.

They did last year against Waterford and Tipperary but that wasn’t a wholly accurate litmus test because those teams weren’t operating at the same level as Tipp were on Saturday night. Cork showed just as much fight against Galway in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final when having to chase down an early deficit but the reason they eventually came up short was through mass profligacy.

Cork missed too many goal chances that day against Galway but they finally found their goalscoring mojo on Saturday. Cork’s four goals was the first time they had actually breached the three-goal barrier in a championship match since they routed Laois with 10 goals in the 2011 qualifiers.

Cork could have had another couple of goals while they will also feel that their overall conversion rate of 62% could have been higher.

Ryan will be delighted with the character shown and ability to dig out key scores late on, but he’ll also know how much work Cork still have to do to qualify, especially with away games against Clare and Limerick to come.


After their initial burst, Cork were blown away for most of the first half. When Tipperary scored 10 of 11 points during a period in that half, six of those Tipp points came from Cork turnovers, with another three coming off Cork puck-outs.

The Cork forwards had 31 possessions in that period but they only converted four of 10 shots from play in that half. Cork lost their shape. They couldn’t get their hands on the ball in the half-forward line, which contributed to those struggles.

Cork’s goals gave them the late lifeline they desperately needed but another huge plus was the impact off their bench. Apart from the 1-5 they contributed from play, that really should be 2-5 as Lehane’s goal shot was heading over the line until Fitzgibbon made sure it did. Just as importantly as all those late scores though, was the high volume of assists or assisted scores from Kingston, Lehane, Hayes and O’Mahony.

In an overall context, the atmosphere at the Cork-Limerick draw in 2018 was better and at a far more tense, dramatic and consistently high pitch than Saturday evening.

Yet the last 10 minutes was as gripping as anything the new Páirc has witnessed since it opened. 

Cork proved that they could survive and prosper when the heat was at its hottest.

The key now is being able to withstand the furnace they have yet to walk into in Ennis and Limerick.

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