Tipp won’t get spooked by Déise’s system, says Eoin Kelly

All-Ireland winner admits his county will miss long-range accuracy of John O’Dwyer

“There will be a small bit of tactics from the Tipp side, I’m sure as well.”

Eoin Kelly, the Tipperary version, explains how the county he captained to their last All-Ireland title in 2010 can fracture the Waterford defensive system in Sunday's Munster hurling final.

Spook them. Get Bonner Maher in behind them, in amongst them, whenever they seek to hurl from deep.

Not unlike the way Tipperary have sporadically hurt Kilkenny since 2009.

“It’s well known Waterford are consistent now in the way they play,” said Kelly, at the request of sponsors Etihad. “That’s the first thing a top team has to be; the first thing a manager coming in must do is make sure is they are hard to beat.

“You know that is the way with Kilkenny. Waterford have filled that gap in the last 12 months, definitely. They are consistently hard to beat.

“Tipp have reached that consistency as well so I don’t think you are going to see many goals. Waterford ’keeper Stephen O’Keeffe can play as an extra defender and with the seventh defender they have their system off to a tee. And they are all ball players.

Can’t argue

“You can’t argue with Waterford. They are hitting the 1-20 mark with every game.”

A total of 1-21 in victory over Clare, who only hit 17 points. That in itself is a leap from Waterford’s previous Munster finals when they only posted 0-16 in defeat to Tipperary last year and in 2012.

“Good teams, if you hit the 0-20 mark, you will be there, thereabouts,” Kelly ventured. “They are hitting over it.”

So some tactics will be essential for Tipperary to retain their title.

“It’s the ball you play in to take that sweeper out of it. It’s how you set up your own guys inside. Bonner Maher, now, could do a serious job inside against Waterford because he could have the attention of his own man but he could even come in behind that sweeper and make life awkward for that sweeper because Bonner is that type of player. He could tackle two or three guys.”

Can this be done without the long-range shooting of the suspended John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer?

“He is a big loss in this game because last year he moved himself from wing forward into number 11 when it was tight enough. It was tit-for-tat, a point or two in it, and I can still see him getting two short passes and hitting them over the bar. That turned it from a two-point game into a four-point game.

“You were never going to catch Tipp then.

“So Bubbles is a big loss. You have to also factor in the retirement of Lar Corbett and Shane McGrath, who was a midfielder who could score. That’s big experience from last year that is not there because you need a guy who can hurl from outside and take scores from out there against Waterford because of the way they set up. It will be interesting to see who fills that gap.”

O’Dwyer is suspended for the red card he received after striking Limerick defender Richie English.

"Bubbles is a loss as it means Derek can worry about Seamus Callanan a bit more."

As a consequence, Kelly feels, Tipperary manager Michael Ryan must figure other ways over or around the crowded Waterford defence.


“I think you can get spooked by it, like a few backlines have been spooked by Seamus Callanan this year. But if you get spooked by the Waterford system of play you will fall down in your own gameplan but I don’t think Tipp will because they have worked on it last year and know what’s coming.

“So I don’t think it will bother Tipp, it doesn’t bother Kilkenny either.”

It promises to be a captivating Munster hurling final.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent