It's the short way for Tipperary
GAA: SLOWLY, SLYLY and without any great measure of fuss, Tipperary are fitting the season for size. They raked their fourth Munster title in five years in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday and moved on to the next table with their chip stack high.
Waterford weren’t seven points the lesser team here but nobody in the 26,438 crowd was arguing afterwards that they were the better one. They hung in with the Munster champions for a time but a sustained flex of the Tipp muscles midway through the second half did for them. No disgrace, just the difference between peak and potential.
On a day of adolescent weather – one minute sunny, one minute gloomy, at no stage entirely sure what it wanted to be – Tipp were given far more of a game than at the equivalent stage last year but still found reserves that weren’t within Waterford’s reach. Though the teams were level at half-time, Declan Ryan’s side had nine wides on the board by that point as against Waterford’s three.
There always appeared to be more arrows in the Tipp quiver, if only they could guide them properly. They turned it around after the break, striking only two wides to Waterford’s seven. Sights fixed, game locked down.
“We would have been very happy going in at half-time level,” said Declan Ryan afterwards. “I don’t think we played as well as we could have in the first half. The guys battled well and we were delighted to go in level at half-time. We finished very strongly and that’s always pleasing. We’ve done that in the last couple of games. We can be very happy with our finish anyway.”
With five weeks to an All-Ireland semi-final, there was plenty more than just their finish for him to be happy with. You wouldn’t say that anyone in particular walked noticeably taller than the rest of them but Tipp’s day was splashed with striking colour from Pádraic Maher and John O’Brien at different stages, as well as crucial turns from Lar Corbett and Brendan Cummins when they were needed.
Eoin Kelly and Shane Bourke brought 1-4 off the bench with them and the midfield of Brendan Maher and Shane McGrath had their best outing in an age. All healthy, all nourishing.
For Waterford, there was nothing to be ashamed of here. They ran shoulder to shoulder with Tipp for three-quarters of the distance but couldn’t hang with them when the pace was upped close to home.
When Maurice Shanahan pointed an angled free on 48 minutes, it put them just 0-14 to 1-12 behind. But when they needed to kick for home they stumbled – Shanahan’s free was their last score for 15 minutes, during which time Tipp notched 1-2. They spilled three poor wides and drew a smart save out of Cummins in that period as well. It wrapped the day’s business up all nice and tidy.
Michael Ryan’s team came away with amends made for last year’s major malfunction and their shoulders squared for whoever comes out against them in this morning’s draw. Their half-back line was excellent throughout, with Kevin Moran outstanding and Brick Walsh keeping Bonner Maher quieter than we’ve become accustomed to. In attack, Shanahan was having his best day in a Waterford shirt before he began coughing up frees and John Mullane was his usual buzzy self. All in all, much for Ryan to take encouragement from.
“We played Clare, we didn’t mention Davy (Fitz),” the Waterford manager said. “We played Tipperary, we didn’t mention last year. We went out to get our own game going. The last 10 minutes of the first half we played as we wanted to play, quick ball into the forwards. To be honest we lost our way a little bit in the second half. That’s nobody’s fault and also, Tipperary, they’re such a good team that they’re able to work the ball up the field. Certainly the fact that we were playing Tipperary, there was no fear factor. We went out to relish the occasion and put up a big challenge and I think we did that.”
It was a challenge Tipp were able to withstand all the same.
Kilkenny might well present the next one. Degree by degree, summer’s pot comes to the boil.