Nicky English: if Tipperary lose, what happens next?

It’s not all bad but when teams run with the ball that’s where Tipp have issues

Waterford manager Liam Cahill is seen by many as the heir apparent to Liam Sheedy in Tipperary. File photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Waterford manager Liam Cahill is seen by many as the heir apparent to Liam Sheedy in Tipperary. File photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

It’s no revelation to say that the All-Ireland quarter-final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is hard to call with the added spice that Waterford manager Liam Cahill has had success at under-21 with Tipperary and is seen by many as the heir apparent to Liam Sheedy.

So if Tipperary lose, what happens next?

Sheedy has some decisions to make. So far he has gone with the tried and tested, which relies heavily on the form of 2019 and even to an extent, 2016. Since coming back for his second spell three years ago, he has been loyal to established players, many of whom he brought through more than 10 years ago.

By and large that loyalty has been repaid - as recently as the first half of the Munster final but the now established pattern of being unable to cope with Limerick’s top gear re-emerged in the second half when they buckled under the onslaught.

The problem for Sheedy is that it’s not easy to change mid-stream

Mark Kehoe made an impact off the bench and this raises the question whether it’s time for further change or do you continue to stick? What does Sheedy do? I’m inclined to believe that he still sets most store by the familiar and that team were very well prepared for this championship.

Unfortunately for them, they threw the kitchen sink at Limerick and still ended up with the same old outcome.

There are issues of form. Two years ago, John McGrath would have been marked by Seán Finn, Limerick’s exceptional corner back. Two weeks ago he didn’t even get off the bench, which is a big fall for someone of his undoubted talent.

The problem for Sheedy is that it’s not easy to change mid-stream. There is the fact that the first half of the Munster final is arguably as well as that team have ever played. It’s make the calls on selection all the more difficult.

I think there’ll be minimal change - maybe Kehoe starts but not much more than that. They still have question marks in then middle third and those are the sort that they will have to answer this afternoon.

Waterford may not have Limerick’s power game but their running style is similar. They have a lot of pace around the midfield with Jamie Barron, Jack Fagan, Jack Prendergast, the Bennetts and Austin Gleeson, who all pack that area and run at the opposition.

Duels

That’s not a tactic Tipp have traditionally dealt with very well. They’re more in their element against the likes of Galway with conventional formation and aerial duels. The core of those players were formed battling Kilkenny, who played a similar style in the early 2010s.

Their backs are comfortable in that scenario but unfortunately most teams don’t do that anymore. They run with the ball and that’s where Tipp have issues.

It’s not all negative. Their scoring ability, their touch and their skill levels in the first half against Limerick were outstanding and they only needed a normal scoring rate after half-time to build a winning total. How much of that failure was a Tipp collapse and how much the irresistible force that Limerick brought is the vital question.

Today will bring an answer.

How much of Tipperary’s Munster final defeat was a collapse and how much was the irresistible force that Limerick brought? Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
How much of Tipperary’s Munster final defeat was a collapse and how much was the irresistible force that Limerick brought? Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Waterford hadn’t much form going in to last week. Brutally poor against Clare and only scraping past Laois weren’t great credentials but they were outstanding against Galway. Again, how much of that was down to them and how much to Galway’s ineptitude?

What we can say is that they looked a far better balanced team with Barron back in the middle of the field and everything flowed from that.

For me, Tipp still look more likely to score with less effort - as evidenced two weeks ago by Jason Forde, Jake Morris and Bubbles O’Dwyer, every one of them looked dangerous. Waterford work harder for theirs.

There won’t be much in it and it’s a huge challenge for Tipp but they do have a scoring edge. What though is their ultimate ambition? Have they still the hunger to want to face Limerick again?

Rebels

In Thurles, Cork are an improving package and will get more dangerous if they reach Croke Park. They will have few excuses if they can’t get through Dublin. That victory over Galway has been comprehensively devalued by subsequent events. They were badly disrupted in the Leinster final by Covid and injuries.

Eoghan O’Donnell’s hamstring lasted three minutes against Kilkenny and given the unlikelihood of it having recovered in two weeks, having been aggravated, that’s a huge loss in an area where Cork have Jack O’Connor, Shane Kingston and Patrick Horgan.

Dublin’s full-back line is still good with Cian O’Callaghan back, and Danny Sutcliffe and Chris Crummey in the half forwards are powerful and they battled it out with Kilkenny.

Up until this year you’d have been entitled to question Cork’s battling qualities but against Clare they went to the brink and survived. I think their defence is better and they have some momentum now. They’ll be a handful.

Finally I’d like to mark the end of an outstanding intercounty career. Joe Canning delivered some of the great scores in the modern game. That winner against Tipperary in 2017 stands out as genuinely iconic.

As soon as he got any support, Galway won the All-Ireland. He piloted that ship single-handed from a very young age and by the end he was picking up terrible injuries, often trying to rescue things for the team: the Tipp semi-final in 2016, against Waterford in Nowlan Park in the league in 2019, against Limerick in last year’s championship.

People are saying they hope he’ll change his mind but he has enough done and placed enough demands on his body. His talent was both immense and fulfilled and he always placed it at the service of his team.

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