Tipp stunned by resurgent rebel display
ONE by one they filed into the boardroom under the covered stand at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Donal Óg Cusack and John Gardiner -- shining beacons for a while now, leaders in troubled times.
Eoin Cadogan and Cathal Naughton next -- two of the relatively new batch.
Manager Denis Walsh chatting in the corner.
And finally, Aisake Ó hAilpín to accept the man of the match award which could just as easily have gone to Cadogan, Niall McCarthy or Ronan Curran.
Here they were, facing the media after Cork had announced themselves again as a hurling force to be reckoned with.
Facing the media in a room where the walls could tell many a story from the disputes which have rocked the Rebel County to its core in recent years.
But all seems peaceful and happy now. Order has been restored.
Tipperary came here two years ago and won on Cork soil in the championship for the first time since 1923. Lightning was never going to strike twice, it seems.
And Cork were hellbent on avoiding a fourth successive championship defeat against their ancient rivals.
Yesterday, the championship sands shifted significantly.
Tipperary were viewed as Kilkenny's leading contenders again following last September's titanic All-Ireland final.
Thirty eight weeks later, the Premier County suffered their biggest championship defeat since losing to Kilkenny in the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final.
Yesterday's 10-point victory for Cork marked their biggest championship victory against Tipp since 1942. It was also the biggest winning margin by either team against each other in a championship tie since 1965.
But such is Tipp and Cork. Local punters who nibbled at the 11-8 on offer for a home victory yesterday are collecting their winnings today. It will be a long time before we see those odds again. The bookies are smiling too after pricing Tipperary at 4-6.
For the first time since 2007, Tipp head for the qualifiers while Cork face Limerick in a Munster semi-final on June 20, which has all the makings of a turkey shoot.
Waterford or Clare then in a Munster final. Suddenly, the summer has opened up for Cork while Tipp must regroup and pick through where it all went wrong.
For starters, they managed just seven points from play during the entire game, and just one from play in the entire second half. That was scored by sub Timmy Hammersley three minutes from time.
By that stage, it was academic. Cork had the damage done all over the field. At full-back, Cadogan was majestic against whoever came his way as the experiment of handing Brian O'Meara a championship debut at full-forward for Tipperary failed.
Elsewhere, Tipp's much-maligned half-forward line was simply wiped out, providing more ammunition for the critics.
Captain Eoin Kelly hit seven points, but nothing from play.
For Cork, the Gardiner-Curran-Seán Óg triumvirate ruled supreme as they plucked countless Tipperary clearances from the sky and sent them back from where they came.
Niall McCarthy soldiered brilliantly on the left wing and inside, Aisake Ó hAilpín came of age with a thundering display which saw him involved in all three of Cork's goals, including the one he scored himself in the second half to kill the game.
Cusack, lip trembling with emotion, summed it up: "Maybe it was said beforehand that a lot of these guys are pushing on a bit. And it was very, very important to us and we put it up to ourselves that everything was going to be on the line today."
Before the game, Cork spoke about expecting the unexpected and they, along with Tipp, were forced to deal with a 10-minute TV delay as the Donegal-Down Ulster SFC clash went to extra-time.
When the ball was eventually thrown in, with 36,827 spectators strapped in for the ride, it was Tipp who took the early initiative. But when Ó hAilpín was hauled down by Maher in the 13th minute, Pat Horgan blasted home the first of his two first-half goals from the resultant penalty and Cork led from that moment all the way to the finish.
At half-time, they were 2-5 to 0-9 clear, scant reward for their dominance. Tipp, so flat throughout, were still in contention and expected to push on after the break and finish strong, as they had done against the Rebels in 2008 and last year.
But it never happened and when Aisake scored the goal his performance deserved 10 minutes from time, Cork led by 10 points, 3-13 to 0-12.
Tipp boss Liam Sheedy admitted: "The better team won, we can have no complaints. We were over-run today, outplayed. We felt coming down that preparation had gone really well but we never really got firing."
Sheedy added: "Munster has been good to us for the last two years, now we've got to find our feet in the qualifiers. The target is still to get back to Croke Park in September -- it's not going to be easy. It's a tough journey but we've got to regroup. We still believe. Good players don't become bad players overnight."
Cork boss Denis Walsh will surely testify to that.