Gaelic Grounds massacre - Tipperary ease to 21 point win
John McGrath hits 3-2 for impressive holders as Waterford suffer complete systems failure
Tipperary celebrate with the trophy after beating Waterford at the Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Tipperary won’t mind but the hurling world had been greatly looking forward to a fascinating GAA Munster final between two teams who had looked to have improved on last year. Instead we got a miserable Limerick afternoon of rain and wind and a poor attendance of 26,508, which witnessed a rout.
Of all the outcomes considered possible in Sunday’s match, it’s unlikely that Waterford believed that there was even a parallel universe in which they would lose by 21 points.
For added impact that was exactly the margin that defined the difference between these counties in the provincial final of five years ago – the last of David Fitzgerald’s management and after which John Mullane came out and apologised to the people of Waterford.
During the three seasons of rebuilding the current team, Derek McGrath had overseen incremental but steady and sustained improvement and bedded in a defensive system that had conceded just three goals over the past two championships.
In the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday that was all blown sky high by a Tipperary team, playing orthodox hurling and getting the ball quickly into the forwards and pillaging five goals. As Waterford were hit by score after score their slick defensive system crashed. Or more vividly it was as if someone had taken a baseball bat to a high-spec laptop.
Tipperary retained the Munster title, their 42nd, and dominated the challengers everywhere. A year ago they had cautiously worked around the sweeper system but done enough to win by six. This time around – and missing the suspended John O’Dwyer who had been so influential in winning last year’s match between the teams – they just took the game by the scruff of the neck.
They out-muscled Waterford and out-hurled them. It’s hard to think of a single Tipp player who hadn’t the better of the argument over 70 minutes. Waterford’s malfunctions were everywhere – for instance Austin Gleeson after storming displays in recent weeks and a couple of sublime sideline cuts in the opening quarter of an hour, lapsed into hit-and-hope shot selection and was replaced.
Maurice Shanahan struggled to get onto ball and do anything constructive with what he did get. Their usually dependable ‘keeper Stephen O’Keeffe let a ball pop up for John McGrath to get in for the first goal. Pauric Mahony’s outstanding precision with frees went haywire by his standards: the list went on.
Contrastingly Tipperary’s defence was perfectly composed, albeit against the faltering threat, but even when the contest was in play their half backs were supreme and James Barry – handed a free role by Waterford’s frequent dropping back – snuffed out threat by plucking aimless ball out of the air and sending Tipp back on the offensive.
Once again their centrefield looked awesome. Brendan Maher is having his best season in six years – his work rate was embellished by a seismic shoulder hit on Kevin Moran in the second half and beside him Michael Breen’s again demonstrated power and eye for a score; yesterday he scored his third goal in the championship.
Up front the absent O’Dwyer was hardly missed, as John McGrath crowned his first Munster final with 3-2 and Séamus Callanan – the subject of an apocryphal overnight injury story – didn’t miss one of his nine frees and added 1-2 from play.
Yet for 20 minutes Waterford looked the better side. Their scores came comfortably and they were more accurate than Tipp. They were one up, 0-7 to 1-3 in the 19th minute but then their attacks began to founder with wild shots and wides creeping into their game.
The miserable conditions played a part in the fractured nature of the early exchanges. Ball didn’t come easily to hand and there were frequent turnovers in possession but Tipperary weren’t as frantic and less elaborate in their clearance strategies.
Probably the one thing Waterford hadn’t expected was a malfunction in the free taking department with the usually impeccable Pauric Mahony back on the team and it was deflating for the team when he uncharacteristically missed two at the end of the first half and added a couple more later.
For all that it was a tale of two halves. Waterford, having played poorly and piled on the wides, 10 by the break, were just a point behind, 0-9 to 1-7, at the start of the second half after Curran pointed within a few seconds of the restart.
The earthquake began shortly after Mahony pointed a free to cut the margin to three, 0-10 to 1-10. John McGrath got his second, sweeping onto a breaking ball and giving O’Keeffe no chance.
It was the opening shot in an extraordinary 3-5 without reply in the space of 20 minutes. Breen galloped up the field and finished the second after John McGrath’s catch and flick and the latter got his third from a penalty after Barry Coughlan took down Callanan.
Waterford were in disarray – attempts to push up weakened the defence without conspicuously benefiting the attack. The match had gone from within range to being about as reachable as the moon.
Tipperary will lie in wait until the All-Ireland semi-finals. Wexford will be Waterford’s opponents in the All-Ireland quarter-final. The counties had a far closer than expected contest at the same stage of the league. That was regarded as an outlier.
How Waterford re-group will be the defining challenge of Derek McGrath’s management – an unthinkable scenario on Sunday lunchtime
TIPPERARY: 1. Darren Gleeson; 2. Cathal Barrett, 3. James Barry, 4. Michael Cahill; 5. Séamus Kennedy, 6. Ronan Maher, 7. Pádraic Maher (0-1); 8. Brendan Maher, 9. Michael Breen (1-1); 10. Dan McCormack, 11. Patrick Maher (0-1), 12. Noel McGrath (0-1); 13. John McGrath (3-2, one goal a penalty), 14. Séamus Callanan (1-11, nine frees), 15. Niall O’Meara.
Subs: 20. Jason Forde (0-1) for O’Meara (50 mins), 19. Seán Curran for McCormack (56 mins), 17. Kieran Bergin for B Maher (67 mins), 24. Aidan McCormack (0-1) for N McGrath (66 mins), 23. Donagh Maher for R Maher (67 mins).
WATERFORD: 1. Stephen O’Keeffe; 2. Shane Fives, 3. Barry Coughlan, 4. Noel Connors; 7. Philip Mahony, 5. Tadhg De Búrca, 10. Kevin Moran ; 8. Jamie Barron, 18. Darragh Fives; 20. Pauric Mahony (0-6, four frees), 11. Shane Bennett, 12. Michael Walsh; 13. Patrick Curran (0-5, three frees), 21. Maurice Shanahan, 6. Austin Gleeson (0-2, both line balls).
Subs: 22.Tom Devine for Shanahan (48 mins), 14. Jake Dillon for Walsh (50 mins), 15. Colin Dunford for Gleeson (55 mins), 17. Conor Gleeson for Connors (59 mins), 23. Brian O’Halloran for Pauric Mahony (60 mins).