ALL-IRELAND SHC QUALIFIER PHASE 3
TIPPERARY v OFFALY
(Portlaoise, Tomorrow, 3.30)
JOE DOOLEY'S conclusion after last Saturday's six-point defeat of Limerick in Tullamore that his team "probably do better as underdogs alright" should lighten the mood of the Offaly supporters who attended that match ahead of tomorrow's clash with Tipperary.
By any estimation, the Faithfull are massive underdogs now against a Tipperary team which may just be finally finding their groove. The other side of that coin is that if Offaly can bottle and reproduce the bit of spark and steel they showed on two separate days against Galway, an upset could yet be in the making.
Call it confidence or even arrogance, whatever it is that Offaly hurling possesses, they are never too surprised when they topple one of the big guns but the performance against Limerick doesn't augur well.
Shane Dooley was strangely subdued against Justin McCarthy's Treaty County men and it took stellar performances from the likes of David Kenny, Rory Hanniffy and Cathal Parlon to seal their spot in tomorrow's fixture.
Tipp, on the other hand, are this season's great conundrum. No settled team, no real formline, it's hard to fathom what has gone askew for Liam Sheedy in the past nine points.
Yet a decent win tomorrow could jolt his team back to life and propel them back into the business end of the championship with some confidence in the tank.
Paddy Stapleton and Paul Curran should shore up the Premier full-back line but perhaps the notable change from the Wexford win is Shane McGrath's reposting at centre-forward, with David Young switching to midfield.
This one has 'battle' written all over it and, no doubt, Offaly will hurl like their lives depend on it but Tipp have more class and calibre and their need is simply greater.
TIPPERARY: B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Curran, M Cahill; D Fanning, C O'Mahony, P Maher; B Maher, D Young; G Ryan, S McGrath, P Maher; N McGrath, L Corbett, E Kelly.
ODDS: Tipperary 1/8, Draw 16/1, Offaly 11/2