2020 Munster final report by Anthony Shelley26 Nov 2020
After a long week of contemplative reflection and meditation, we finally have Anthony Shelley’s report of the Munster final
Bill Shakespeare told us “There is a divinity that shapes our ends. Rough-hew them how we will”
Last Sunday evening I can’t have been the only Tipperary fan thinking that Bill might have been on to something.
The Gods who favour Gaelic Football proved yet again that they are old romantics at heart. They decided that, on the 100th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, Tipperary would be Munster Senior Football Champions and there was nothing the Cork players could do about it.
But in shaping destiny even the Gods need a little help and they got it in the form of 35 magnificent Tipperary footballers backed up by David Power and his magnificent management team. I have no doubt that this management team could run a wet pub during a pandemic and make a success of it.
Tipperary hadn’t won a Munster Final since 1935 when Dick Power and his band of merry men beat Cork 2-8 to 1-2 in Fermoy. Kerry, of course, didn’t take part in that championship. The official reason for their withdrawal was to protest at the internment of republican prisoners in the Curragh. The real reason was they knew they wouldn’t have been competitive.
Kerry did take part in this year’s championship and Cork beat them. After that result, most experts and non-experts deemed Cork a certainty to win.
However, as the week went on, I met normally sensible Tipperary people who were getting more and more confident. Why? I don’t know but I suspect the pride in wearing the special commemorative white and green jersey coupled with Monday night’s powerful RTE documentary about the events of Bloody Sunday played a part in this newfound confidence as people hoped it might just give us that elusive extra 5% that every team looks for.
1.30pm finally arrives and I take my seat on the couch to watch the game. It’s true what they say “it’s the fecking hope that kills you”.
Maurice Deegan throws in the ball. Tipperary win it, Colin O’Riordan delivers to Conor Sweeney who takes his mark and slots over the bar. 29 seconds gone and Tipperary are up and running.
A minute later, Robbie Kiely is galloping like inflation at the Cork defence. He offloads to Sweeney and Conor does what Conor does. We are two up.
In the 4th minute, Michael Quinlivan gets in on the act collecting a Kevin Fahey pass and slotting over a 40-yard beauty to put us three up.
I channel my inter Donald Trump and shout at Maurice Deegan to “STOP THE COUNT”.
Meanwhile, NPHET are calling an emergency meeting as Brian Fox has already travelled more than the 5km covid restriction limit. They decide to take no action because every run Fox makes is an essential journey.
Frees from Luke Connolly (2) and Mark Collins have Cork level by the 10th minute.
Colman Kennedy, revelling in that centre forward role and Conor Sweeney swap points with a Luke Connolly pair to send the teams in for the sos beag at five points each.
The texture of this game was good and the level of skill on display was well above the national average. After seventeen minutes we had witnessed ten points, one wide and the magnificent Kevin Fahey had managed to hit every Cork player a shoulder.
The water breaks have not been our friend this year. But everything about this day is different. From the restart, Fahey again finds Quinlivan who picks out Liam Casey with a sublime 40-metre pass and Casey taps over his first of the day.
Now Tipperary start playing the type of football that would make you fall back in love with the game. On his travels, Fox gathers a loose ball and feeds Colin O’Riordan. I don’t recall one occasion in the game where O’Riordan took a backward step. There is only one way to stop him and that’s to foul him. Cork oblige and Quinlivan adds the resultant free.
Two-minutes later, Conal Kennedy is racing down the touchline. Quinlivan wanders out to meet him, takes the pass and with the outside of his right boot puts over the score of the day from somewhere down around the South Mall.
Two powerful runs from Steven O’Brien set up points for Kevin Fahey and Conor Sweeney and we are not finished.
Fox lures Tadhg Corkery into his den and steals his dinner. He shares it with Quinlivan who with a swing of the hips and a cheeky smile sends the teams in for the jaffa cakes leading by 0-11 points to 0-7.
We are afraid to dream at half time. Tipperary football supporters are so used to tragedy that we can’t contemplate joy. Too many times we have stood on the shore watching our ship coming over the horizon only to see it hitting rocks and sinking. We have been 85 years waiting for this ship to finally dock and you just know that the next 35 minutes is going to feel as long as another 85 years
However, Tipp resume as if they knew they were going to win. Conal Kennedy collects the throw-in and delivers to Sweeney who takes his mark and has us five up within seconds of the restart.
A minute later Tipp have the ball in the Cork net but Maurice Deegan decides that Liam Casey had come back in from off the field and disallows the goal. It’s a wrong call and if the result had been different Tipperary would certainly have had a case for a Tribunal of Enquiry……………The McGeever Tribunal it would be called.
Up until now, this had been a game for the Tipperary midfielders and forwards to showcase their skills. Over the next 30 minutes, it was time for Evan Comerford and his back men to show us what they can do. Each and every one of them performed magnificently.
In goalkeeping terms, Evan had a quiet day at the office but when called upon later in the game he came up the field and nailed a vital free. More importantly, when the heat was on in the last quarter he hit his target with the kick-outs. The stats back this up, we won 77% of our own kick-outs in the second half.
On the biggest day of all, Alan Campbell and Colm O’Shaughnessy produced probably their finest performances in a Tipperary jersey. Michael Hogan, the cornerback of 100 years ago would have approved.
For the third game in a row, Jimmy Feehan has looked a master of his full-back brief. Surely an All-Star nomination at the very least will follow.
Of course, a Gaelic Football team is only half-dressed without a good half back line. And in Bill Maher, Kevin Fahey and Robbie Kiely, Tipperary have 3 of the best in the business.
Liam Casey put Tipp four up in the 53rd minute. A minute later Sweeney adds another to make it five. But Cork “haven’t gone away you know” and by the 60th minute a pair of Mark Collins frees has it back to 3 points. In the 63rd minute, Sean White reduces the lead to just two points. The ship is still on the horizon but we fear that it may be holed below the waterline.
Colin O’Riordan arrives with life jackets and starts plucking balls from low flying clouds. He is fouled and Evan strolls up and slots over the free from 45m out. It’s official. Evan Comerford is the coolest man in Tipperary.
MQ intercepts the Cork kick-out and tries to lob Michael Martin. The ball drops on the crossbar and over for a point. Four up again at 0-16 to 0-12.
Cork get it back to three. O’Riordan has seen enough. He takes on four Cork defenders and earns a 45. Evan’s effort comes back off the upright and drops to Stone Cold Philly Austin who as taps it over. The Gods are at it again. If any man deserved to score Tipperary’s last score of the day, it was the loyal servant from Borrisokane.
Two minutes later Maurice Deegan signals full stop. 100 years on from Bloody Sunday and 85 years since our last title, Tipperary Munster Senior Football Champions!!
All heaven breaks loose. Seldom has joy been so unconfined. Colin O’Riordan’s interview has half the county in tears but they are tears of pride. If Conor Sweeney didn’t nail an All-Star on the field of play, he nailed it with his speech and interview after the game.
But the most glorious aspect of everything that took place last Sunday was the spirit of the Tipperary team. Like Matt the Thrasher in Knocknagow, they strove until it seemed their hearts would crack and all for the honour and glory of Tipperary, Mick Hogan and the people who lost their lives on Bloody Sunday.