Tipperary back on track with Offaly demolition
TIPPER ARY 2-19 ; OFFALY 1-9 LONG removed from Deise Day, Tipperary got their All-Ireland bandwagon on the road again with a comprehensive rout of Offaly in Saturday's SHC qualifier at O'Moore Park.
As soul-cleansings go, this couldn't have been more sanctifying. From first puck to last, the reigning All-Ireland champions set about ridding themselves of the painful memory of that eight-point reversal to Waterford a fortnight ago.
They achieved their objective in style, yet the ghost of Munster final day might linger for a while if only to serve as a battle-cry against the scourge of all great champions, complacency.
Tipp boss Nicky English pointed out afterwards that the selectors "did not have much to do to motivate the team today". The Munster final, he revealed, was "the starting-point" for their preparations and on this evidence, the end won't come until the second Sunday in September.
English's charges couldn't wait to start putting the record straight. Within 23 seconds of the throw-in, Offaly 'keeper Stephen Byrne had to save a Mark O'Leary effort just over a minute later, O'Leary settled for a point.
Inside 10 minutes, Offaly were trailing 1-4 to 0-1 as they endured the whiplash from Tipp's Munster final crash. The goal came in the seventh minute when John Carroll steamrolled his way through the Faithful defence before selflessly setting up Brian O'Meara for a straight-forward finish.
Having weathered this early storm as best they could, Offaly tried manfully to regroup as Brendan Murphy moved to midfield in a direct swap with Barry Whelahan. Tipp responded with some chess of their own as Carroll and the rather subdued Tommy Dunne traded places up the centre of the attack.
With the Munster men hitting several bad wides, the door was open for Offaly to haul themselves back into contention and they did just that in the 19th minute when Stephen Brown stroked a snapshot to the net out of nothing. The Midlanders were now just one point in arrears, 1-4 to 1-3, but this was as close as they were to get.
Tipp responded in the manner of wounded champions. Within 60 seconds, Benny Dunne and O'Leary had increased the margin to three and despite recording eight wides in the opening 23 minutes, the Tipp attack was mainly on top of their markers if not their shooting.
English later blamed this wides-fest on his players' "over-anxiety", but it was this natural exuberance which lay at their root of their second goal. Tommy Dunne created the opening with a clever flick to Carroll, who showed a superb first touch to control the sliotar before rifling past a helpless Byrne.
By half-time Offaly were 2-8 to 1-6 in arrears, and still in with a clear shout. However, it soon turned into an inaudible whimper.
Fr Tom Fogarty's troops had a half-chance of a goal snuffed out by the ever-alert Brendan Cummins at the re-start, and after that, it was all downhill for them.
Tipp gradually piled on the misery, point by point. By the three-quarter mark, Offaly were eight behind and not even the introduction of former All-Ireland hero Johnny Dooley (sporting a knee-support) could trigger a revival.
Fr Fogarty admitted that he knew the game was up then, and the manager credited his native county for making their experience tell.
"You cannot buy the things that Tipperary have," the Offaly boss mused.
"They have good hurlers, but they also have the composure that comes from winning and their confidence comes from that.
"We've a lot of young players who don't have that yet and it's only by playing in big games like this that they'll get it."
The experience of the Waterford defeat is what English believes will help whip his team back into All-Ireland shape again, and a plainly re-charged John Carroll agreed in the post-match dressing-room.
"We're back on track again," enthused the Roscrea powerhouse.
"We went into the Munster final and did not do ourselves justice whatever happened today, we were going to do our best and that's we must keep on doing."
Having been chastened a fortnight ago, Carroll and the rest of his team-mates now look charged-up for a determined defence of Liam McCarthy. Pretenders to the crown would do well to heed Fr Fogarty's solemn warning: "Remember, up to 4.30 on June 30, people said they were the best team in the country and I still think they will be the team to beat."
SCORERS Tipperary: B O'Meara 1-2; J Carroll 1-1, M O'Leary 0-4, E Kelly 0-4 (3fs); P Kelly 0-3 (2fs); B Dunne, T Dunne 0-2 each; E O'Neill 0-1. Offaly: S Brown 1-1, S Whelahan 0-4 (3fs); Barry Whelahan, K Martin, R Hanniffy, B Carroll 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY B Cummins 8; T Costello 8, P Maher 8, P Ormonde 8; E Corcoran 8, D Kennedy 7, P Kelly 9; E Enright 7, N Morris 6; M O'Leary 7, T Dunne 6, B Dunne 7; E Kelly 6, J Carroll 8, B O'Meara 7. Subs: L Cahill 6 for O'Meara (49), E O'Neill for E Kelly (64), P Curran for Maher (69), B Horgan for Morris (70), Maher for Kennedy (70). Booked: P Ormonde (35).
OFFALY S Byrne 7; M O'Hara 6, J Errity 5, JP O'Meara 8; Brian Whelahan 5, J Brady 7, N Claffey 5; R Hanniffy 7, Barry Whelahan 6; G Hanniffy 5, K Martin 7, B Murphy 5; B Carroll 5, S Brown 6, S Whelahan 6. Subs: G Oakley 5 for Barry Whelahan (44), D Murray 5 for G Hanniffy (50), J Dooley 6 for Brown (57), M Cordial for Carroll (63), H Rigney for O'Hara (70). REF M Wadding (Waterford)
ATTENDANCE: 20,000 (estimated)