Cadburys Munster Under 21 Football Championship semi-final
Cork 0-21 Tipperary 2-3
Tipperary relinquished their hold on the Munster U-21 Football Championship title at Pairc Ui Rinn on Wednesday evening of last week when they were over-run by a rampant Cork team in a one-sided semi-final.
The outcome was decided long before the end, and while the holders eventually finished 12 points adrift of their opponents there was no disgrace in losing to such a superbly-drilled side, one that’s sure to make a strong bid for provincial and All-Ireland honours.
Tipp had 10 points to spare over Waterford in the quarter-final but Cork – whose line-up included Aidan Walsh and Ciaran Sheehan, who won All-Ireland senior medals last year - were quite simply in a different league. They defended together and attacked together, as wave after wave from a red tide swept remorselessly over a beleaguered Tipp side.
They had no answer to Cork’s movement, fielding or fluency and the speed of their attack even seemed to bamboozle one of the umpires of Waterford referee Maurice Condon, who slipped and fell as Barry O’Driscoll fisted the opening point of the second half.
Tipp have a good underage record in recent years but Cork gained an edge in emphatic style here in front of an attendance of just over 2,000 on a perfect night for a game.
Although Cork looked by far the better team from the start, Tipp gave as good as they got in the first half and they were hanging on by the skin of their teeth at half time (0-10 to 2-1) thanks to a pair of very well-taken goals.
The first of those came in the 10th minute when Billy Hewitt picked out Donagh Leahy with a sublime pass across the field and the wing-back turned inside and finished in style.
That left the score at 0-5 to 1-1, although it didn’t unduly upset Cork’s rhythm as they seamlessly slipped back into the groove. Barry O’Driscoll had a point before the normally reliable Conor Sweeney (who had Tipp’s opening point from a free) missed two scoreable chances for points and Billy Hewitt missed another opportunity from a free on a night when they couldn’t afford to waste anything.
Cork piled on further scores from Barry O’Driscoll, Mark Collins (free) and Michael O’Leary before Tipp pounced for their second goal three minutes before the interval, which again came against the run of play.
This time Aldo Matassa, Conor Sweeney, David Butler and Alan Moloney all had a hand in the patient build-up before David McGrath slid a low shot past Cork goalie John Mellet.
The goals ensured that they faced the second half with some hope. Peter Acheson was trying hard to create some attacks from the middle of the field, Donagh Leahy defended bravely and centre-forward Alan Moloney was also prominent. But no sooner did a Tipp player receive possession than he was surrounded by two or three opponents.
And there was no reprieve in the second half. The spine of the Cork team was very strong, which provided their launchpad for victory, and they were content to keep kicking the points. The only surprise in such an impressive display was that they didn’t embroider it with a goal.
Tipp’s first score of the second period came from substitute Liam Boland after 19 minutes (it was their first score in 23 minutes) but they were already 10 points behind at that stage.
Their only other point of the second half came a few minutes from the end when Peter Acheson’s goal-bound shot was pushed over the bar by John Mellet.
Fittingly, though, it was Cork who had the final say with points from the outstanding Ciaran Sheehan and Paul Honan.
Cork – who also had great displays from full back Damien Cahalane (son of former senior star Niall); Michael O’Leary and Aidan Walsh in midfield, and Mark Collins and Barry O’Driscoll in attack - are now through to a Munster Final date at Pairc Ui Rinn next Wednesday (April 6th) against Kerry, who beat Limerick in the other semi-final by 3-15 to 2-6.
Tipperary – Jack English (Ballyporeen), Robbie Kiely (Arravale Rovers), Jonathan Ryan (Ardfinnan), Mark Hanly (Aherlow), Donagh Leahy (Arravale Rovers 1-0), Eddie Kenrick (Cahir), John O’Callaghan (Ballyporeen), Donagh Heffernan (Cappawhite), Peter Acheson (Moyle Rovers 0-1), Billy Hewitt (Ardfinnan), Alan Moloney (Rockwell Rovers), Aldo Matassa (Clonmel Commercials), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen 0-1 free), David Butler (Drom/Inch) and David McGrath (Moyle Rovers 1-0).
Substitutes - Gavin Ryan (Rockwell Rovers) for Eddie Kenrick (17 minutes), Michael O’Dwyer (Arravale Rovers) for Billy Hewitt (half-time), Liam Boland (Moyle Rovers 0-1) for David Butler (45 minutes), Thomas Hanly (Aherlow) for Aldo Matassa (46 minutes) and Kevin O’Riordan (J.K. Brackens) for Mark Hanly (60 minutes).
Cork – John Mellet, Liam Jennings, Damien Cahalane, Alan Cronin, Peter Daly, Tom Clancy, Jamie Wall, Michael O’Leary (0-3), Aidan Walsh (captain), Ciaran Sheehan (0-4), Mark Collins (0-8 including 5 frees), John O’Rourke, Donal Og Hodnett, Barry O’Driscoll (0-4 including 1 free) and Paul Honan (0-2).
Substitutes – Brian Coughlan for Barry O’Driscoll (55 minutes), Eoin Buckley for Donal Og Hodnett (57 minutes), David Nation for Aidan Walsh (57 minutes), Danny O’Donovan for Alan Cronin (58 minutes) and Thomas Clancy for Jamie Wall (59 minutes).
Referee – Maurice Condon (Waterford).