Not for the first time, Tipperary’s desire to gauge where they are is complicated by sticky issue of who they are. Still hurling’s little girl with the little curl right in the middle of her forehead – when they’re good, they’re very, very good. It’s what happens when they’re bad that will decide their fate.
They had 17 points to spare on Saturday night, down to short spells of mesmerising attacking in either half and papered over the fact Brian Whelahan’s side actually outhurled them at times. They had two goals on the board inside the first four minutes and four to their name by half-time.
And still, Offaly kept them within range for long stretches, only trailing by four points heading into the final 20 minutes. That Tipp took it as their cue to shake themselves into action with six rat-a-tat points in five minutes really just drove home Eamon O’Shea’s dilemma. It’s in them. It’s just a matter of getting it out of them.
“Obviously it is good that they did do that,” said O’Shea. “But there is no guarantee on any given day the turn-on switch will be found when you want it. One of the things at this level, you cannot afford to turn off like that because sometimes when you turn on it is too late.
Need to improve
“Having said that, they do know they need to improve. We are not happy. I don’t mean that with any disrespect to winning the game but we are not happy with our own level. Offaly brought something to the game and that should be acknowledged. They fought and were well organised. The win didn’t reflect the game, it was certainly closer to a seven-, eight-, nine-point game in my view.”
When they do find that switch O’Shea is talking about, Tipp are irresistible. The movement and touch of their forwards made you purr at times on Saturday.
Lar Corbett dipped in and out of the game like a cameo character in a sitcom, the guy who gets all the best lines because he's the best at delivering them.
The triangulation between him, Séamus Callanan and Bonner Maher accounted for Tipp’s four first-half goals. Callanan was a tornado of enterprise throughout, from his run through and handpass that put Corbett in for the first goal to a glorious first-time flick that sent the same player clear for the third. Maher was in typical raging bull form, scoring the second goal and setting Callanan up for the fourth.
They led 4-9 to 0-11 at the break but sleepwalked their way through the third quarter.
sniped a goal soon after the restart when a
free dropped short in front of the Tipp square and
started to get into the game soon after. He and Carroll tipped and tapped away to bring the margin down in increments, so much so the score stood at a perfectly manageable 4-11 to 1-16 in the 50th minute.
Tipp reacted like a teenager who's just realised he slept through his alarm. Callanan pointed a free from distance, Kieran Bergin galloped forward for his fourth point of an excellent performance, John O'Dwyer and Thomas Stapleton popped up for smartly-taken scores.
Corbett lolled around the middle and swung over an effortless point of his own.
It was a tap on the pedal and no more but it was enough to put Tipp well in the clear. O'Shea emptied the bench and got points out of Denis Maher, Jason Forde and – to the crowd's delight – Eoin Kelly in return. The final arithmetic looked worse for Offaly than it should have but then that's what Tipp can do. When they're in the mood. TIPPERARY: Darren Gleeson; Cathal Barrett, Pádraic Maher, Michael Cahill; James Barry, Conor O'Mahony, Brendan Maher; Kieran Bergin (0-4), James Woodlock (0-1); Gearóid Ryan, Patrick Maher (1-1), John O'Dwyer (0-1); Noel McGrath (0-1), Seamus Callanan (2-10, 0-7 frees), Lar Corbett (2-2). Subs: Denis Maher (0-2) for Ryan (blood,7-12 mins); Denis Maher for Ryan (half-time); Thomas Stapleton (0-1) for Barrett, 47 mins; Eoin Kelly (0-1) for O'Dwyer (59 mins); Shane McGrath for Woodlock (60 mins); Jason Forde (0-1) for Patrick Maher (66 mins) OFFALY: James Dempsey; Niall Wynne, Rory Hanniffy, Chris McDonald; Emmett Nolan, Kevin Brady, Cathal Parlon (0-1); Seán Ryan (0-1), Dan Currams (0-1); Joe Bergin (0-3, one free, one 65), Conor Mahon, Colin Egan (1-0); Brian Carroll (0-13, nine frees), David Kenny, Shane Dooley (0-1). Subs: Seán Cleary for Kenny (31 mins); Kevin Connolly for Brady (half-time); Peter Geraghty for Cleary (62 mins); Thomas Geraghty for Connolly (70 mins) Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)