Thursday 18 December 2014

Cyril Farrell: Kilkenny would have preferred a Cork win

Tipperary's strength will throw down big challenge to Cody's men

Cyril Farrell

Published 23/08/2014 | 02:30

Kieran Bergin in action against Conor Lehane during Tipperary's 10-point victory over Cork which booked their All-Ireland final place against Kilkenny. Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Kieran Bergin in action against Conor Lehane during Tipperary's 10-point victory over Cork which booked their All-Ireland final place against Kilkenny. Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Every manager has experienced it. You're standing on the sideline, certain that there's absolutely nothing more than can be done to save the day.

You wonder why it's turning out like this. The players you know and trust are struggling, individually and collectively. Simple things that they did on automatic pilot previously have become unmanageable chores.

As for anything more advanced, it all looks like double-Dutch. You feel for them. There's nothing they can do to turn things around. You know they'll get stick afterwards and you're damn certain that you're heading for a lash too. There's no middle ground.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy and the Cork players are the latest to endure that horrible feeling of helplessness, which hits when your game is in tatters and the opposition are playing like gods. He mentioned the players in the first few sentences of the post-match interviews last Sunday, sharing their pain and doing his best to remind everyone that they were very good players who just had an off-day.

He was right. It's easy to lose perspective. Cork hurled at probably no more than 50pc of full capacity, when even 100pc might not have been enough. Most of the Tipperary players, who enjoyed last Sunday's game as a sort of redemption after some tricky times, went through a similarly bad day against Kilkenny two years ago, so they know what it's like.

Justice

Limerick seriously underperformed against Clare last year, a month after Galway didn't do themselves justice against Dublin, who misfired against Kilkenny and Tipperary this year. God Almighty, even Kilkenny endured a wipe-out, ripped apart by Galway in the 2012 Leinster final.

It happens in all sports but hurling is particularly unforgiving. When the opposition get on top, the flow becomes a torrent.

It hit Cork in the second half last Sunday, leaving them with no escape route, unlike the supporters who began to trickle out shortly after the three-quarter-stage.

That told its own story. Cork were only eight points down with 18 minutes remaining but you sensed that the game was over.

There was no spark in them, none of the slickness which took them through Munster and raised supporters' expectations of an All-Ireland win.

Why did it go so wrong for Cork? I haven't a clue. I could offer 'five reasons why Tipperary won' but it would be pure bluffing. Trust me, it's bluffing wherever you hear or read it. It was just one of those days for Cork.

I tipped Tipperary to win because I felt that if both sides hurled at full power, they would have a slight edge. With Cork playing so poorly, Tipperary were always going to cruise home.

The five-week wait since the Munster final has been put down as a possible reason for Cork's inertia. I don't buy that. It's an area where I have some experience, having been in charge of Galway teams that often went into All-Ireland semi-finals with no competitive game for three or four months, depending on how we did in the league.

Despite that, we won four semi-finals in a row in 1985-88 and a fifth in 1990. If a team is good enough and they get their game right, they can overcome any lay-off. It's not ideal but it's not fatal either.

A very busy schedule was blamed for Wexford's collapse against Limerick; now, too few games is supposed to be a reason for Cork's wipe-out. As happens so often in sport, the explanation follows the result, even if the logic doesn't.

Tipperary didn't have to do anything brilliant to beat Cork last Sunday but they did have to put themselves in a position to exploit weaknesses as they arose. They did it clinically, with their leaders across every line playing consistently well. It really was a very satisfactory day for Eamon O'Shea and a camp that took more than its fair share of criticism at times this year, most of all from Tipperary supporters.

Tipp are back on track and on a powerful roll, which will make them difficult to stop. I reckon Brian Cody would have preferred a Cork win on the basis that Kilkenny stood a better chance of hustling them. Tipperary play a more physical game and are well used to squaring up to Kilkenny on big days. They don't come any bigger than September 7.

As for Cork, they haven't become a bad team overnight. Most of these lads will be back, maybe even better for the bad experience. Presumably, Barry-Murphy will be with them too. It's in theirs and Cork's interests that he remains in charge.

Callanan has come good - despite his critics back home

Some Tipperary friends of mine reckoned I was way off the mark  when I predicted in the Irish Independent championship supplement last May that Seamus Callanan would be a top contender for Hurler of the Year of the Year if Eamon O'Shea's boys went well.

It didn't surprise me. Callanan has divided opinion in Tipperary for the past few years and, even now, he still has his critics.

It didn't surprise me either that really stepped up this summer. He is a seriously good hurler and once his confidence is high, the rest follows.

Of course, he's facing the ultimate test in the final against JJ Delaney and if he goes left or right he'll be up against Paul Murphy or Jackie Tyrrell. That's some test!

Callanan is second favourite behind Richie Hogan for Hurler of the Year with TJ Reid, Colin Fennelly, Padraic and 'Bonner' Maher the other main contenders.

Clare and Galway heading for U-21 showdown

Antrim pulled off a huge shock when beating Wexford in the U-21 semi-final last year but there will be no repeat against Clare today. 

The Banner boys will definitely win and I would expect Galway to join them in the final. Mind you, it's a tight call with Wexford, who won the Leinster title for a second successive year. Despite the seniors' big defeat by Limerick, there's genuine optimism in Wexford hurling and the new-found confidence will help the U-21s.

Galway are reinforced by many of the team that won the 2011 All-Ireland minor title, including Padraig Brehony, Jonathon Glynn, Jason Flynn, Cathal Mannion and Paul Killeen, all of whom have senior experience.

As usual, Galway have been relying on challenge games to fine-tune them, whereas Wexford won a competitive Leinster championship. Despite that, I would expect Galway's all-round solidity to see them through.

It's badly needed after the senior and minor setbacks.

Irish Independent

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