Wednesday 12 December 2018

'I think the integrity of the competition has been completely compromised' - Tipperary boss Liam Kearns hits out at fixture 'disgrace'

Munster SFC quarter-final: Tipperary 0-20 Waterford 0-9

Tipperary’s Philip Austin feels the squeeze as he’s tackled by Waterford duo Shane Ryan (L) and Craig Guiry. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Tipperary’s Philip Austin feels the squeeze as he’s tackled by Waterford duo Shane Ryan (L) and Craig Guiry. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

All the drama in Thurles on Saturday evening came after the final whistle, with Tipperary manager Liam Kearns letting fly at the decision to ask his players to return to the same arena next weekend for a Munster semi-final against Cork.

Kearns, seething with the provincial fixtures planners, demonstrated a passion alien to the match itself, a dire affair in a stadium virtually empty of people and entirely empty of atmosphere and suspense.

Waterford, missing six of the team that almost shocked Cork in Dungarvan last year, set up to avoid a bad beating and perhaps hoped for some miraculous intervention on the counter-attack.

In the first-half, facing the breeze, they managed to keep to within four points of Tipp, who ended the recent National League 18 places higher and carry justifiable ambitions of making the Super 8s. On the resumption, though, already 0-7 to 0-3 clear, Tipp hit eight points without reply and buried any notion of an upset.

Angry

Afterwards it was Kearns who stole the show in an angry broadside at the Munster Council. Tipp have met Cork at the same crossroads in Munster over the last two years, with Tipp winning for the first time in 72 years in 2016, then going down by a point last summer.

JJ Hutchinson of Waterford in action against Alan Campbell of Tipperary. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
JJ Hutchinson of Waterford in action against Alan Campbell of Tipperary. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

"It's an absolute disgrace," stormed Kearns when asked of the quick turnaround.

"I think the integrity of the competition has been completely compromised. I think Cork have now got an advantage over us. It should be a level playing field.

"The stats say that the team with a six-day turnaround don't win. We are determined that it won't be won in the committee room, it's not going to be won in a boardroom. It's going to be won out there in the field. And that is being straight and honest. They are years planning and with a stroke of the pen they put it all into jeopardy."

Kearns said that game could have gone ahead on June 9 or 10, two weeks before the Munster final and two weeks before a qualifier.

Robbie Kiely of Tipperary in action against Shane Ryan of Waterford. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Robbie Kiely of Tipperary in action against Shane Ryan of Waterford. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

"They have been totally unfair to the Tipperary players and the advantage is with Cork, and what should be a level playing field between two evenly matched teams is now totally in their favour. It's wrong, absolutely wrong."

Speaking on The Sunday Game last night, former Dublin star Ciarán Whelan agreed with Kearns' assessment.

"The least you deserve when you start out in your provincial championship is two weeks between each game," he said.

"They deserve more, they’re not being treated appropriately and being asked to play in six days is not acceptable.

"No other county is being put in that situation. Why not the ninth or tenth of June and you still have two weeks to the Munster final?

"I don’t think it’s right and you have to ask, would the bigger counties be treated like that?

"They’re coming in to play Cork, it’s their biggest game of the year and they’re being given six days. I don’t think it’s acceptable."

Kearns rested their National League top scorer Conor Sweeney, who has a hamstring strain, and said that an extra week would have meant he'd be fit to face Cork. He also left Steven O'Brien, who had an ankle knock, on the bench until the second-half.

Tipperary were so much in control of the match that they could afford to take off Michael Quinlivan with 15 minutes to go.

Liam McGrath, captain when the county won the All-Ireland minor title in 2011, finished top scorer with 0-9 on his first championship start, seven of those from frees. Quinlivan, double marked at times, ended up with 0-3.

Josh Keane got in a serious shift carrying the ball around the field as Waterford sat back and defended deep, leaving JJ Hutchinson virtually on his own in the Tipp half of the field.

What followed was a predictable pattern of Tipp pressing on the Waterford kick-out and dominating possession.

They had opened a 0-6 to nil lead before Waterford scored through Gavin Crotty in the 28th minute. Tommy Prendergast hit two excellent scores nearing half-time, but in the second-half Tipp moved up a gear and pulled clear.

Waterford manager Tom McGlinchey lamented that spell after half-time when the match got away from his side.

"We totally died altogether and Tipp, again, anything they kicked went over the bar and made it count and made it very hard for us," he said.

"Michael Quinlivan got in for two punched points, Stephen Prendergast did reasonably well on him, but Quinlivan showed his class, and Liam McGrath kicked some fine scores from distance.

"You'd have to be happy with the application of the lads and the way they performed, but as I said, it's Division 2 against Division 4 and that's what stood out."

Waterford head for the qualifiers where they have won just once, against London in 2011.

Scorers - Tipperary: L McGrath 0-9 (0-7f); M Quinlivan 0-3, K O'Halloran 0-2, J Feehan, J Kennedy, J Keane, L Boland, J Lonergan, P Austin 0-1.

Waterford: J Curry 0-3 (0-2f); T Prendergast, G Crotty 0-2, C Murray, JJ Hutchinson 0-1.

Tipperary - E Comerford 7; S O'Connell 7, J Meagher 8, A Campbell 7; B Maher 8, R Kiely 8, J Feehan 7; L Casey 7, J Kennedy 7; J Keane 8, K O'Halloran 7, B Fox 7; L Boland 7, M Quinlivan 8, L McGrath 8 Subs: S O'Brien 6 for Kennedy (44 mins); P Austin 7 for O'Halloran (48); K Fahey 7 for Maher (49); J Lonergan 7 for Quinlivan (54); P Codd 7 for Meagher (57); G Hannigan (not long enough playing for rating) for Casey (66)

Waterford - S Enright 7; J McGrath 7, B Looby 6, A Trihy 8; D Guiry 7, S Prendergast 7, B O'Keeffe 7; T Prendergast 8, M Curry 6; C Murray 7, S Ryan 7, K Power 8; G Crotty 7, J Veale 6, JJ Hutchinson 7 Subs: J Curry 8 for O'Keeffe (29 mins); C Guiry 7 for Veale (43); J Allen 6 for McGrath (black card 56); M Kelly (not long enough playing for rating) for Power (68); M Cummins (not long enough for rating) for Trihy (70); E O'Brien (not long enough for rating) for Hutchinson (73).

Ref - F Kelly (Longford)

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