Tipp's hard graft bears sweet fruit
Tipperary 2-18 Dublin 1-11:THE NOTION that replays often produce different games entirely sure proved true, with Tipperary so utterly improved from three weeks ago that Dublin simply couldn’t get a look in.
In the end it was a less of a contest and more of a demonstration, Tipperary’s superior speed and agility evident throughout, their 185 training sessions this year bearing sweet fruit.
For a Dublin team that had matched them for long periods in the drawn game, it was a harsh lesson on several counts, although not entirely unexpected: if they played well enough to rival Tipperary the last time, they didn’t do that here.
This is Dublin’s second successive All-Ireland minor hurling final defeat – having lost to Galway last year. If anything they might feel further away now from that honour, last won in 1965. They can’t afford to think that way, given the current conveyor belt of talent, but this one will almost certainly hurt in the short term.
For Tipperary, victory brings a 19th minor hurling title, the first since 2007. It pushes them one ahead of Cork, and just one short of Kilkenny’s record of 20. More importantly they’ve unearthed some underage diamonds, such as John McGrath, Bill Maher, Tadhg Gallagher, Ronan Maher and Jack Peters – and that’s just for starters.
The feeling after the drawn game was that Tipperary wouldn’t be as slow to start this time. Actually, they started in fast-forward, racing at Dublin from the throw-in and establishing a comfortable advantage they were never once in danger of surrendering.
McGrath’s strike from the placed ball was faultless throughout, and when Gallagher and Mark McCarthy took incentive from some slack Dublin defending in the opening quarter with a goal each it was clear which team were more tuned in to the task at hand.
The key was focus, revealed Tipperary manager William Maher, who now has the distinction of both captaining (in 1996) and managing his county to All-Ireland minor titles.
“I just think our focus was more on the actual game of hurling this time . . . when you come within a minute of winning an All-Ireland, then draw it, with an injury time free, that focuses your mind fairly quickly. So, we just worked on our game.”
That focus was apparent everywhere. While Tipperary’s forwards converted practically every chance to build an 11-point advantage at half-time (0-5 to 2-10), the backs were proving every bit as focused, Ronan Maher, Michael Breen and Peters ensuring Dublin didn’t get a sniff of the goalmouth.
“That’s been our philosophy all year,” said Maher, “that’s he’s a defender, not a corner back or wing back. And likewise the forwards, who have to be able to play everywhere. So, our guys are very comfortable on the ball.”
With that, he confesses that his team have trained 185 times this year: “That’s the effort that’s gone in, we’ve left no stone unturned, and we’re just delighted with what’s happening. The hurlers we have in Tipp at the moment, underage, is fantastic. We’re delighted with every one of them.”
Given the start Dublin afforded Tipperary, Dublin manager Shay Boland could have no complaints, only regrets – wondering why they left themselves with such a mountain to climb.
Paul Winters tried in vain to keep them in touch with the placed ball, but Oisín O’Rorke’s 1-1 came too late to matter, and others such as dual star Cormac Costello simply looked tired.
“I don’t know if there is any reason why we started so slow,” said Boland. “All I know is that . . . Tipperary just got the breaks early on.
“The way it is at minor, it’s very hard to recover. It’s not like senior where you have maybe more time with them and a lot more experiences that fellas can learn from. This is do or die every day you go out, but Tipp were better on the day than us and we have no qualms about that.”
He admitted that Dublin had lost some of their focus in the three weeks: “It was a challenge, a particularly long break and, I’ll be honest with you, I’d have preferred just the week. That’s not an excuse, but, yeah, it was an issue to try and get fellas up. Obviously Tipp did. I’d love to know what they did.”
He admitted, too, that his term as minor manager was up, but said the future looked bright: “Dublin just need to keep doing what we’re trying to do, and someday we’ll get over the line.”
Last word, then, to Tipperary midfielder and captain Bill Maher – who this time last year won an All-Ireland minor title with the county footballers: “There is some serious talent in Tipperary, and with a bit of luck that will come through at the senior stage in both codes and hopefully we’ll get a few more All-Irelands in the future.”
On this evidence no one would bet against it.
TIPPERARY: P Maher; R Maher, M Breen, J Peters; T Fox, T Hamill, B Heffernan; B Maher (0-1), S Cahill (0-1); J McGrath (0-10, seven frees, one 65), D Fitzell, S Maher (0-2); T Gallagher (1-2), J Shelly, M McCarthy (1-2). Subs: S O’Brien for S Maher (53 mins), S Ryan for Cahill (57 mins), C Lanigan for Gallagher (59 mins), J Loughnane for McCarthy (60 mins).
DUBLIN: C Mac Gabhann; E Lowndes, C O’Callaghan, S Barrett; E O’Donnell (0-1), R Murphy, S McClelland; C Costello (0-1), C Cronin; D Gormley, C Boland, C McHugh; J Roche (0-2), O O’Rorke (1-1), P Winters (0-6, all frees). Subs: K O’Flynn for Murphy (half time), C Conway for McHugh (38 mins), S Treacy for Roche (45 mins), R Tierney for O’Callaghan (59 mins).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).