Cillian O'Connor the record-breaker as Tipperary fairytale ends
What even is a marquee forward? Cillian O'Connor does his talking in goals and points.
By design, the Tipperary footballers play a kamikaze game based on high tempo flair and high stake opportunities. On Sunday, there was only one team taking the opportunities and there was one cold-blooded man leading the way. Tipperary did not take their opportunities in this most unforgiving of All-Ireland semi-finals, and they were given a lesson in how to correct that, by the typically ruthless and cool-headed Cillian O'Connor.
Just last July, aged 27, O'Connor became the highest scorer in championship history. Down in Killarney, he kicked the score that saw him surpass Colm Cooper's record - a total he gobbled up in 30 fewer games than the much heralded Kerry man. O'Connor may only have one All-Star and some may not believe marquee should precede his name, but 23-285 (354) spoke for itself back then and 4-9 speaks for itself now.
This 4-9 tally sees the Ballintubber man enter the record-books once again, his name out on its own as the highest individual scorer in a game of championship football. Prior to this masterclass, a 3-9 return from Fermanagh's Rory Gallagher topped the list, but the relentless O'Connor marches on.
In many ways, O'Connor's second goal of the day summed up the class and ability that has him the heaviest scorer ever to play the game. With Tipp reeling after a brace of uncharacteristic misses, O'Connor struck while the iron was hot, sensing the opportunity to end Tipperary's day.
He collected an Aidan O'Shea off-load before shrugging off Colm O'Shaughnessy with pace and power and then finished like he's done so many times before, unstoppably into the net.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) December 6, 2020
There was no fear of him letting up after half-time as he emerged from the fog with 1-1 in the space of nine second half minutes. It could well have been more but O'Connor's work here was done when James Horan called him ashore with two minutes to play.
When you consider that this is the Mayo man's 4th Championship hat-trick - a feast that takes him to 32-338 (434) and almost 100 points ahead of the next best Colm Cooper - it shows just how impactful he has been in the space of a nine year career.
Tipperary, to their immense credit, continued to battle even when the breaks went against them. Such dispiriting early misses would have broken a lesser team but Bill Maher, Kevin Fahey, Conor Sweeney and co. finished with the flamboyance that got them here. A 3-13 tally would have taken many an All-Ireland semi-final and while they were too porous in defence, they should be applauded for having a cut at it rather than just delaying the inevitable. This after all, is how Gaelic football is meant to be played.
It was just unforunate for them that they came up against a locked and loaded Cillian O'Connor here.