The Munster hurling and Ulster football championships got underway in spectacular fashion as the GAA enjoyed its biggest weekend of the year to date.
Connacht also had a big day as Mayo got a nine-point win over Sligo, but all the talk was over Cork’s surprise win over All-Ireland champions Tipperary.
Coming out of a mixed league campaign Kieran Kingston’s youthful squad were not expected to push Tipperary too far, not to mind win. But in an epic encounter the Rebels registered a four-point win over their oldest Munster rivals, as Tipperary were ambushed by a mixture of speed and accuracy from the Cork team.
In the corresponding fixture last year Cork were beaten off the pitch by nine points, and after starting the game strongly from the off, the sides were level at 15 points a piece at half-time.
That was two more points than Cork had registered in total against Tipperary in last year’s quarter-final. But it was in the secondhalf that Cork’s resolution would be tested against the might of Michael Ryan’s squad, and they did not disappoint. Of the 18 players Cork used, six had never featured before in a Munster senior championship game.
Colm Spillane, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade and Michael Cahalane, were entering uncharted territory but did not disappoint in the slightest, with manager Kingston’s son Shane also having a brilliant game, grabbing the opening goal. Fitzgibbon was a revelation in midfield, while Kingston Meade and Calahane worked well to strike a combined total of 2-7.
But this was no onesided display and Cork’s defence were put under pressure as well from the excellent attacking prowess of Michael Breen and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer.
The first breakthrough came after 42 minutes when Kingston scored a superb goal, after continuing through on goal after momentarily losing the ball to a trio of Tipperary chasers.
But Tipperary stayed in touch with some positive play, grabbing the next two scores, but Cork were not finished yet as Lehane really looked to up his game.
Nothing is won in May, but this Cork side look to be a force to be reckoned with a year or two before first expected. And Tipperary will be left licking their wounds, but cannot be written off as they face the play-offs. Cork will play Waterford on June 18, while Clare face Limerick in the other Munster semi-final on June 4.
Meanwhile, Donegal beat Antrim in the first round of Ulster, as Monaghan finished strongest in what started as a close game against Fermanagh in the preliminary round.
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