Tipperary won their third Munster Final at the hands of Waterford in a decade in Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday for three main reasons which can be outlined as follows.
Players Stepping up to the Mark
In Tipperary’s three championship outings so far this season, different players have stepped up to the mark at different times to help see the side over the line. Sunday, saw John O’Brien in top form alongside keeper Brendan Cummins.
While the Toomevara man probably had a lot to prove to his teammates having been sent off against Cork in the semi-final, Cummins work at the other end of the field was equally as crucial.
Brendan dived left and right, stood up at the correct times, and was an inspiring figure for the whole team with his wonders between the posts.
Yes, Tipperary seem to have the happy knack of producing big performances from key players.
The semi-final saw Pa Bourke and Noel McGrath step up to the plate while Conor O’Mahony and Padraic Maher were outstanding against Limerick.
Declan Ryan is in the happy position at the present time to be able to rely on a variety of players providing the on-field leadership necessary to get through big games.
Lar Corbett, back to the starting fifteen on Sunday, also hurled up a storm, even if he failed to get on the scoresheet, while Brendan Maher had a fine second half, once he got going.
The big difference was that Waterford were depending on John Mullane really for scores, with Maurice Shanahan thrown in for good measure. Granted Shane Walsh came good for a few early scores, but the Deise didn’t have anything near the resources Tipp had to call upon to get over the line.
Despite the fact that Waterford snatched 0-5 off the Tipp full back line in the early stages, The Premier County’s defensive unit was rock solid.
Once Michael Cahill got to grips with Mullanes threat, and Paul Curran nullified Shane Walsh, Waterford were left searching for scores.
Yes, they hit 11 wides in the hour and yes, Brendan Cummins engaged in more bailouts that the troika, but given the amount of ammunition Waterford managed to supply to their sharpshooters, Tipp did brilliantly. So brave was the defending that at times it even seemed desperate. But, Tipp were in control and they held Waterford to just five points in the second half – remember Waterford had the breeze in this half as well.
It should also be pointed out that Waterford were confined to just three points from play after the 22nd minute of the first half. That’s quite a boast from a Tipp defence which came in for sharp criticism following the last two outings.
Tom Stapleton had a storming first half and has settled into the number five shirt very well. Conor O’Mahony without being overly spectactular, was solid, while Padraic Maher completed a unique double by adding to his brother Ronan’s minor medal on the day for the Tonagha household.
Inside, Conor O’Brien, captain Paul Curran and Michael Cahill worked very well as a unit and covered and cut out danger when it materialised. Of course having Cummins in such sparkling form behind them was a big help too.
There was an element of surprise at Eoin Kelly’s appearance just before half time. But, it wasn’t so much Kelly’s appearance as Pa Bourkes departure which had the tongues wagging at the interval. Still, it just goes to show the strength in depth Tipperary have – most teams would be loathe to remove their placed ball expert during the height of such a big encounter. Kelly for Bourke was a relatively seamless transition in this regard. Eoin contributed as well – his point in the 33rd minute a real reminder of his continuing worth to Tipperary. Bourke can count himself unlucky to have been called ashore.
But, it was Shane Bourke who made the real impact. The JK Brackens man first touch of the ball saw Waterford’s Stephen O’Keeffe picking the sliothar out of the net – how’s that for an inspired substitution?
Bourke has become Tipp’s ‘go-to’ man in the closing stages of big games. His pace and score taking abilities certainly infuse fear into the heart of defenders, and he has benefitted considerably with the thunder gone and the expanses opening.
With the departure of the thunder, Bourke adds the lightening to the Tipp attack. There were also run-out’s on Sunday for Donagh Maher and Seamus Callanan and it was good to see Paddy Stapleton togged off right the very death too, although he did not get in, with Padraic Maher cramped up.
Tipp’s bench is separating them from the chasing pack at the moment and it is likely to play an even more important role as the season progresses. With the kind of intensity the games are being played at, it is very difficult to finish with the same fifteen as started -it’s been a while since both starting midfielders finished the game together in the same position. That’s where the role of the bench comes in and reserve management is as important at this stage as team management. The subs are not just there for the puckaround and the team photo – they have a major role to play in the game and must be on their toes at all times. So far Tipp have gotten it right.
Tipperary bagged 2-13 from play on the day and had nine players on target, including corner back Michael Cahill for his first ever championship point – he matched Conor O’Brien’s effort in the quarter final tie against Limerick, leaving only Paul Curran in the full back line scoreless for the season so far!!
Waterford had six scorers and while both sides managed 11 wides, the Deise would have expected a bigger return from the frees awarded to them – they benefitted from referee Cathal McAllister to the tune of 15 to 7 – a fact which frustrated greatly the Tipperary following in the 26, 438 attendance.
Patrick Bonner Maher had a quieter game than the semi-final, but it was always going to be difficult for him to have the same level of influence again. Still, he made the telling rob and pass for John O’Brien’s goal and was a constant stone in the shoe of the Deise, although not as many clearcut chances emerged from his efforts.
Perhaps worrying from a Tipp perspective, was the fact that it took so long to get to grips with Waterford’s control of the half back line.
On other occasions, the game could have drifted away, but Tipp heard the reveille, were fortunate to have stemmed the tide just in time, and created the scores to steady things.
There was so much migration in the Tipp attack, that it was very hard at times to pinpoint who was actually playing where. Too much movement can be as bad as no movement at all, but once Tipp sorted out the offensive mechanics, the situation remedied itself.
Tipp have now won three very different types of championship encounter.
The next one, you would think, will be the biggest.