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Nicky English: Tipperary can’t pin penalty as main cause of defeat

Waterford and Cork wins mean we have the best four teams in this year’s semi-finals

The early signs were ominous for Tipperary and that's how it turned out. Waterford were just better, including in areas where I believed Tipp had an edge – like scoring efficiency.

Not only was their scoring rate not as good but Séamie Callanan and Jake Morris weren't able to hold up the ball either. Callanan had two opportunistic and well-taken goals but Conor Prunty and Shane McNulty in the Waterford full-back line had the better of it over 70 minutes.

There was also a succession of wides from long range throughout, including when chasing the game in the last quarter plus – to a greater extent than I ever remember – Tipp players getting blocked down.

This was evidence of a Waterford who had higher gears, were faster, hungrier and just more up for it.


Once again Jamie Barron proved exceptional, running the show at midfield and picking up his points. Jack Fagan and Jack Prendergast were running great support. Dessie Hutchinson on Cathal Barrett was outstanding, scoring 1-3 and showing what a huge addition he's been to their attack in the past couple of years.

And they weren’t dependent on Stephen Bennett’s accuracy from placed ball either. Strip out the penalty and frees and Waterford scored 3-25, which is phenomenal accuracy.

The penalty award looked very hard to justify but I’d suggest that it will simply be on a list of things that Tipperary have to reflect on in terms of how they lost. Firstly, there will be their wides total and the indiscipline of some of the shooting when attempting scores was not the percentage play.

There were also the goal opportunities that Callanan and John McGrath couldn’t convert. Like last week against Galway, Waterford were also very composed about stretching the lead with what chances they got during Tipperary’s growing ascendancy in the final quarter.

There will be questions as to why Liam Sheedy didn't make changes after the Munster final but I felt that it was predictable that he'd put his faith in the 2019 team. But it's worth noting that if John McGrath doesn't force a great save from Shaun O'Brien, we're probably taking about one of the greatest comebacks in Tipperary history.

Circumstances were completely against Sheedy when it came to team building during the pandemic. He needed a league in 2020 and everything since has been on speed dial with his third championship coming just six months after the previous All-Ireland.

So even if a lot more under-20s needed to be added to the mix -– and Mark Kehoe emulated his good display off the bench against Limerick and could well have started – you're not going to be doing that two weeks before an All-Ireland quarter-final.

When Liam Cahill took over Waterford two years ago they hadn't won a match in two championships – and that's two championships of round-robin matches, eight in all. Now it's difficult in his second year not to assess the team as number two in Ireland, at least.

He's had to replace All Star centre back Tadhg de Búrca and his replacement Iarlaith Daly but he has also built a strong bench of players, who know the system and combine outstandingly.

They may well be better off facing Limerick in a semi-final than in a final but there will be the question of fatigue in a fourth successive week, although they showed no signs of it on Saturday.

Cork, however, did suggest in Thurles that the after effects of that intense win over Clare a week previously had got to them: Darragh Fitzgibbon for one looked very drained but the display against Dublin indicated again the potential in the Cork team.

On the positive side, Tim O'Mahony scored a goal from the Kyle Hayes manual and played very well at wing back. Rob Downey also did a good job on Ronan Hayes given the number of times the Dublin full forward found himself in possession.

Jack O'Connor's pace up front bought him three points and Patrick Horgan was again improved. Séamus Harnedy was excellent as he has been this championship – remember he had to go off injured in the one defeat by Limerick.

Perhaps the lackadaisical final quarter, which let Dublin back into a match that looked to have got beyond them, raises questions and obviously Kilkenny will be a greater test.

Dublin again wasted too many chances after a promising first quarter but they needed to convert their goal chances and again were too reliant on Donal Burke. They were also handicapped by the predictable loss of Eoghan O'Donnell. Hamstring injuries, as I am all too aware, can't be crammed for exams.

I still don’t know what to make of Cork. Their defence is better but have they stepped up to the level where you can implicitly trust them going in against Kilkenny? I’m not sure but however we got there, we do have the best four teams in this year’s championship in the All-Ireland semi-finals.