Tipp On Guard After Leinster Shock

How about that now? Sensation is no word for what happened in Croke Park as preconceived ideas of Kilkenny’s automatic supremacy were shattered by a Galway who took them on physically and tactically for a first Leinster title by a decisive ten points.

How about that now? Sensation is no word for what happened in Croke Park as preconceived ideas of Kilkenny’s automatic supremacy were shattered by a Galway who took them on physically and tactically for a first Leinster title by a decisive ten points.

Our favouritism for the Munster title might usefully be tempered by the Leinster surprise.

All five Munster counties still stand in the national series.

Cork and Clare availed of home venues to come through over Offaly and Dublin. Limerick had already moved on to the next phase of the Qualifiers.

As these take the longer route Tipp and Waterford compete for direct access to the semi-finals, as well as for the Munster crown. The venue for the game has drawn almost as much attention and the menu we’ll sample at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

Tipp seek the senior-minor double and have a decent prospect of that desirable feat.

The marvellous victory by the young footballers last Sunday raises hope of the first dual minor achievement since faraway 1955. The seniors’ date with Wexford on Saturday makes for a huge weekend of varied interest.

That bill of fare has been doubled by the addition of a Cork v Wexford qualifier and the meeting of Limerick and Clare.

Another Meeting

This will be Waterford’s fourth successive final.

They won the middle one of the previous three by beating Cork in a 2010 replay after ref Johnny Ryan’s call on a late foul set up Tony Browne’s reaction to the rebounding free.

Tipp beat them in the semi-final on the way to that historic - and history preventing - victory over the Cats. We beat the Decies by four points in the 2009 provincial final and, as is well remembered, by a clear seven goals last year down by the Lee. Nothing of that size is liable to recur.

We’ve taken three titles in the four seasons since 2008, the exception being two years ago with the heavy loss to Cork, which ultimately did us no harm at all. Our last defeat by Waterford was in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2007, Liam Sheedy’s first year in charge.

So they have a sequence to break, as we have one to maintain. The rivalry may fall a shade short of that vis-a-vis Cork - Sunday’s attendance may not match that of our recent trip south, but it is a well established one in which we’ve had our reverses, mostly at the Pairc.

The sting of last year’s drubbing is bound to provoke maximum ambition in their camp, while we’ll have the burden of fairly heavy favouritism.

Michael No Fitz

Cork’s difficulties with Offaly may suggest that the progress under JBM has been wishfully exaggerated and our minimal win over them maybe no great index of power.

On the other hand, Clare’s conquest of Dublin could be seen as a compliment to the Waterford victory over the Banner, as close as ours over Cork. Michael Ryan may be a far quieter manager than the vocal and animated Davy Fitzgerald was but he’ll be imbuing his forces with no less fervour in seeking atonement for that hammering.

They have a fine young goalie in Stephen O’Keeffe, he has a CV of De La Salle colleges success and his late stop from Honan was vital at the Stadium. Predecessor Clinton Hennessy was hardly at fault, though, in that bombardment a year ago.

They will probably have All-Star Noel Connors back in the rear line, he replaced Kearney the last day.

A third Harty Cup and All-Ireland winner in Pauric Mahoney had been out with injury but there’s been talk of a possible return, he was their top scorer last year.

John Mullane as ever, will be the focus of main attention, both by our defence and by the rest of us. Their Eoin Kelly has been on and off, while the Shanahan clan has been represented by Maurice. Shane Walsh and Prendergast are other experienced attackers. The craft of hurling has to be respected, especially as our own displays have been well short of ideal in all quarters.

Defensive Worries

To begin with, the full line of defence has been fallible enough to cause worry.

Michael Cahill hasn’t reached his All-Ireland standard, though an early hand injury against Cork kept him out of Sarsfields v Bracken’s last Wednesday.

Waterford will be aiming to stretch the play diagonally for maximum room, so half-back dominance has to be a Tipp priority. O’Mahoney and Padraig Maher have the potential to do so, while Stapleton has been satisfactory of late. The form of Shane McGrath last day was heartening as regards midfield, while Brendan Maher’s late replacing was rather a surprise. Some recall his minor placing as a defender and wonder if it could or should be renewed.

The attacks “field day” a year ago will hardly be seen again but we have to hope and believe that scoring potential up to the requirements of the day will be produced.

The Decies may well recall with hurt that the seven goals came from Corbett, Kelly and Callanan, in diminishing order of lodgment, and won’t see us repeating the initial omission of all three as against Cork. Lar would be the likeliest to get a starting nod. If all three were to start it would be otherwise, maybe, for Gearoid Ryan, John O’Brien and Pa Bourke. Hardest to see Pa left out and Ryan could be a midfield candidate if Brendan Maher were to be somewhere else. Tipp expects. A Munster title may be only a stepping stone nowadays and not the exclusive provincial visa, but it is still well worth securing.

Venue Background

Local patriotism is fine as regards the status of Thurles as a hurling venue. We love to see it exploited to the maximum, nobody more so than your humble correspondent, who can stroll up to the Stadium at his ease in about fifteen minutes. Not till the day after our victory over Cork was any doubt cast on Pairc Ui Chaoimh as venue for the final. By eight to two the provincial sub committee rejected a Waterford move to switch the game to the Stadium.

The history of the issue is quite simple, isn’t that how colloquail speech used to say “Semple”!

Way back last October the draws were made and the various permutations as well known in Waterford as everywhere else. No fancy for Thurles emanated from the Decies till June 7th, at the meeting to decide the final venue.

A “sweetener” was sought by them to come to the Stadium. They had done similarly last year, the money would come from that which was due to the Stadium authority. The attempt was ruled out then for its potential effect on neutral venues in time to come.

With no cash on the table, Waterford withdrew the proposal of travelling to Thurles. Cork was agreed on by the finalists and by everyone else. On the 27th a renewed effort from the Decies was defeated as stated. Tipp’s vote in favour was a natural one, the opposite would have been extraordinary, but we at no time went along with the “sweetener” idea.

In the light of the facts the fulminations at Thurles UDC were far from justified. The criticism of the facilities in Cork went to the point where they’d apparently want to scrap our home and away agreement and sent those games off to Limerick, not much benefit for Thurles in that eventuality.

Had the draws and the results this season produced a Cork v Tipp final, it would have been in the Pairc, and no talk about our European Town of Sport would have altered it. Kerry go there in alternate years, more or less and kick up no fuss.

To have Thurles as the permanent final venue, as is sometimes argued, is just not “on”, however much it may flatter our high regard for the home place.

The Councillors’ hearts were in the right place, too, but they went overboard in this instance. The result on Sunday is what counts, not the location.