Tipp desperate to avoid second summer loss at hands of Rebels
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
Dublin’s Martha Byrne holds off the challenge of Áine McDonagh during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies’ Football semi-final at Dr Hyde Park.