Eoin Kelly's view on today's Semple sizzler between Cork and Tipp
Growing up in Mullinahone it was a dream of mine as a young hurler to play for Tipperary against Cork in the Munster final in Thurles – and win!
By Eoin Kelly
To stroll through Liberty Square afterwards, victorious, with the Blue and Gold all around me and the Red Rebels beaten.
Although I played for Tipp for over a decade, remarkably I only got the one chance to make that dream a reality, in 2006, but it wasn’t to be .
When I retired and realised that I had missed out on my dream, I replied to a lovely text Cork’s Brian Corcoran sent me.
It was a lovely gesture by the big man, but he had played that day in 2006 and I let him know what he had cost me.
It’s funny that I should mention Brian because how Cork could do with a young Corcoran in their defence against Tipperary today.
Everyone knows this Cork team has the hurlers in attack to destroy any defence.
Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane and Pat Horgan are just three players who could run amok in Semple Stadium this afternoon.
It’s the other end of the pitch that’s the issue for Cork today, a defence that has been porous whenever they have run into a real quality team with a slick sextet up front.
Just think of Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2014 or Galway in the quarter-final last year.
They were bad days for Cork and today we’ll find out whether they have come up with some running repairs.
Cork’s defensive stats are awful. They conceded 2-28 in the league to Tipperary last year and 2-27 this year. In that Galway defeat last July, they were hit for 2-28.
Einstein’s mathematical ability might have been needed to keep track of the scores, but his genius isn’t needed to figure out where this Cork side is in trouble.
So what is new manager Kieran Kingston going to do today?
Will he join in the current hurling fad and play with a sweeper?
Or are they going to risk going man-to-man again opposite the likes of Seamus Callinan or ‘Bonner’ Maher?
I expect Cork to adopt a Clare-style approach this afternoon and look to keep it extra tight at the back.
They will try to congest the Tipp forward line and bring into play the physicality we are hearing about in the run-up to today’s showdown.
Goalkeeper Anthony Nash and defensive leader Christopher Joyce have massive roles to play as communicators to Cork’s other backs for a full 72 or 73 minutes today for Cork to stand any chance.
In the circumstances, where defence is such an issue for Cork, Stephen McDonnell is a massive loss through injury.
Tipperary’s league campaign was decent without being spectacular, so they are coming into this crunch game just a little bit under the radar.
If Tipperary can replicate the intensity and aggressiveness seen in last year’s Munster semi-final against Limerick – remember Seamus Callanan’s tackle on the Limerick goalkeeper, losing his teeth and immediately wanting to get back into the action – they are in business.
I don’t doubt their hurling ability and skill, but Tipperary perform best when they bring this fiery attitude.
One of the most important jobs facing new manager Michael Ryan is to maintain and encourage the form of both Seamus Callanan and Bubbles
Add in ever improving form of John McGrath (inset bottom) and Tipp have a lethal forward line capable of keeping the scoreboard ticking all day long.
Seamus Kennedy, who starred in Clonmel Commercials’ great run in the All-Ireland club football championship, will fit nicely into a settled Tipperary defence.
I predict that Cork will be more organised and better than some of their supporters think and are perfectly poised coming into this game.
However, with Tipp’s experience of big games and the crucial advantage of being on home soil, I take them to advance after a right battle.