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Brendan Cummins: Tipperary's long game not maximising natural talents

Seamus Callanan of Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Seamus Callanan of Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile

Brendan Cummins

Playing to your strengths and minimising your weaknesses is at the heart of every sporting success but the lines have become blurred in Tipperary.

The crisp and unique style of play that brought All-Ireland success just two years ago is a thing of the past and we now expect our ball-playing forwards to win possession when the dropping sliotar has snow on it.

No longer is the ball played into space as the direct approach is preferred but that doesn't suit the personnel at present and the crucifying statistic of three second-half puck-outs won from 17 sums up our problems.

The philosophy has changed with Daragh Mooney launching ball as we try to become a team that can win our own ball but that doesn't suit us. We have the players to put it on a postage stamp and that's what separates Tipp from other teams.

I remember watching Seamus Callanan making 30- and 40-yard runs into the world of space during the 2016 All-Ireland final and the ball was put on a plate for him. The opposite was the case yesterday and Jason Forde had to nearly be killed to get the ball in hand as Cillian Buckley sat back in the pocket and lapped it up.

There's no doubt that we were totally outfought by a ravenous Kilkenny side but the style of play must be questioned - we need to be 60/40 as regards long and short ball - and they haven't played like the real Tipperary since the Wexford game in Thurles earlier this year when they were ping-ponging the ball around the field and hit 11 points in a row in the first half.

A lot of people will point to James Barry, but if you're getting killed 100 yards from your own goal, your full-back line stand no chance at all. You can't operate a scrambling defence for a full half, that's what we were trying to do.

Future opposition will try to isolate Tipperary defenders one on one and get the ball into the grass and run. We're back in the same place as 12 months ago after the League final defeat to Galway and the Munster SHC reversal to Cork and Michael Ryan needs to restore Cathal Barrett to the full-back line to fight these fires.

It never turned into a game of ability for Tipp because they never earned the right to play in that middle sector of the pitch.

Everyone is pointing to the absence of Seamus Callanan, Noel McGrath, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher and Dan McCormack but it's not reality to expect them to hit the ground running coming from long lay-offs, which is a huge worry going to the Gaelic Grounds to face Limerick.

Yesterday was a real shock to the system and it really wasn't expected. Of all the times Tipp went down to Nowlan Park, there was a real optimism of victory but now it's 17-1 to the Cats in knock-out League games against Tipp, a harrowing reality.

You have to take your hat off to Kilkenny though. A micro-shot of their ferocious intensity was on show when Forde got the ball out on the wing with about 10 minutes left and there was a man inside him. Two Kilkenny defenders went to him and left the other forward loose.

But Forde couldn't pass it to him. That's what they do, they get to the ball as quick as they can. It took us the '09 All-Ireland final to learn that and we spoke about it coming up to '10 that everywhere the ball is you have to commit bodies to that area, it doesn't matter if there's an overlap on, get to the ball as quick as you can.

Tipp couldn't get to the ball, Kilkenny could. They sucked everyone into the middle of the field and then Barry and co. are in trouble, inside whereas we got Lar Corbett one on one in 2010.

Lesson

All games against Kilkenny mirror each other. If you had an overhead shot it would show at least 20 bodies in the middle and two or three forwards to the left and right. Whoever wins that battle in the middle wins the game and they ate us there.

Hats off to TJ Reid. It'll tell you how good the Kilkenny forward line were 10 years ago that they had four TJ Reids playing. Now they have one and he nearly beat Tipp by himself. And he's a lesson to every forward who thinks they have skill; skill is no good unless you apply work-rate with it.

Brian Cody sprinkles that on his players like fairy dust and while their style has changed, his philosophy hasn't.

There were Kilkenny players taken off yesterday and he didn't even look at them. If that was any other manager he'd greet the player coming and shake hands concerned about how he had taken the decision.

Cody turns it around and waits for the following Tuesday night to see their response on the training pitch and it has been bred into their DNA at this stage. That's the only type of player he wants; a player that takes adversity on the chin and always fights back.

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