Balance 'Tipps' in favour of Dubs
GAA Allianz National Hurling League Division 1 Quarter-final: Dublin 1-21 Tipperary 0-23
Outwardly Mattie Kenny displayed a coolness that suggested he was the least surprised person in Thurles on Saturday, but there was no disguising the significance of Dublin's victory.
Dublin's last win against the Premier county on Tipperary soil was in 1946, but most recent experiences of Thurles against the home team had been gruesome.
And in light of the form they had displayed in Cork less than a week previously, facing Tipp in Semple Stadium had seemed like a bum quarter-final prize for Dublin's quiet achievement of topping Division 1B.
'We were actually looking forward to going on the road this week,' shrugged Kenny, whose team face All-Ireland champions Limerick in Nowlan Park (1.30) in the League semi-final next Sunday as a consequence of Saturday's win.
Given how clearly his team is taking shape, the extension of spring may be more beneficial to Kenny now than any of his contemporaries.
Again, Kenny's defence was immense on Saturday, allowing only glimpses of Alan Nolan's goal, even if Tipp's shot selection and inaccuracy were significant in the result.
Seán Moran and Eoghan O'Donnell were supreme in the air and aggressive in their tackling down the spine of Dublin's back six.
Both landed monstrous first-half, wind-guided points, while Moran held his nerve in the second half, pristinely striking crucial late placed balls directly into the Thurles gale.
They weren't alone. John McGrath lasted just 35 minutes in Chris Crummey's zealous company. Daire Gray kept 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer scoreless.
But it was Dublin's response to each Tipp fightback (they levelled the match three times in the second half but never led) that will please Kenny most, particularly their newly-acquired ability to win tight matches.
'Last year's Championship was super,' Kenny pointed out. 'We saw sizeable leads being wiped out every week. Most of the games in last year's Championship were won in the last five, six, seven minutes.
'It's something that every team has to be able to do, to manage the game coming down the stretch.'
Paul Ryan scored two points in that decisive period off the Dublin bench. By that stage, John Hetherton's arrival had not only given Alan Nolan something to aim at as Tipperary attempted to hem Dublin in against the wind, the St Vincent's man had also got the better of Pádraic Maher.
'It's all down to the players,' Kenny added. 'Their work ethic and how they're working for one another.'
Tipperary. meanwhile, continue to puzzle. The frozen, huddled congregation in Thurles on Saturday left town still wondering as to the true personality of this team.
Was it the one that hit 18 wides against Dublin, or is it closer in appearance to the one that clinically took Cork apart in Páirc Uí Chaoimh six days earlier?
Liam Sheedy offered no mitigation.
'We hurled the finest, so we don't have any complaints,' he stressed.
'Mattie Kenny and his team came down, they had a plan and they hit us hard in the air and won good ball and they were winning the breaks.
'When you win the breaks, the ball in the air and the tackle count, you are generally in a really good place and we paid a heavy price.'
SCORERS: Dublin - E Dillon 1-3, S Moran (3f, 1 '65), O O'Rorke (4f) 0-5 each, C Boland, P Ryan 0-2 each, E O'Donnell, C Crummey, J Malone, R McBride 0-1 each; Tipperary - J Forde 0-7 (6f), N McGrath 0-4 (1f), J Morris 0-3, M Kehoe, Callanan 0-2 each, R Maher, M Breen, N O'Meara, J McGrath, B Maher (f) 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: A Nolan; P Smyth, E O'Donnell, D Gray; D O'Connell, S Moran, C Crummey; R McBride, S Treacy; C Conway, D Sutcliffe, J Malone; F Whitely, O O'Rorke, E Dillon. Subs: C Boland for S Treacy (36min), J Hetherton for Conway (36), P Ryan for Whitely (56), R Hayes for Malone (61), D Treacy for O'Rorke (69).
TIPPERARY: P Maher; C Barrett, J Barry, Joe O'Dwyer; R Maher, Pádraic Maher, R Byrne; N McGrath, M Breen; J McGrath, S Callanan, N O'Meara; John O'Dwyer, J Forde, J Morris. Subs: Patrick Maher for J McGrath (35), B Maher for Byrne (47), M Kehoe for John O'Dwyer (57), A Flynn for Breen (61), D Maher for N McGrath (73).
REF: P Murphy (Carlow)