By Brian McDonnell
DESPITE the surprise defeat suffered by Kilkenny at the hands of Galway Declan Ryan was determined that his players would not even consider the possibility of meeting Brian Cody’s men in an All-Ireland semi-final.
On Sunday Tipperary’s focus was on Waterford and on winning a 40th provincial senior hurling crown.
“All our focus up to today was on Waterford and on preparing for the Waterford game. We will just see now how the draw goes and if we are playing Kilkenny we will focus on that game when the time comes,” Tipperary manager Declan Ryan said.
Tipperary will now prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday, August 19th against the winner of the Kilkenny-Limerick quarter-final. And, the intervening weeks of preparation will have to be carefully planned.
“It’s something that we will have to look at,” Declan added.
“We turned up last year after winning the Munster final and we didn’t play at our best in the (All-Ireland) semi-final.
“There will be a share of club activity now and that will take the focus for the next week or two. We will have to knuckle down then and all our focus will have to be on who we will be playing in the semi-final.”
For the third successive game in the Munster championship Declan Ryan’s Tipperary fell behind and were forced to retrieve a significant deficit.
“I think our focus there at the start of each half could improve a little bit,” Declan Ryan agreed.
“Our work rate can always improve a little bit.
“These guys are fit enough to improve their work rate. There is plenty to work on,” the Clonoulty-Rossmore man added.
“I think it’s fair to say that we have not played at our best yet this year. There is a lot of competition for places there and it’s a tough job to pick the 26 and then to pick the 15.
“I think we have a lot to look at between now and the All-Ireland semi-final and a lot to look forward to as well.
“We have dug out three great wins in Munster this year. Last year the Munster final went all our way and I think that will stand to us in the semi-final.”
A mixed display in the opening half of Sunday’s Munster final saw nine different Tipperary players fire a wide apiece. And, yet the sides were level (Tipp 1-8 Waterford 0-11) at the break.
“We would have been very happy coming in at half time level,” Declan Ryan admitted.
“We probably didn’t play as well as could have in the first half, but I think the guys battled it out well there and we were delighted to go in level at half time.
“We finished very strongly and that’s always pleasing. We have done that in the last couple of games so I think we can be very happy with our finish anyway.”
Declan Ryan was also careful to point out the contribution made by the Tipperary substitutions: “when you can bring on players like Eoin Kelly, Shane Bourke and Séamie Callanan and these guys you are always going to be dangerous up front if you can get enough good ball in and around that area. I’m delighted for Shane Bourke and the way he netted one. I think Eoin (Kelly) steadied us down there. He got some vital frees there when the game was in the balance, but I was just delighted with the way our guys finished.
“I think we have a good bit to work on. We can be very positive going into the All-Ireland semi-final, but we have a good bit to work on at the same time”.
Similarly to the Cork game Declan Ryan opted to introduce a substitute late in the opening half. Against Cork Lar Corbett was sprung while against Waterford Eoin Kelly was called upon in the 34th minute.
“We have thirty-two guys on our panel and these guys have been training extremely hard and they are all showing great form in training,” Declan Ryan explained.
“Obviously, there is a bit of competition there, but Eoin has been showing such good form there that we couldn’t leave him on the bench for too long there today.”
Although he failed to score Lar Corbett exerted a big influence on Sunday’s game and Declan Ryan was delighted with the performance of the Thurles Sarsfields man.
“Yeah, he ghosts around the place and he got onto some lovely ball there and he uses it very well, but maybe he could have taken a couple of his own scores,” Declan Ryan said.
“That’s Larry, he has always been a team player and maybe it’s something we can work on in training, his shooting or something,” Declan Ryan said with a smile.
Corbett played a central role in several Tipperary moves which could have concluded with simple point-scoring opportunities, but the Premier forwards opted to try for goal.
“Certainly we had opportunities there when we could have taken a couple of handy points and we went for goals,” Declan Ryan admitted.
“But these guys are hungry for goals and I would never give out to anyone for going for goal.
“To be honest I think it’s a good trait in a forward to go for a green one.”
One feature of the Tipperary display that did especially please Declan Ryan was the performance of his full-back line.
“Our full-back line probably got a bit of criticism the last day,” Declan Ryan added.
“We had a very solid half-back line, but our full-back line probably got a bit of criticism after the last game. They have worked very hard on their game in the meantime and I am delighted with the way they all played today,” Declan Ryan said.
In saying that Declan Ryan also made time to praise the efforts of Brendan Cummins who made two terrific second half saves: “yeah, Brendan was crucial there today. I think that at vital times in the game had Waterford got the couple of goals there that he saved it might have been a different result”.
Waterford manager Michael Ryan, although disappointed with the result, was pleased with the Déise performance.
“I fully hand it to Tipperary,” Michael Ryan said.
“They have the bit of experience and they took their chances. They fully deserved their victory, but I would also like to say that I am very proud of our own lads. Last year the crowd was going home ten minutes into the second half very disappointed and there was a bit of a low, but they turned it around and they worked very hard this year. There is still a lot of work to be done. Today, on its merits, we played some really, really good hurling and I was delighted, above all, with the spirit that the two teams played the game. It was a tremendous sporting encounter and in the very best traditions of Munster hurling.
“I don’t want to take anything away from this Tipperary victory. I know some of the lads. I was in Mullinahone managing for a year and I know Eoin Kelly and Paul Curran. I was Munster manager as well and I know Lar Corbett, Shane McGrath and Conor O’Mahony. They are all tremendous lads, they are a great team and I think they will be very difficult to beat for the rest of the championship. But from our point of view we have got to regroup now, learn the lessons and look back at the DVD. We are not going to go away. We are going to come back stronger, fitter and faster than ever.”