Tipperary power and know-how key to victory

 

The win gave the lie to all the talk that things aren’t right in the Tipperary camp, writes NICKY ENGLISH

After the sort of night in Portlaoise on Saturday that made some people want to switch off for the rest of the hurling championship, yesterday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was very enjoyable. A big crowd on a sunny day and a game in doubt right until the final whistle.

There’s still life in the season yet.

Maybe at times in the first half the play was a bit loose but the further the game went on, the more serious it got and the tighter it got. Tipperary showed the greater know-how and more importantly, great spirit and a lot of heart, especially after John O’Brien was sent off.

It gave the lie to all the talk that has been going around saying things aren’t right in the camp there. One thing you can say for sure after yesterday is that Tipp are in an improving situation – they were far better than they were against Limerick and there is still stuff to work on. The graph is on the up and that’s the best way to be going into a Munster final.

Some of the younger players really stood up yesterday after being questioned in the run-up. Noel McGrath and Pa Bourke were exceptional, Brendan Maher is coming back to himself and Pádraig Maher was powerful in the second half, although he tended to carry the ball too much at times.

Shane McGrath, Conor O’Mahony and particularly Bonner Maher all had massive games as well.

Ultimately the difference was the goal, created by a great catch by Bonner. He could easily have been man of the match, only he was maybe too unselfish at times.

For Tipp to go to Cork and dig out a win after being a man down was some achievement. In the end, I think their power and greater experience won it for them. Cork’s young players were in great form early on – Darren Sweetnam and Conor Lehane were involved in really good scores at the start of the game.

But they ran out of steam a little and were replaced before the end.

Jamie Coughlan was very dangerous as well. He was involved in three plays in the last 10 minutes that encapsulated Cork’s day when he got caught in possession twice but scored a fine point in between.

The game was on the line and he got nailed by a couple of massive hits from Tipp players along the sideline, a sign of their greater experience and power.

But the point in between showed that Cork are a work in progress and they are going places. They’ll be the team Dublin won’t want to meet in the qualifiers.

Saturday night in Portlaoise was so disappointing. The game just petered out after TJ Reid’s goal and Kilkenny showed that they’re in rude health.

Any doubts about them, about the players they had returning from injury or the make-up of their team, they were all answered. Richie Power was outstanding, Henry Shefflin will come on for the game and Cillian Buckley and Paddy Hogan slotted in at midfield without a problem. Richie Doyle looks to the manor born. They’re just relentless.

The bit of play that summed it all up for me was near the end when Jackie Tyrrell and a few others hunted down Dotsy O’Callaghan and pushed him away from goal. They were leading by 19 points at the time and forced him to overcarry. When they got the free out, Tyrrell and the boys reacted as if it was as important as winning the championship. Nobody can rest on their laurels in that team, no matter how many medals they’ve won.

The conditions were terrible for hurling, yet their touch was fantastic.

Their power, their use of the ball, everything was spot-on. The slick handpassing between Reid and Power for the first goal was brilliant but even late on, some of the passing between Power and Aidan Fogarty under the stand was still top class.

Contrast that with Dublin, who were off their game all day. It’s sad to see really. After four years, you would have been expecting them to be coming to the pitch that Anthony Daly wants at this stage. They came out playing 15 against 15, moving away from playing the extra defender and trying to contain Kilkenny.

This was the day to show where they stood in the pecking order.

But their hurling totally let them down. The basics of picking the ball, hand-passing the ball, catching the ball – that’s where they were lacking on Saturday.

You’d have to question whether there’s a psychological thing with Kilkenny at the root of it because their first touch was atrocious at times. The conditions put an extra premium on skill and touch and the Dublin players just weren’t able to perform to the top level.

In the end, they couldn’t live with a Kilkenny team that had so much intensity for men who have countless All-Irelands to their name. The bar has been set.

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