Nicky English: Tipperary’s defence is still their Achilles’ heel

Errors and poor clearances from Tipperary lead to Clare goals and Tipp's exit

You could say that Tipperary were unlucky, hitting the post at one end and, as a direct result, conceding a goal at the other but it’s been the whole story of their year. I’d agree with Mick Ryan’s comments afterwards that it was their best performance of the four but only up to a point because the flaws that have been evident since the league were still there by the end of the championship.

They haven’t won their last five matches – four in Munster and the league final – and even the most recent win, against Limerick in the league semi-final, was in extra time.

Defence has been the Achilles’ heel. They’ve been conceding too many scores and frees and have been rotating several corner backs. Yesterday there were more errors and poor clearances leading to Clare scores and, in general, they haven’t been able to gain any momentum or confidence in the Munster round-robin.

They’ve also had problems with injuries and although Séamus Callanan has worked hard since his comeback, you can tell that he hasn’t got back to top form when he looks in two minds whether to go for a goal or a point.


Brendan Maher going off in the second half with a nasty looking injury was also typical of the year.

That they were so on top of the scoreboard had as much to do with Clare squandering and shooting wides, which at times was reminiscent of last year's Munster final. Tony Kelly had a sequence of shots that he was able to take in good space but missed and you could sense that draining confidence.

For them to have cut the margin to four before half-time I imagine meant that they weren't unhappy going in. Taking off Conor McGrath looked a strange switch but Podge Collins had a good match, scoring three points and setting up the goal so the substitution worked.

The second half was nip-and-tuck but I thought Tipp had probably done enough and when Jake Morris had the goal chance it looked like the final nail in the coffin. In retrospect, did they need the goal at that stage: a point would have put them five ahead?

Credit for Clare

Clare deserve a lot of credit for the work rate and effort they put in. Their goal was well created and finished by Ian Galvin.

But they were nervous for a lot of the match, as could be seen in their touch, particularly in the first half even with someone normally as proficient as Colm Galvin. There was a phase in the second half when the forwards failed to control the ball and Cathal Barrett cleared it down field where Jack Browne lost it out over the end-line for a 65.

I’m not singling him out but the incident was symptomatic of the problems they were having.

John Conlon and Peter Duggan gave very good performances but Clare aren't maximising either, particularly Conlon. They're taking loads of shots from the middle of the field, whether they're on or not and depriving him of a decent supply, again reminiscent of last year's Munster final.

The win will give Clare a boost, as they hadn’t beaten a top rival in Munster for a while but I don’t think the Tipp of this year is the sort of barometer they’ve been in the recent past.

The form in Munster has held steady this year and Tipperary, who were lucky not to lose to Waterford the previous week, have now lost to Limerick and Clare, both of whom comfortably defeated Waterford.

Maybe it was the fourth week running but Tipp really faded at the end of both halves. The most ominous sign was when Jason Forde missed the free in injury time when the pressure was really on and the lead down to two.

Wexford energy

On the same subject, the surprising thing about Wexford on Saturday night was that for 45 minutes of the game they looked to have more energy than they had shown at any in week three against Galway.

Lee Chin was totally dominant in the first half and Shaun Murphy completely at ease in his role as the sweeper and Matt O'Hanlon was managing TJ Reid, who at one stage missed a free in front of the goal, which had Brian Cody shaking his head.

The gamble of bringing back Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly didn't work and it was hard to see how they could win, struggling to cope with the system.

On 40 minutes and nine behind, they started to work visibly much harder around the middle of the field and, critically for Kilkenny, TJ Reid started to take over. It might have been an idea to move Chin back to mark him.

The league final had given Kilkenny a bit of winning experience and that showed in the players coming off the bench so they have a bit of depth to the panel and the numbers made a difference at the weekend.

If I was Micheál Donoghue, I’d have preferred to see Wexford coming rather than Kilkenny but it’s hard to see Galway being held.