Tipperary vindicate strong selection with comfortable dress rehearsal win
Tipp will face Limerick again in the Munster final but Barrett and Maher injuries a worry
Limerick’s Kyle Hayes battles with Tipperary’s Ronan Maher during the Munster SHC round-robin game at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho
The hint of irrelevance about this collision of the All-Ireland champions and their most plausible successors never quite receded at Thurles before a fine crowd of just under 40,000.
As news filtered in from Ennis that Cork were losing, Limerick’s place in the Munster final was all but assured. Tipperary had been in a similar position from the start but Liam Sheedy played a strong team and they controlled the match from the end of the first quarter, hitting back within a minute of Limerick scoring on no fewer than eight occasions.
Most influential of this tit-for-tat sequence was in the 38th minute after Limerick had started the second half well with half-time replacement Graeme Mulcahy buzzing, to cut the deficit to two points, 0-10 to 0-12.
John McGrath tied up a couple of defenders on the right-hand sideline and popped a pass into captain Séamus Callanan, who had made a well judged run into space, side-stepped and fired in the only goal of the afternoon.
Clouding an otherwise satisfactory afternoon, which ended with the teams now scheduled to meet again in the Munster final in two weeks, were worrying injuries to key personnel, corner back Cathal Barrett who left in the 32nd minute with what appeared to be a hamstring problem and a more serious looking issue in the case of Patrick Maher, who was stretchered from the pitch just before half-time.
Limerick manager John Kiely, persuaded by the needs of the round-robin format to rotate his panel, sent out a diluted selection to give panellists a run and to rest some of the frontliners. Captain Declan Hannon was excused completely because of a groin strain.
Initially Limerick looked like they were playing the ultimate mind game, as their players looked sharper and feistier, slipping into a comfortable 0-2 to nil lead with Tipp struggling to find the range.
Four points in as many minutes, 11th to 14th, overhauled the early deficit, the fourth including an almost rugby-like couple of lateral passes before Callanan executed a balletic turn to shoot over a point that indicated the high-performing home attack was back in business.
Limerick never let go and operated as usual a two-man inside line. An opportunity to re-take the lead fell to Séamus Flanagan – a starter last year but one of Sunday’s understudies – at 0-3 to 0-5 but he shot ineffectually at the goalkeeper Brian Hogan, who blocked, with a vexed Aaron Gillane waiting expectantly in front of goal.
Gillane’s frees kept Limerick moving on the scoreboard but Tipp posed greater threat. Keeping two men on the full-forward line – generally Callanan and John McGrath – and with Jake Morris pushing up as required, they began to push out the lead.
Teeming rain added to the unseasonal feel, as the match effectively petered out in the second half once Callanan had trumped Limerick’s good start. There were a couple of glimmers of goal opportunities for the All-Ireland champions – the wet pitch held up the ball in the corner for Gillane to send replacement Conor Boylan skittling in for a shot but he was expertly hooked by the hard working Noel McGrath.
Tipperary kept scoring, never allowing a lull which might encourage their opponents. John McGrath had a couple of fine scores – the second after O’Dwyer had threaded through a great pass – and Callanan, demonstrating again the winners’ tenacity in hassling the Limerick defence, exploited some fostering to sling over his final score.
By the end there was a more robust look to Limerick’s line-up. Hurler of the Year Cian Lynch came on and had a couple of dashes at Tipp and the last score of the day when trying to find a way to goal but in the end having to scramble the ball over the bar.
For Sheedy, the match was a satisfying sign-off on the first stage of the championship, topping the Munster group with a 100 per cent record. He reflected on the high energy of his forwards.
“I think overall, we got more of a chance today because conditions were that bit slippier so there was more of a chance of a spill or a turnover. In fairness to the lads, they brought what they bring on the training field, a good intensity but look, Limerick were missing a good few of their key players as well today, so I don’t think anyone will read too much into what we saw. All we focused on was ourselves and getting back into a Munster final.”
His counterpart John Kiely was stoical. “Yeah it was a good battle all right. I suppose the quality could have been better being honest about it, from our perspective anyway. We turned over too much ball, incomplete hand passes, incomplete stick passes, balls dropped. We were just that little bit off and you could see it in those areas of the game.”
TIPPERARY: 1 B Hogan; 4 S O’Brien, 3 J Barry, 2 C Barrett; 5 B Maher (0-1), 6 Pádraic Maher (0-2), 7 R Maher; 8 M Breen (0-1), 9 N McGrath (0-2, one free); 15 J Forde (0-8, four frees, two s/l), 11 J O’Dwyer (0-1), 10 Patrick Maher; 13 J McGrath (0-2), 14 S Callanan (capt; 1-4), 12 J Morris (0-1).
Subs: 21 A Flynn for Barrett (32 mins), 25 D McCormack for Patrick Maher (35), 18 R Byrne for Breen (47), 23 M Kehoe for Morris (62), 19 W Connors for J McGrath (68).
LIMERICK: 1 N Quaid; 4 R English, 3 M Casey, 2 S Finn; 5 D Byrnes (0-3, two 65s), 6 D Morrissey, 7 P O’Loughlin; 8 D O’Donovan, 9 W O’Donoghue; 10 S Dowling (0-1), 11 K Hayes, 12 T Morrissey (0-3); 13 A Gillane (0-12, 10 frees), 14 S Flanagan, 15 P Casey.
Subs: 22 G Mulcahy (0-1) for Flanagan (half-time), 17 C Boylan for Dowling (44 mins), 25 P Ryan for Casey (52), 24 D Reidy for Hayes (54), 21 C Lynch (0-1) for O’Donoghue (56).
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).