Monday 16 September 2019

Brendan Cummins: This is the Tipperary team I would select to play Cork on Sunday

Limerick’s Sean Finn dives in to block a shot by Tipperary’s John McGrath during the Munster SHC clash at the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Limerick’s Sean Finn dives in to block a shot by Tipperary’s John McGrath during the Munster SHC clash at the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Brendan Cummins

One sh***y winter's night in Dr Morris Park, I remember Eamon O'Shea lining us all up against a wall with our backs to it before training commenced.

The mood was dark after we took a hammering from Cork in our league opener and everyone was wondering what was going on as the knives were out for players and management yet again.

"This is where ye are, backs are to the wall just like they will be when ye play Kilkenny on Sunday. What are ye going to do next?" Eamon said with a fair degree of animation.

It struck me as a player that the only place we could go was forward and this Tipperary squad finds itself in a similar position this Sunday. Their backs are now to the wall and they have nothing to lose.

We edged Kilkenny by a point in Thurles that March afternoon five years ago and got ourselves out of a hole and while there's been a lot of doom and gloom around the Premier, they can play their way out of this. They have to play for survival from here on in.

In the past, you had to win one game to open up your summer, Tipperary now have to win three, but knowing the characters and the senior players in that dressing-room, they won't shy away from that.

In an ideal world, every manager would love to pick his starting 15 on training performances but starting five debutants in the Munster championship was a bold call which backfired badly for Michael Ryan.

There was anxiety around the county the minute the team was announced and if I was John Kiely, I would've felt I was pushing an open door after looking at that Tipp team, a point no doubt hammered home to his players to instil belief.

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There's a growing disconnect between the team and supporters and Ryan missed a trick by not explaining his decisions and giving some insight after the game, instead opting to go with a siege mentality.

There will be a lot of soul-searching over the coming days and I expect that to result in a change to their style of play.

Damningly, Tipp have mustered just 1-3 from play in the second half of the league final defeat and the Limerick loss.

Anyone who watched the 2016 All-Ireland final and saw Tipp clock 2-29 and mesmerise the Cats would scarcely believe that.

If players and management need reminding of what Tipp do best, they should re-watch it as they played ping-pong hurling around the middle third and then sprayed the ball in front of our onrushing forwards to collect possession.

This is starting to sound a bit like a Brian Cody press conference before an All-Ireland final, saying the same thing over and over again, but much like Pádraig Harrington's changing his golf swing after winning Majors, if it's not broke, why try to fix it?

We've had so few glimpses of the real Tipp this year that the spell against Wexford in this year's, league where we toyed with them hitting 11 points in a row, stand out along with a few flashes in the semi-final against Limerick.

There's no surprise for opposition when you play Tipp now, you can read them like a book and we must go back to the future with our attacking play as the recent scoring glut is down to two things.

Movement is a forward's responsibility and it is the defender's responsibility to put the ball in front of the forwards.

If our forwards think the ball is going to be hit in low you will immediately see improvement and an increase of movement.

Right now, they're standing static because they know the ball is going to come in from the clouds and I've no hesitation in saying that a change of style would automatically mean a 50pc increase in scoring output from Tipp.

The common consensus is that you can't change a style of play in a week but I'm not talking about a sweeper system, I'm talking about allowing players have the control to pick a team-mate out from 30 yards.

Tipp could become a completely different team if they do so and this Jekyll and Hyde performance is what's needed to beat Cork.

There are problems, but there is a solution which is not bound beyond the realms of possibility with the talent that Tipp have.

Liam Sheedy always said that "when a corner-back is getting cleaned at one end, it's the corner-forward's fault at the other end" and this rings true with our application up front, but defence is still a big issue.

Cork's two-man full-forward line, where they create one-v-one situations in space, is tailor-made to exploit a side short on confidence and dealing with the twin threat of Seamus Harnedy and Patrick Horgan will be first and foremost in Ryan's mind.

The whole summer is not there to build up to, this is the whole summer and every man, woman and child from Tipp should go to Thurles on Sunday.

The last time we were on the floor, the fans picked us up off it - against Galway in the qualifiers four years ago.

That re-connection is needed and Ryan will get a reaction on all fronts this weekend once he picks the right team. If there's an appetite to fix the problems, they can be fixed very quickly.

With that in mind, here's the Tipp side which I think could get things back on track on Sunday:


B Hogan; Joe O'Dwyer, S Kennedy, A Flynn; B Heffernan, Pádraic Maher, R Maher; M Breen, D McCormack; Patrick Maher, S Callanan, N McGrath; John O'Dwyer, J Forde, J McGrath.

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