1. Injury-time drama settles final
When five minutes were announced by the sideline official as the game passed the hour mark, the prospect of extra-time must have crossed the minds of the attendance of 16,173 at the Gaelic Grounds. Cork had just pegged Tipperary back and the teams were deadlocked on the scoreboard.
But the match was settled in dramatic fashion to ensure there was no requirement for an additional period. Firstly Tim O’Mahony gathered a Mark Coleman angled delivery and clipped over a point that seemed to hand Cork a crucial advantage. Then Tipperary’s work ethic in attack, a shining trait all evening, favoured them once more as they caught the Cork defence in possession with Conor Stakelum cutting through to scramble home a goal.
Another replacement David Gleeson intervened to knock over a point to push Tipperary three clear and their defence held firm in the dying moments to repel Cork’s advances. A frenzied finale ensured there was an outcome in normal time to this U21 decider
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2. A major shift in fortunes since Munster final
There was no disguising Cork’s supremacy in the Munster decider in early July but plenty has changed in over seven weeks since that game. The introduction of a second chance for defeated provincial finalists this year gave Tipperary a shot at redemption against Cork after they had taken care of Galway in the semi-final. They seized it.
From the outset Tipperary looked sharp and intent on bridging the 13-point gap from that wretched night in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The opening period of that decider saw Cork in front by 10 points, this evening Tipperary were firmly in the hunt at the interval as they trailed by two.
That competitive opening fuelled their belief and rattled Cork with the second half culminating in a victory that the outsiders will savour. Tipperary performed corrective surgery since their Munster final defeat with five personnel changes and that helped them achieve a 16-point swing since their first clash with Cork.
3. A frustrating evening up front for Cork
0-23 on the first night against Waterford, 2-23 against Tipperary as they lifted the Munster title and 3-26 when blitzing Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-final. Cork entered this game after a run of stunning scoring salvos yet could not replicate it with their scoring return dropping to 1-16. Tipperary offered greater protection to their defence, shutting down the corridors of space that Cork hoped to exploit.
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Brian McGrath and Robert Byrne anchored the Tipperary rearguard splendidly. Remove Robbie O’Flynn’s return of 0-3 from play and Cork’s attack amassed 0-3 from play in total. Tipperary enjoyed success in stifling the influences of Shane Kingston, Tim O’Mahony and Jack O’Connor.
Goalkeeper Barry Hogan did his bit as well in producing a vital save to stop a strike from O’Flynn and defender Killian O’Dwyer denied O’Mahony from the rebound. Those components all aided them in their triumph.
4. A major boost to end Tipperary’s season
After an unusually early championship exit for the senior side in mid June, Tipperary’s supporters would subsequently have made a greater investment of attention in the endeavours of their U21 team. They shut down a vaunted Limerick side before the Munster campaign closed in disappointment against Cork.
But a pair of evenings at the Gaelic Grounds have changed the mood. Their victory over Galway provided an injection of confidence, topped up by this success over Cork which gives them something to put in the trophy cabinet. A first All-Ireland U21 title in eight seasons is a boost as the county plot for 2019 and search for a senior boss.
5. More underage woes for Cork
The nature of their senior semi-final loss to Limerick meant Cork needed a boost from the youthful ranks to round off their year. Instead they found the underage arena to be a source of disappointment once more. The presence of senior talents and their dazzling pre-final form positioned them as hot favourites for this game. To lose a game when they were a point in front in injury-time will be galling for this U21 camp and their fans.
The spotlight has shone on Cork’s underage woes in recent seasons. Getting to a first All-Ireland U21 final in two decades was a positive step forward, just like the appearance in last year’s minor decider represented progress. However securing titles is the next vital step to help with forming a winning culture at senior level. That push forward eluded Cork this evening, the wait since 1998 for a national U21 crown is prolonged.
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