Tipp des­per­ate to avoid sec­ond sum­mer loss at hands of Rebels

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - GAELIC GAMES - DER­MOT CROWE

THIS, the vale­dic­tory All-Ire­land un­der 21 hurl­ing fi­nal, be­fore it joins its foot­ball cousin and be­comes an un­der 20 com­pe­ti­tion next year, brings old tra­di­tion back to the sur­face af­ter a decade in which it has mostly been sub­merged.

The last ‘big three’ All-Ire­land win­ner at un­der 21 was Tipp in 2010. Cork, strong favourites to­day, haven’t won the ti­tle in 20 years.

Los­ing to Cork once in the sea­son is hard enough medicine for the cit­i­zens of Tip­per­ary. To­day they are hop­ing to avoid a sec­ond dose, hav­ing al­ready been crushed by a ram­pant Cork when the coun­ties met in the Mun­ster fi­nal. They will be ex­pected to im­prove on that 13-point loss, a re­sult which earned Cork a first Mun­ster ti­tle at the grade in 11 years.

Since then Cork have gone into over­drive, de­stroy­ing Wex­ford by 22 points, who were in turn un­for­tu­nate to lose to Gal­way in the Le­in­ster fi­nal af­ter ex­tra-time. They led by 11 points at half-time, with Tim O’Ma­hony scor­ing two goals in a man-of-the-match per­for­mance from full-for­ward. They are now on the brink of a first All-Ire­land un­der 21 tri­umph since the class of ’98, which pre­saged a pe­riod of pros­per­ity for the last great Cork se­nior sides.

Cork in­clude es­tab­lished hurlers in Mark Cole­man, Kieran Kingston and Dar­ragh Fitzgib­bon, while Rob­bie O’Flynn, O’Ma­hony and Jack O’Con­nor have al­ready made their mark in the se­nior cham­pi­onship. At mi­nor level they suf­fered a shock loss to Lim­er­ick, los­ing by a goal in the Mun­ster semi-fi­nal in 2015, af­ter win­ning com­fort­ably against the same county ear­lier in the com­pe­ti­tion. A late goal from Peter Casey, a key con­trib­u­tor to Lim­er­ick’s se­nior break­through last Sun­day, spelled their doom. On the day, Cork sorely missed the in­jured Kingston and hit 15 wides to their op­po­nents’ four.

Cork haven’t won an All-Ire­land mi­nor ti­tle since 2001, lead­ing to a spot­light be­ing shone on the county’s un­der­age per­for­mance. But the signs are en­cour­ag­ing that they are on the cusp of a more pros­per­ous era. Last year a tal­ented mi­nor side reached the All-Ire­land fi­nal, los­ing by two points to Gal­way, and in the next few years they are ex­pected to chal­lenge strongly for Mun­ster and All-Ire­land un­der­age ti­tles. This year’s un­der-16s are highly ac­com­plished and will aim to make an im­pres­sion at mi­nor level in 2019. Of last year’s mi­nors, the Roche twins, Eoin and Brian, and the mid­fielder Daire Con­nery, one of to­day’s subs, are all highly re­garded hurlers.

Tip­per­ary could do with a boost af­ter a dis­mal se­nior cham­pi­onship in which they failed to get out of their group two years af­ter win­ning an All-Ire­land that ap­peared a gate­way to more suc­cess. De­feats in suc­ces­sive Na­tional League fi­nals and the de­par­ture of Michael Ryan has left un­cer­tainty and a vac­uum that needs to be filled.

If he beats the odds and man­ages Tipp to a win here, then Liam Cahill will push him­self into the reck­on­ing as a po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor to Ryan. Three years ago the Pre­mier County reached the All-Ire­land mi­nor fi­nal, los­ing by six points to Gal­way. An­other de­feat looks likely to­day even though they re­cov­ered

well from their Mun­ster fi­nal loss to de­feat Gal­way.

Tip­per­ary: B Ho­gan; E Con­nolly, B McGrath, K O’Dwyer; P Cam­pion, R Byrne, D Quirke; S Nolan, G Browne; C English, J Cahill, P Fee­han; J Mor­ris, M Ke­hoe, C Darcy.

Cork: G Collins; D Lowney, D Grif­fin, N O’Leary; E Mur­phy, M Cole­man, B Hen­nessy; G Mil­l­er­ick, D Fitzgib­bon; R O’Flynn, D Dal­ton, S Kingston; L Healy, T O’Ma­hony, J O’Con­nor. Cork v Tip­per­ary TG4, 5.30

Photo: Eóin Noo­nan

Dublin’s Martha Byrne holds off the chal­lenge of Áine McDon­agh dur­ing the TG4 All-Ire­land Ladies’ Foot­ball semi-fi­nal at Dr Hyde Park.

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