This win will allow Tipperary believe anything is possible
Kilkenny will face tougher battles this summer than against lacklustre Dublin
Tipperary were slow to get balls in to Séamus Callanan but when they did, he scored twice. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.
One box ticked. Kilkenny accomplished their first mission of the championship season by reclaiming Leinster – but will now head on to much tougher examinations in the All-Ireland phase and with bigger fish to fry.
On a weekend where we had two thrilling games on Saturday, this final act of the Leinster championship produced a disappointing performance from Dublin. From the word go, they looked off the pace, and the pre-match injury concerns about Danny Sutcliffe and Ryan O’Dwyer duly came to pass. By the end, all of their main athletes in the forwards, including Conal Keaney, had been replaced, which really says all that needs to be said.
Kilkenny never looked like losing this match and, to be honest, I thought Dublin played into their hands by withdrawing players in the first half and allowing JJ Delaney and Jackie Tyrell to clean up time again.
There was no spark from Dublin. They looked laboured and slow in comparison to Kilkenny. There was one 10-minute period in the second half when Dublin had it down to five points and were dominant but didn’t actually manage to score during that spell. Johnny McCaffrey and Colm Cronin – who was possibly the only encouraging aspect for Dublin – had goal chances they failed to take, as much for the ferocious defending by Kilkenny as their own failing.
Indeed, the manner in which the Kilkenny defence legitimately crowded out the Dublin forwards typified the desire of Brian Cody’s side to win. When TJ Reid ended that short spell of Dublin dominance with a 65 that restored a six-point lead, it was pretty much job done, and Henry Shefflin’s introduction – and his scoring of three lovely points – only served to show their superiority.
Kilkenny might be the bookies’ favourites to go on and win the All-Ireland but I believe there are a number of candidates, with Cork, Limerick and even Tipperary capable of playing with much more energy than Dublin.
The last 25 minutes of Saturday night’s win over Galway was a season-defining turnaround for Tipperary. After Jonathan Glynn’s second goal, I thought Tipperary were on their way out. They were making crucial mistakes at the back, using the ball badly and ignoring Séamus Callanan.
Then Tipperary upped the ante and answered many of the questions about anxiety and about their stomach for the fight. They hunted in packs in the middle third. Kieran Bergin made an impact when introduced from the bench. Pádraic. Maher stormed into the game at centre-back. Noel McGrath got a couple of super points.
And they finally remembered how to get the ball into Callanan. He did what he had been capable of doing all along and got two great goals.
Tipperary bludgeoned Galway for the final 20 minutes or so and have thundered their way back into the championship. From now on, there will be a danger tag attached to them, and they are the team nobody will want to meet in the next round of the qualifiers. Tipperary can now believe that anything is possible from here on in.
The entire dynamic of Tipperary’s turnaround was shown by the standing ovation given to Lar Corbett. Funnily, if the substitution had been made when originally intended, it wouldn’t have been a standing ovation. As it turned out, it was a case of perfect timing. It shows you the tight margins that exist in these games. In the extra few minutes Corbett was on the pitch, he scored two wonderful points. The standing ovation on his departure confirmed the whole momentum had swung Tipperary’s way in those minutes.
This was what I’d call a mind-cleansing win for Tipperary. It gets a lot of monkeys off their backs. It gives O’Shea a first championship win. I do believe they need to work on their decision-making, especially in getting the ball into Callanan, but this is a win that will give Tipperary new belief and momentum heading forward into the summer.
Galway, on the other hand, have a lot of thinking to do. This is another poor year coming on the back of 2013 and a lot of their younger players haven’t found their feet. They are still overreliant on Joe Canning.
Wexford’s second chance
Wexford had a great chance of dumping the All-Ireland champions out of the championship. Clare’s energy levels that carried them to greatness last year are lacking in the middle third of the pitch. They look like a team running on a low tank of gas. There might be a consensus that Wexford have blown their chance but I don’t agree. Wexford got a great chance to win but I give them another great chance to finish the job in the replay in Wexford Park next Saturday.