Don’t be fooloed by the scoreline - Tipperary may only have lost to Galway by three points in the Allianz National Hurling league tie at Salthill on Sunday, but the hiding was much more severe than that.
Yes. it was another bad day at the office for Eamon O’Shea’s men and it now makes it only one victory in seven league and championship outings since the concluding stages of the 2013 Allianz campaign.
And, worryingly, the bedrock of the Tipperary team over the last few season was once again porous with three more breaches of the rearguard, making it a grand total of 12 in three games.
Salthill has been a happy hunting ground for Tipperary in recent times, but eventhough Galway were without their Portumna contingent, they ran the show on Sunday. They were fitter looking, hungrier, played with method and actually toyed with Tipperary players at times. It was hard stuff to watch and the reaction in the dressingroom afterwards was understandable - raised voices abounded as answers were sought as to what is going on.
Tipp now stare relegation in the face - a stark reality considering expectation in the county.
From the off, and even against the wind, Galway were up for this game. They dragged the Tipp backs all over the field and were completely dominant in key positions.
They were 0-3 to no score in front after five minutes thanks to Niall Healy (2) and David Burke - Tipp were making little headway.
But, a few scores began to roll and the feeling was that Tipp were dragging themselves into the game. Seamus Callanan pointed a 65 after the Galway keeper - his namesake- had made a fabulous double save from Michael Heffernan and Patrick Bonnar Maher - should have been a Tipp goal though, no question about it. It wasn’t and it perhaps sums up where Tipp are at presently.
Instead Galway pressed on with Conor Casey and Healy points again and though Tipp rallied with John O’Dwyer, Michael Heffernan, Callanan and Noel McGrath scores, Padraig Brehony kept Galway in front.
The last quarter of the first half though was to prove decisive and it was from here that Galway laid the foundations to victory.
The threatened goal came from Niall Healy in the 20th after Cooney, Brehony and Burke combined. Six minutes later, with Tipp in all kinds of trouble in the full back line, Jonathan Glynn was dragged down for a penalty and Cooney laced it to the net.
Got even worse though - three minutes afte rthat Glynn waltzed through three Tipp backs to scoop the ball in for a third goal. It was all too easy and game over as Gawaly led by 3-8 to 0-9 with the wind to come for them.
Padraic Maher was switched to full back and he shored up the defence - trouble was, there were three goals in the net by the time he was redeployed. But, it was worse than that - Galway were dictating everything and Tipperary were doing little about it - they were out muscled, out hurlerd, out classed and outwitted.
There was a bit of an improvement in the second half alright - Kieran Bergin and Eoin Kelly were on before the break, and Denis Maher and Conor O’Brien soon followed. Didn’t really matter - Galway were eleven points in front after five minutes of the second half - Johnny Coen, Conor Cooney and Iarla Tannian scoring for them again.
Tipperary were playing for pride and they managed a bit of a rally - Shane McGrath (2) and four Callanan points easing the scoreboard somewhat.
But, Galway were chipping away too with David Burke, Conor Cooney (2), Johnny Glynn and Burke again finding their range. Not even the dismissal of Iarla Tannian for a second yellow card disrupted them and while Tipp did bag the final 1-3 of the game - the goal coming from a Callanan free right at the death, Galway were never in danger of losing this game. For Tipp to have gotten anything other than defeat out of it would have been a major injustice.
Apart from the obvious consequences of the defeat - a relegation battle to come- this game will certainly sound alarm bells for The Premier County. The game against Clare was a bad outing and could perhaps have been written off as a one-off. However, this latest outing is pointing to the fact that Tipp are off the pace by a distance. Whether that is a mental or physical problem it will have to be addressed if Tipperary are to do anything in 2014. If it is not, this team is going nowehere.
Sunday was another big blow to morale and the simple fact is that Tipp cannot ccontinue to concede the scores they are and hope to win games. The finger will perhaps be pointed at the defence, but collective responsibility must be taken if Tipp are to man up.