Thursday 29 September 2016

Tipp tick all the boxes but can't forget the lesson learned in 2010

Published 21/05/2016 | 02:30

Former Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea. Photo: Sportsfile

In what were the final words to his squad as Tipperary manager after last year's All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Galway, Eamon O'Shea urged them to think ahead: "You were just defeated, you're not beaten."

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Tipp had lost by a point but O'Shea was already predicting better times ahead, albeit without him.

"A better manager will come in and get that point or two points," he said.

By tomorrow, 40 weeks will have elapsed since the defeat by Galway, long enough for the actual details of that game to have faded into the distant past but short enough to recall the impact.

The misery of losing a game for which Tipperary were hot favourites will surely have produced one useful by-product: a hardening of resolve to win this year's All-Ireland.

Michael Ryan, the man O'Shea promised would find that extra point or two which often eluded them during his term, is now getting a chance to impose his imprint on the scene, with the first real test about to arrive.

His pursuit of that "point or two" met with mixed experiences in the League.

Tipp lost by two points to Clare in the quarter-final, having earlier lost by one to Waterford but, crucially, they drew with Galway in Round 4, thanks to a last-second equaliser by John O'Dwyer.

Defeat would have relegated Tipperary but instead it was Galway who dropped into Division 1B, having lost a play-off with Cork.

Link those two results together and the gap between Cork and Tipperary may be nowhere nearly as wide as the odds suggest.

Granted, Tipperary beat Cork by 12 points in the final 1A round but by then Kieran Kingston's squad were already resigned to facing a relegation play-off, while Tipp needed to win to ensure a quarter-final place.

Cork were an altogether different proposition against Galway two weeks later, hanging in defiantly before pouncing near the end.

Still, having lost all five regulation 1A games, they continue to be regarded as being off the hottest All-Ireland pace, a rating they are happy to indulge, publicly at least.

Privately, the mood is, no doubt, a whole lot different.

"We all know we're a bit away from dining at the top table of hurling," said Kingston.

"That's not me talking down Cork hurling, It has been well documented over the last couple of weeks where we're ranked in terms of the Munster championship and the All-Ireland, and even the Tipp game. We're total outsiders for everything."

Tipp would do well to ignore the Leeside lament. In 2010, Cork looked to be much further behind Tipp going into the Munster quarter-final, only to win by 10 points. Tipp recovered and won the All-Ireland, while Cork didn't even take Munster.

Spirit

Not many of the Cork team of 2010 remain on board but those who are will no doubt remind their colleagues of what can be achieved if the mood and spirit are right.

Of course it takes more than that to win big games. Cork's concession rate - an average of 1-24 in their last 12 games - is unacceptably high and explains why six rivals are ahead of them in the All-Ireland odds.

That includes Tipperary, who are second favourites behind Kilkenny. They are becoming irritated by being reminded of how many games were lost by tiny margins, suspecting it implies that they may be mentally weak.

Doubts have also been expressed over whether they bring enough physicality to their game.

"We wouldn't be contesting Munster finals and All-Ireland finals if we weren't physical enough. I think we're doing a lot of things right," said Brendan Maher.

Still, they will never be considered by Tipperary supporters to be doing everything right until they win the All-Ireland. The first hurdle on that course awaits tomorrow, one that they should be able to clear.

Irish Independent

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