Tuesday 6 December 2016

John Mullane: Derek McGrath should bring Tipperary to Thurles for Munster decider

Tipp deliver in style and lay down marker with quiet approach paying massive dividends

John Mullane

Published 22/06/2015 | 02:30

Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher of Tipperary in action against James Ryan (left) and Tom Condon
of Limerick.
Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher of Tipperary in action against James Ryan (left) and Tom Condon of Limerick.
Joey Holden in action for Kilkenny

The US Open drew to a conclusion in the early hours of this morning and John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer wouldn't have been out of place at Chambers Bay.

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What a pair of wrists this guy has and his performance for Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday was sublime.

I've never seen a Tipperary team so quiet in the build-up to a game and they exploded into the light.

When they lost to Limerick in 2013 and 2014, there was plenty of hype about them but they went to ground after losing the League semi-final to Waterford and sometimes when you do that, you come out with a big performance.

Limerick got off to a great start but the floodgates opened when Seamus Callanan scored the goal from a Bubbles pass.

Tipp had big performances from those two and Jason Forde came with the performance we've been waiting for.

Bubbles was the ace in the pack though. If you give him a free shot, there's a 95pc chance that it's going over the bar.

The positioning of captain Brendan Maher was interesting too. He didn't play a conventional centre forward role and was deployed more around midfield and as deep as centre-back.

That allowed Pádraic Maher to sit a little deeper too and Tipp's midfield was excellent. The big turning point was Callanan's second goal, which came from Richie McCarthy's error.

INTENSITY

It was a true predator's goal from Callanan, who gambled in behind Richie. That error was symptomatic of Limerick's display and bar that spell early in the second half, they never really brought the drive and intensity that we've come to expect from them.

It was Tipperary who brought those key qualities to the table and their link play in the forward line was outstanding.

And yet Limerick still managed to get back to within a point before hitting a couple of bad wides at critical times.

I don't think Tipp were 16 points a better team and the one worry is that it took them 14 minutes to score after half-time.

That's a concern for Eamon O'Shea because we've seen in the past how Tipperary can switch off for 10 to 15-minute spells.

Against better opponents, they might be punished.

Limerick weren't the only team to suffer a big beating yesterday but they are better equipped than Wexford to recover.

The biggest issue for TJ Ryan is his full-back line.

Stephen Walsh had a good game on Niall O'Meara but that unit looked very shaky throughout.

Cian Lynch came into the game on the crest of a wave but even though he didn't score, he kept plugging away and that's a credit to him. He'll have days like he enjoyed against Clare again.

In contrast, Tipp scored 4-19 from play and in the first half, they had 2-11 of 2-12 from play.

That's incredible from a team that I expect to improve as the summer progresses.

Over the past few seasons, they've been slow starters but to come out and produce a display like this at the first time of asking bodes well.

BUCKED

Tipp's win also bucked a trend that emerged in recent years, where Munster quarter-final winners generally had the upper hand on teams that came in cold at the semi-final stage.

They have 2014 Young Hurler of the year Cathal Barrett to come back in and wouldn't it be great to see Noel McGrath back before the end of the season?

Michael Cahill, James Barry and Kieran Bergin were back from injury to provide added impetus for Tipp and a post-match interviewed conducted by Shane McGrath really struck me.

He spoke about how the Tipp players were dedicating this win to Eamon O'Shea. It was Eamon's first Munster championship victory as manager and he's a man who has stuck by this team since taking charge in 2012.

Shane made the point that what happens inside the group is all that matters for Tipperary and this was a major statement of intent.

The big question now is where the Munster final will be played. The only people that can decide are Waterford manager Derek McGrath and his players, but if it was down to me, I'd take them on in Thurles.

It's where Waterford have played some of their best hurling over the past decade and they've already enjoyed two big outings there this year against Cork.

Tipp will be strong favourites for that after yesterday's performance but it's a mouthwatering game to look forward to on July 12.

I just think Waterford should not display any sign of weakness and if the offer is there to play the final at Semple Stadium, take the chance and go for it. Otherwise, it appears that we're looking at a final in Limerick, as Páirc Uí Chaoimh is currently out of commission.

Wherever it's played, it's a massive challenge for Waterford but one they should relish - not fear.

That challenge is to take on a group of Tipperary players who were so economical with their use of the ball yesterday.

They worked it into better positions and displayed no signs of panic throughout the game.

It was a display that will gladden the hearts of Tipperary hurling folk after previous defeats to Limerick, and serves as a warning to the other contenders for September's big prize that Eamon O'Shea and his men are on a mission.

Holden's solid display bodes well for Cody's ruthless Cats

Just another routine day at the office for Kilkenny.

It was a typical performance by the Cats against Wexford yesterday in that once they got ahead, there was no let-up.

Richie Hogan picked up where he left off in 2014 and Ger Aylward shot the lights out on his full debut.

Here's a guy who's been knocking around for a couple of years but let loose with a massive performance when he got the chance.

TJ Reid had a very good game too, Eoin Larkin was outstanding and Walter Walsh was the only member of the Kilkenny attack not to score.

Another big question was how Joey Holden would slot in at full-back and he did well, nullifying the threat of Conor McDonald.

But Joey will face tougher tests down the road and they don't come much tougher than Joe Canning in a Leinster final.

Wexford got off to a reasonably good start, they appear to have regressed from last year and the Jack Guiney situation can't have helped their preparations.

Galway look the real deal but Laois were naive

Anthony Cunningham has transformed Galway into serious championship contenders, with a real depth in his squad.

David Burke and Niall Healy slotted in seamlessly against Laois on Saturday and Cunningham is fast reaching the stage where he has five subs to complement his 15 starters.

Galway clocked up another massive score and they have the potential to do real damage against bigger teams.

They have that scoring power and they're beginning to gel as a team.

Patience was the key in Tullamore.

It took Galway time to break down the Laois system but powered on after scoring that first goal but Laois were naive in their set-up.

They're playing to a system but using two sweepers was excessive and asking for trouble.

They try to play a game similar to Waterford but don't have the players to execute it.

The massive gulf between Laois and Galway in the physical stakes didn't help their cause either.

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