Tipperary’s season is hanging in the balance at the present time with the squad and management at a crossroads.
Manager Eamon O’Shea admitted to the media after the game that he did not know what was wrong with his charges. Training had been good, preparations top class, and yet it is not transferring to performance.
While the defence is taking much of the flak for the volume of scores being shipped, responsibility must be taken elsewhere also. Galway ran through Tipperary on Sunday, as did Clare and Kilkenny at times too. This running through is coming from much deeper and at the present time Tipperary are not doing enough to prevent it. Defence begins in attack and it would appear that from midfield upwards, Tipperary are not working effectively enough. When oppositions have possession there is not enough being done to upset them. If this is not rectified Tipp will have a short summer.
Is there time to rectify the problems? Of course there is and it’s a small thing that could change the mindset - a win for starters against Dublin must be achieved. That won’t be easy mind, with Anthony Daly’s men having claimed the ‘Cats’ scalp last weekend. But, this game with Dublin next weekend is as important to Tipperary now as any other game they will play this season. That’s not overstating it - lose next Sunday and Tipperary hurling will be facing crisis.
Galway powered through Tipperary in a manner that would make one wonder if they Premier lads had trained like soliders the day before the game. They were sluggish, taking two touches instead of one, making the wrong decisions, and generally looked as though a virus had invaded their collective psyche.
Perhaps now we are learning too that our perceived strength in depth is not quite as deep as we believed. How many are to come back into the team really - two at the most. The squad contains almost forty players at the moment and the management has looked at most of them - how many of them are really up to the mark at this stage? It would appear that the last 10 or so are on more or less the same level, with perhaps another 8 just above them. Picking the team for championship will be a difficult assignment - picking the subs could be even harder.
But. Are we writing Tipperary off too soon? This time last year, All-Ireland champions Clare were in the second division of the league and most in Tipp honestly didn’t give them , or Cork, much of a chance in the championship. Clare were promoted and won the All-Ireland; Cork were relegated and came within a whisker of winning the Liam McCarthy too.
It is still only March, and while the season is moving on , there is time for the ground firm up and the shape of the Tipp team to emerge. It needs a strong dressingroom now to stand up and make a few serious challenges to players who might be existing in a comfort zone - and there are some. There is no room for comfort at this level now and a few harsh home truths will have to be spoken. The shaking walls in Pearse Stadium on Sunday evening in and around the Tipp changing area suggest that the process has begun. It can now go one of two ways - either it will have the desired effect of cementing the team and driving them on towards better things; or it will drive a wedge between them and ultimately lead to downfall.
The backroom team have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks. Perhaps the biggest job will fall on the shoulders, not of Eamon O’Shea, Paidi O’Neill and Michael Ryan, but of Kieran McGeaney - we know those shoulders are broad . Let’s just hope they are broad enough to sort out Tipperary’s mental issues. He’ll have a busy few weeks in The Premier County.
Teams and Scorers:
Tipperary: D Gleeson, C Barrett, P Stapleton, M Cahill, S McGrath 0-2, C O’Mahoney, P Maher, B Maher, J Woodlock, C Kenny, J O’Dwyer 0-2, P Maher, N McGrath 0-1, S Callanan 1-11, M Heffernan. Subs: K Bergin 0-2, E Kelly, D Maher, C O’Brien, P Murphy.
Galway: C Callanan, F Moore, R Burke, D Collins, David Burke 0-3, I tannian 0-1, Daithi Burke, J Coen 0-1, P Brehony 0-2, C Mannaon 0-1, G McINerney, A Harte, N Healy 1-3, C Cooney 1-4, J Glynn 1-1. Subs: N Burke, J Flynn, D Glennon, P Killeen.
Referee: A Stapleton (Laois)