Saturday 22 September 2018

Brendan Cummins: Tipp papering over cracks but still pack a serious punch

Barrett could prove the silver bullet to turn Premier's season on its head against Banner

The return of Cathal Barrett to corner-back could help stem the tide when it begins to turn against Tipperary. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
The return of Cathal Barrett to corner-back could help stem the tide when it begins to turn against Tipperary. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Brendan Cummins

Nobody knows where Tipperary are as they head into a season-defining game against Clare on Sunday in Thurles, but they would have woken up yesterday morning feeling blessed knowing that they're still alive and kicking against all the odds.

It reminded me of our 2011 Munster semi-final against the Banner where we were expected to saunter to the Gaelic Grounds and walk all over them as reigning All-Ireland champions, but we were in for a rude awakening.

There was nobody there, empty seats everywhere - much like last Sunday which was an indictment on both Tipp and Waterford supporters - and it was unnerving.

It wasn't until they streaked ahead that we realised we were in a championship game and much like Waterford last Sunday, they couldn't sustain their blistering start and we came good at the finish.

While Tipp have shown unbelievable character in the last two games, it's hard not to get the feeling that Tipp are papering over the cracks with the way they're closing out games, and Michael Ryan will be pulling his hair out because some of what came before that last quarter was abysmal given the talent on show.

When you get a run on Tipp, teams are going to town and while every side have their period of dominance, they can't stem the blood loss in adversity.

In tug of war parlance, there is a time where you pick up the slack for a while and you just hold tight.

Ropes

When Tipp are on the ropes, they're getting knocked silly and they need to limit the damage. The half-forwards and midfielders need to drop 10 yards closer to their own goal and the gap needs to be narrower between the full-back and centre-back.

They're lucky that Jason Forde and Seamus Callanan are clinical when they get a sniff.

When Ryan emptied the bench, Waterford lost their match-ups and confusion reigned for the first time.

If Derek McGrath could have called a time-out then, Waterford would have prevailed comfortably but instead 'Brick' Walsh's dropped catch signalled the take-off of a runaway train.

When Tipp get that type of momentum, they're a different class.

When the Tipp half-back line took control, the frailties of the Tipp full-back line weren't being exposed but it's both a worry and compliment that they've only hurled for 50 minutes in this year's championship and only when the cause seemed lost.

Tipp have been slow to settle and their decision-making during the early exchanges leaves a lot to be desired. Case in point, Brian Hogan and Pádraic Maher not communicating and Maher batting a nothing ball that was going wide straight into the path of Pauric Mahony, who fired to the net.

Brendan Maher fired two balls across his own goal that resulted in points and these silly lapses of concentration are killing them.

If Tipp can tighten up from the off and play the percentages, play through the lines and play ball head-high into the attack, they are a totally different proposition.

You can't allow the opposition to play on their terms and you can't wait until the opposition (or the umpires) make a mistake before smelling blood. When the machine cranks up and Tipp go for it, there's no better team to go for the jugular.

They're a scary prospect and more of that will be needed if they want to save their season.

The reality is Waterford building an 11-point lead was like death by a thousand cuts but Tipp's revival had a more vicious intent.

It must be said though, the dignity of the Waterford players and management is a lesson to everyone in how to deal with adversity.

They had every right not to talk to anyone in the aftermath but they conducted themselves with class despite a miscarriage of justice.

For me the biggest issue in the Tipp team is the full-back line and Cathal Barrett is the silver bullet to fix this. He simply has to play corner-back against Clare and it's no coincidence that James Barry looked a serious No 3 until Barrett was no longer beside him. He came on last Sunday and started breaking tackles, putting Tipp on the front foot and he can run a game from the full-back line.

We're expecting attacks from all angles but when you've no pace at the back, you cannot attack. You can only cope. If you're just coping in the Munster championship, you're in trouble.

They need that energy, that swashbuckling corner-back and he is the only option. It's a harsh environment in Munster, and Barrett is a safety valve with pace.

Clare should be confident coming to Semple Stadium after Tipp getting out of jail twice and they come fresh and full of running.

It's all stacked in the Banner's favour but Tipp are frightening the life out of others in the last 10 minutes and teams are starting to look over their shoulders with the finishing line in sight.

Given the score difference (Tipp -6, Clare +4), Tipp probably need to win with a bit to spare but playing their fourth game in a row makes it even more of a lottery. While spectators are loving it, the system is unbelievably harsh on players.

The teams that come out of Munster are going to be absolutely banjaxed by the time they face a Leinster team - they could be lambs for the slaughter after four titanic games - while Galway are sitting pretty on the other side having not expended nearly the same energy as any of the Munster teams.

It's a gruelling schedule and the onus is on Croke Park to take stock at the end of the year and assess the viability of the current set-up.

I suggest getting the GPS tracker information of all 10 counties involved and correlating it together.

Assess the effects it's having on the players' bodies and whether an extra week's rest is needed, or possibly two separate rest periods during the competition. Players are reaching their threshold at an earlier stage in every game and red zones are being hit at an alarming rate.

Short-term damage to the body is obvious in the shape of muscle injuries, sprains and minor knocks but the long-term ramifications of this overload are yet unknown.

The GAA must invest time and money into reviewing the effects that back-to-back games are having on our players. We've never had as much information about players at the touch of a button, let's put it to good use and develop a system that works for all parties involved.

Irish Independent

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