Tipperary better poised for improvement
Though Kilkenny have done it all before, the Munster side have it in them to finish more efficiently
Patrick Maher scores Tipperary’s first goal against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final: All the Tipperary forwards, while playing artistically and intelligently, also got stuck in and dug out a draw when losing seemed to be on the cards for them. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
There are piano players and piano shifters . I was fairly concerned before the drawn All-Ireland final that Tipperary had too many players and not enough shifters and consequently that they might struggle to win the expected dogfight.
Patrick “Bonner” Maher, I thought, was the only forward that could double job. But how wrong I was. All the Tipperary forwards, while playing artistically and intelligently, also got stuck in and dug out a draw when losing seemed to be on the cards for them.
However the fact remains that they have failed to win any of the three games against Kilkenny this year .
In the league game in February they got off to a great start but ended up losing a game in which the fans were treated to 10 goals and 34 points . They also lost the league final after also starting very strongly.
Three weeks ago, though, they also didn’t win but significantly they finished strongly and probably laid a few nagging doubts to rest.
Now the players know that they can push on and win the next day. There were concerns before the drawn game that they wouldn’t have the mental or physical resolve to push on if the game was still in the balance with 10 minutes to go. They left it go later than that and proved that they had the players with the belief and heart to keep playing .
Kilkenny have the slight advantage of already handling the three-week period between games. What advantage you might ask? Isn’t three weeks almost the ideal time between championship games. Week one for recovery and analysis. Week two for work and the tapering off is done on the final week.
Psychologically there is a difference between a final replay and replays at other times during the year. The build-up to the final is so all -encompassing and focused on winning that players never allow themselves to consider the result being any other than a victory. It can’t be any other way.
No player will go into a final of this magnitude with negative thoughts of his own creation. Players are human beings and are affected by the endless chatter that the mind is constantly engaged in. Ignoring that chatter is what the mentally tough players can do. Creating a mental situation where a loss is being considered would be psychological harakiri. So yes, the preparation for this game is different and Kilkenny have the advantage of having been there before and dealing with the mental disciplining .
They also have the advantage of never picking the same starting 15 under performances from some of their players the last day and some will be replaced but the team morale shouldn’t be affected. The team is always bigger than the individual player and all of Brian Cody’s teams have that principle as a bedrock. So no matter which 15 players he starts we can be guaranteed that there won’t be any lack of work rate
Tipperary come into this game in a stronger position than they did three weeks ago. They, as a team, played exceptionally well the last day. The big question, of course, is did they peak and if they did can they repeat it? Individually most of their players won their personal battles. Their decision making, passing and scoring accuracy was of the highest quality.
Trying to come up with some rational theory as to which team will win is a fruitless exercise where hurling is concerned. These teams are so evenly matched that really we’re only just speculating based on the evidence already presented.
All of us serial hurling followers know that tomorrow’s game might have little resemblance to the previous one. We know it will be hard fought. We know there will be heroes on both sides. We know there will be mistakes. We know that referee Brian Gavin will apply the rules with his usual modicum of common sense. We know that he’ll make a mistake or two. We know that the team that wants it more will win.
So as the season pulses to a close and all the piano players performing in Croke Park tomorrow get ready to do as much shifting as playing there’s every chance that the Sliabh na mBan melody will fill the air around headquarters as Liam is presented. We can’t expect the note-perfect performance of the drawn game but I expect, on all the evidence as I interpret it, that Tipperary have it within them to be even more efficient and finish with a crescendo befitting the champions of this wonderful Irish sport.