Nicky English: Both Tipp and Waterford have plenty of room for improvement
Tipp will be relieved to have won the title but Waterford must adapt their game plan
Waterford’s Stephen Bennett is tackled by Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett during the Munster hurling final at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
A few weeks ago the consensus was that Kilkenny and Tipperary were decisively ahead of the chasing pack. But now, although they’ve won their provincial titles, I think they’ve both shown vulnerabilities in their game which will encourage the other four teams still in the championship.
Tipp started very well but completely failed to kick on and that allowed Waterford back into the game.
The Mahers, Pádraic and Ronan, gave away ball at the back; Séamus Callanan wasn’t getting into it at full forward and Bubbles O’Dwyer got so frustrated trying to get the better of Noel Connors that he was yellow-carded.
They did turn the tide but it hadn’t been very impressive when things were going against them.
Still this was dangerous territory for Tipperary – a game they were universally expected to win, They couldn’t claim to have been at their best but they survived and won a Munster championship.
I strongly believe that Waterford need to adapt or evolve at this stage. They’re excellent, skilful players but the way their system operates makes very hard work of hurling.
Galloping solo runs
Kevin Moran was inspirational for them when they came back in the first half but his scores always seemed to come from galloping solo runs. Colin Dunford plays the same game and so does Jamie Barron, making those energy-sapping drives through the middle.
The problem is they didn’t always end in scores and they needed to get the goals they got against Cork to refuel their energies but Tipperary’s defence was tight enough to prevent that.
Neither team created much in the way of goal chances and when Bubbles got free of Noel Connors’s shackles in the half forwards, he helped Tipp find the daylight. Once Waterford fell four and five points behind there was just too much work required to close the gap and they weren’t able to do it.
In terms of overworking the ball, even the goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe did it – at one stage dashing out on a needless solo run before losing the ball over the sideline.
Waterford have great players but need to look at the game plan in the final stages of the championship. The ball moves more quickly than the man and that has to be incorporated.
Saturday’s predictions were wrong but the result of the second match underlined how much faith in Clare was based on their potential and a belief that this qualifier would be the perfect stage for them to rediscover form that could make them All-Ireland contenders.
Their full-forward line looked dangerous on paper, Colm Galvin was back from America and they clicked against Offaly. Unfortunately this turned out to be a false dawn.
Their form was just in keeping with last year and 2015 has turned out to be no different.
Although they looked potent at times, as the pressure built and the match dropped into the melting pot they didn’t appear to have the desire or the energy of Cork, who again proved that they’ve been simply better than Clare since the 2013 All-Ireland final.
There were a huge number of wides on both sides but in fairness the conditions were very greasy and difficult.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy was considered too traditional to introduce a defensive system but he’s deployed it twice in eight days.
I think because this system is so common in the colleges and so many Cork players play Fitzgibbon, they’re quite comfortable playing it and it has transformed them.
Ultimately Clare were beaten at their own game.
In the first game on Saturday Limerick were totally dominant for most of the first half and Dublin were lethargic but it all turned before half-time. Instead of kicking on and building on their good lead, Limerick conceded frees and Paul Ryan cut the deficit to four by half-time.
What I couldn’t understand about Limerick in the second half was that they replaced so many of their bigger forwards. The effect on their play was disjointed but it also left them at a physical disadvantage.
The league form has certainly stood up, as all the six teams remaining will make up Division One A next year.
Of all the managers left though I think Jimmy Barry-Murphy might have the biggest spring in his step after the transformation of Cork over the past week or so.