Goal

Cork join Galway as major contenders for Cats' crown

Irish Sports Roundup/Kieran Rooney

YOU can never underestimate Cork. Tipperary knew that, the whole hurling world knew that, yet precious few were prepared for the Rebel county's 3-15 to 0-14 demolition of Tipp in the Munster Senior Championship quarter-final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh last Sunday.

Cork's success has put an entirely new perspective on the All-Ireland Hurling Championship. Not only are Galway serious contenders for Kilkenny's crown, but Cork's performance showed that they too must be considered a real threat.

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And what of Tipperary, the side that came so close to beating Kilkenny in last year's final? While no one will write them off, they are young enough and talented enough to come through the qualifiers, the nature of Sunday's defeat must have been a major blow to their confidence.

"Cork wanted it more than us. We were overrun, we were outplayed." admitted their manager Liam Sheedy. "We felt that the preparations had gone well, but we never got firing."

True. After last year's bitter strike, and, more recently, the league final defeat to Galway, the feeling was that Cork would be doing well to scramble a narrow victory over Tipp.

But this was a Cork team absolutely determined to prove a point before a 36,827 attendance. Several players were under pressure, none more so than Aisake O hAilpin heading the attack.

Many felt that the 6-foot-7 O hAilpin should not have been included the starting line-up. They argued that his disappointing contribution in the league final proved that he was a long way removed from the traditional skilful fast moving Cork forward.

On leaving Pairc Ui Chaoimh, however, those fans would surely have changed their minds. O hAilpin provides something different, and the trick is for the rest of the Cork team to take full advantage of his attributes.

Manager Denis Walsh knew exactly what to do. Get the ball to him early and see if the Tipperary defense could cope. They couldn't, to the extent that O hAilpin set up two goals before half time and then scored one himself after the interval.

"He did it, what was the criticism all about?" asked Cork manager Denis Walsh. "We needed what he was going to give to the team. He is very genuine and very capable."

While O hAilpin was deservedly named Man of the Match, this was very much a team performance. It had to be for them to record such a comprehensive victory.

When needed, goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack made some wonderful saves. The half-back trio of John Gardiner, Ronan Curran and Sean Og O hAilpin was just as good, while the full-back line of Shane O'Neill, Eoin Cadogan and Brian Murphy also impressed, particularly Cadogan.

Up front, Patrick Horgan grabbed two goals. Tipp had established an early 0-3 to 0-1 lead when Aisake O hAilpin was fouled after making a spectacular catch.

Horgan crashed the resulting penalty to the net, and then, nine minutes later, fired home a further goal following another overhead catch from O hAilpin. By half-time, Cork were 2-5 to 0-9 clear, a lead which was reduced to a single point when Eoin Kelly sent over a free early in the second half.

Unfortunately, that's as good as it got for Tipperary. In a five minute spell, Cork scored five more points and Tipp's challenge had disappeared. Horgan finished with 2-2 for Cork, Ben O'Connor 0-5, three from frees, and Aisake O hHailpin 1-2.

Next up, it's Limerick in the Munster semi-final for Cork. Given Limerick's problems, most people would see that as a foregone conclusion, but things just might not be quite so straightforward for Tipperary in the qualifiers.

Manager Sheedy refuses to be downhearted, stressing: "It's a bad day for us but the season is still alive and we have to make sure we keep it that way. We've been through this before and responded in the right way, and there's no reason why we can't do so again."

All of the remaining action in the hurling championship was in Leinster, where Galway and Offaly made it through to a semi-final meeting. Neither side won in the manner that had been expected, with Galway gaining a flattering 2-22 to 1-14 success over Wexford at Nowlan Park on Saturday and Offaly needing to got extra time before accounting for Antrim by 2-26 to 3-16 at Parnell Park.

Galway weren't at their best, hitting far too many wides.

If they needed a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted, they were provided with it by a Wexford side that certainly didn't deserve to lose by 11 points. It was only when Galway were reduced to 14 men following Andy Smyth's 54th minutes dismissal, that they surged clear.

Shortly afterwards, Wexford were given hope after Thomas Waters flicked in a goal to reduce the deficit to three points but their jubilation was shot lived. Just two minute later, another substitute, Galway's Kevin Hynes shot home following some great work by Damien Hayes.

Form there on it was plain sailing against a Wexford outfit who themselves subsequently had two players, David Redmond and skipper Diarmuid Lyng sent off , but Galway boss John McIntyre will surely be hoping for more when they face Offaly in the semi-final.

So, it must be said, did Offaly following their hard fought victory over Antrim at Parnell Park. It took a last minute free from Offaly's Shane Dooley to deprive Antrim of a famous upset in normal time.

By then, Offaly were down a man following the dismissal of Derek Molloy for a second yellow car. Earlier, they had been five points adrift and seemingly heading for a certain defeat but they somehow got a better effort from their 14 men to peg Antrim back through Dooley's late disputed free.

Importantly, in extra time, they were allowed to return to the full compliment of players, and their extra class and fitness was to tell.

The big football championship match of the weekend, was another game which went to extra-time. This saw Down deservedly get the better of Donegal 1-15 to 2-10 in the quarter-final of the Ulster Championship at Ballybofey.

Inspirational Down skipper Benny Coulter decided the outcome, contributing 1-4 in a wonderful performance. Down had to do it the hard way, seeing Donegal going into an early 2-1 to -3 lead with goals from Dermot Molloy and Conal Dunne.

Donegal, once again, fell into their old habit of over elaboration and were pegged back. Fittingly, it was Coulter who scored the all important extra-time goal to provide Down with a semi-final meeting against Tyrone, while Donegal head for the qualifiers.

Elsewhere, Roscommon secured a predictable 0-14 to 0-6 Connacht Championship victory over London at Ruislip.

[INPHO/DAN SHERIDAN Asaike O hAilpin of Cork takes the slitoar in this contest with Tipperary's Paddy Stapleton.]

Leinster fall to Ospreys

AFTER all of the excitement of their semi-final success over Munster, the Leinster rugby team finished the season on a disappointing note by losing 17-12 to the Ospreys in the Magners League final on Saturday night.

They just could not find the same intensity of the Munster game, and the Welsh side were deserving winners scoring the only two tries. Clearly, it was not the way that Leinster had hoped to mark the departure of coach Michael Cheika, and his assistents Kurt McQuilkin and Alan Gaffney.

The defeat means that Ireland finishes the season with no trophies after winning everything last season. To be fair, they weren't that far off, finishing runners-up in the Six Nations and the Magners League, and providing two semi-finalists in the Heineken Cup.

Trap's men win two

THERE will be much talk of what might have been following the Irish soccer team's two friendly victories over Paraguay (2-0) and Algeria (3-0) at the RDS last week.

The fact that Paraguay and Algeria have qualified for the World Cup finals suggests that the Republic of Ireland could have held their own in South Africa. Certainly, manager Giovanni Trapattoni believes that they would have had a realistic chance of making the knock-out stages.

"We have shown ourselves to be a good team in the past three to six months and we could have aspired to playing beyond the pool stages in the World Cup." reflected Trapattoni.

What is beyond doubt is that the Irish side, under Trapattoni is extremely hard to break down. As Inter Milan showed in winning the Champions League, a well organized and disciplined team can be a match for the best attacking sides around.

The fact that the Irish team didn't concede a goal in either game without the services of Richard Dunne and Shay Given speaks for itself. Against Paraguay they conceded a lot of possession but the South Americans were unable to break through.

Importantly, Ireland also have two experienced front men in Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane. Doyle was Man of the Match against Paraguay, scoring the first goal and helping to set up the second for Liam Lawrence.

It was Keane's turn to receive the Man of the Match award against Algeria on Saturday, scoring twice. The first was a typical opportunist effort, and the second came from the spot.

Derby County midfielder Paul Green scored the opening goal with a brave diving header. And it was the efforts of newcomers like Green and Manchester City's Greg Cunningham that particularly pleased Trapattoni.

[INPHO/DONALL FARMER Kevin Doyle scores against Paraguay, the first goal of five without reply for Ireland against 2010 World Cup finals participants last week.]

Leinster fall to Ospreys

AFTER all of the excitement of their semi-final success over Munster, the Leinster rugby team finished the season on a disappointing note by losing 17-12 to the Ospreys in the Magners League final on Saturday night.

They just could not find the same intensity of the Munster game, and the Welsh side were deserving winners scoring the only two tries. Clearly, it was not the way that Leinster had hoped to mark the departure of coach Michael Cheika, and his assistents Kurt McQuilkin and Alan Gaffney.

The defeat means that Ireland finishes the season with no trophies after winning everything last season. To be fair, they weren't that far off, finishing runners-up in the Six Nations and the Magners League, and providing two semi-finalists in the Heineken Cup.

 

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