Monday 14 October 2019

Brendan Cummins: 'Premier rediscover ruthless streak but injuries will generate new challenges'

 

Tipperary medical staff rush to attend to Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher after the wing-forward sustained a knee injury during the first half of yesterday’s Munster SHC clash with Limerick in Semple Stadium. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Tipperary medical staff rush to attend to Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher after the wing-forward sustained a knee injury during the first half of yesterday’s Munster SHC clash with Limerick in Semple Stadium. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Brendan Cummins

In my time with Tipperary there was a trend that holds true today: when they're winning matches, they become a completely different animal. A different mentality just flows through their hurling: you feel you can take on the world.

That's the attitude they have now, a result of the work Liam Sheedy has done. He didn't have to change anything about the players' ability - that was always there - but he had to rekindle that killer instinct, the ability to drive a stake through opponents' hearts.

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You could see it yesterday - the anxiety they created when they got inside the 45. At that point there's nothing in their mind only a goal, and it created panic for Limerick's backs. But there's a lot more to them. Yesterday was my first time seeing them in the flesh this championship and a few things stood out. First: the influence of Noel McGrath. His work-rate up and down the pitch and the way he reads the game is sensational.

On the opposition puck-out he's not pre-occupied with following his man. He watches the goalie, seeing where he'll hit it. There's still a huge value on being able to read the game the way he does.

Instinct

You can have all the tactics boards and prescriptive coaching but you still can't beat instinct and that's key for Sheedy: there's structure in how Tipp play, they rely heavily on movement, but it's all about freedom to play - letting the player do the right thing.

Their stick work was exemplary, bringing the ball to ground or changing its flight mid-air rather than trying to catch it. The fluid movement of the forwards under high ball is a nightmare to defend.

Yesterday's game was like hurling in a phone box for the inside forwards. The sweeper system is like a gun fight - once one team draws the other follows - and Tipp had the upper hand in that war.

I don't think Dan Morrissey is a comfortable sweeper for Limerick - he's more of a combative defender. Patience and positioning are key to success in that role and Paudie Maher was perfect for Tipp.

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With three on two inside - and Paudie Maher on the edge of the D - it was a nightmare for Aaron Gillane to play his usual game. The sweeper was hoovering up ball so both corner-forwards came out to get in line with him and they ended up 40 yards from goal.

Every time Tipp got the ball they were moving forward and that was the difference, especially in the middle third. Limerick were going sideways or backwards: they played up the middle of the pitch, spraying it wide very rarely, trying to pick their way through a forest of Tipp bodies and attempting to play the perfect pass inside.

It became like a six-on-four game in the middle third and Tipp had two outside all the time - waiting. If their four could outwork the Limerick six then Tipp had a score and if they couldn't, Limerick had to go long - at which point Paudie Maher gobbled it up.

Because Noel McGrath read the game so well Tipp often had a five-on-six in the middle third and they got opportunities to shoot between the 45 and 65. That killed Limerick.

But let's be clear: John Kiely will be happy enough having learned an awful lot yesterday.

This was their third week on the road, he had Declan Hannon resting and he never brought on Gearóid Hegarty. He proved to Shane Dowling that he's really an impact sub, not a man to start. I'd expect a very different Limerick in a home Munster final.

The conundrum for them is how to get their two inside forwards into the game. They need to be a lot more direct. If they went deeper and got it in over the Tipp sweeper they'd have got more joy yesterday - I'd expect more of that the next day.

For Tipp the worry is obvious: injuries. Bonner Maher and Cathal Barrett could be sorely missed and the challenge is how to win ball in the half-forward line. History shows us it takes 20 players to win an All-Ireland and Tipp need fringe players to make an impact. Mark Kehoe came on and was ineffective yesterday, Jake Morris looked out of it, while Dan McCormack and Michael Breen did well - all those lads will need to step up for them to go the distance.

Looking to Leinster, I still can't believe Galway are gone, but they've no one to blame but themselves. The Carlow game killed them and it's a lesson to all teams in Leinster who play that weaker county next year: you have to be merciless. If you don't, it'll come back to bite you.

You have to congratulate Dublin. That was a throwback to the Anthony Daly days with the crowd on the pitch, players carried off on-high. But as we look ahead to the Leinster final, for me it's advantage Wexford.

The red card at full-time might be an issue for them - at this time of year you can't afford to be missing anyone - but I still think they'll beat Kilkenny.

The Cats are hanging on in games, waiting for an inspirational moment from TJ Reid and if it's not happening, I'm not seeing much else around the pitch. I can't see one fella beating the team ethic of Wexford.

Speaking of team spirit, I was in Tralee on Saturday and was delighted for Kerry, who finished the year with four points. Of course, Offaly's situation is sad to see, a county in complete disarray.

Whether it was from the side-line or on social media, the abuse management and players got was disturbing. When there's a crisis, every effort should be made to circle the wagons.

If everybody is wrong in Offaly then everyone needs to sit in a room and thrash it out - then come out with a vision. It's simple: if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

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