Friday 23 March 2018

Cyril Farrell: It was just like watching Cats in their pomp

Tipp maintain old-style values while Déise were like a rabbit caught in the headlights

Michael Breen of Tipperary celebrates after scoring his side's third goal as Waterford players despair. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Michael Breen of Tipperary celebrates after scoring his side's third goal as Waterford players despair. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

If the jerseys were changed at half-time you would have been forgiven for thinking it was Kilkenny out there for the second 35 minutes.

Having gone in at the break two points up after playing against a stiff breeze, Tipperary's closing half bore all the hallmarks of the Cats as they attacked Waterford at their very core.

Tadhg de Búrca and Darragh Fives are the foundations of a usually unbreakable Déise defence but their influence was nullified as Tipp broke ball time and again in the air with runners ready to attack at every angle.

Michael Breen and Brendan Maher were a bundle of energy throughout while Tipp also regularly bypassed Fives and de Búrca with long deliveries that caused consternation for Noel Connors and co inside.

Tipp went right down the middle where you'd think Waterford would dominate and created some glorious chances. And while the sun mightn't have been shining in the Gaelic Grounds they certainly made hay.

There was a ruthlessness to Michael Ryan's men that I haven't see for a while and who took any sniff of a chance they got and kept burying nails in the Waterford coffin until the final whistle.


Ryan is definitely going the right way and learning from the Kilkenny template of playing very good hurlers in the most important positions and trusting them to deliver on their potential.

John McGrath and Seamus Callanan had dream days in the full-forward line and in the ten minutes after the break Tipp struck 3-4 and killed off the game as a contest. I'm delighted for McGrath in particular.

John missed a bagful of frees in an U-21 match last year and was dropped as a result but his confidence is sky-high again, highlighted by a coolly-taken penalty when he went for placement rather than power.

He's on top of his game and is a great touch player. He can win ball and score or he can win ball and lay it off. 12 months ago his head was down in his ankles, now he's playing with a freedom that's engulfed all of his team-mates.

They've lovely hurlers in attack but at the back they're really impressing me, they look solid and settled. The Mahers are flying with Ronan settling into the No 6 spot and developing into a top player while Cathal Barrett is hurling out of his skin.

Their hooks, blocks, tackles and flicks were phenomenal throughout but they had the skill to back it up. They'll be on a high and it looks like a two-horse race between Kilkenny and Tipp for Liam MacCarthy with each on opposite sides of the draw.

Managing the time gap is the big thing for Tipp, they'll probably go back to their clubs and will have learned from last year - they'll think now is their time.

Waterford were very flat on the day but they're much better than that, the system let them down and their best players weren't at the races at all but Jamie Barron, Kevin Moran and Brick Walsh fought until the bitter end.

If your top players don't produce on the big days you're in trouble because if they click then everyone else does but Pauric Mahony and Maurice Shanahan were off colour. It was one of these days, if they were a horse you'd be putting a line through their form.

Waterford's plan backfired, the system failed but they were totally out-hurled as well. They were like a rabbit caught in headlights, mesmerised, and the goal right after the break killed them off.

This is the acid test for Derek McGrath now. Does he stick with what they've done all year and which failed them miserably yesterday or do they switch and go straight up 15 on 15? That's the big question.

The purists will be delighted even though it ended up being a thoroughly one-sided contest because it was a win for a traditional style of play with Tipp not betraying their old-style grip and whip values.

Everyone was giving out about the tactics on show in Thurles on Saturday night with sweepers everywhere you looked and this result might force a slight rethink as Waterford were blown out of the water. They have some serious soul-searching ahead.

Conditions were awful in Limerick and you'd have to wonder about having a Munster final where there is only one stand, the supporters were like drowned rats by the end.

Why Waterford wouldn't go to Thurles will have to be asked. It's one of many imponderables on a day when everything went wrong.

Wexford deserving as Clare build

Cork's fortunes went from bad to worse in Semple Stadium on Saturday and you'd have to wonder what is going on down Leeside? Kieran Kingston's side were overwhelming favourites to defeat Wexford but they lacked leadership all over the pitch.

In Lee Chin, Wexford have one of the finest players in the game. He's the heart and soul of Liam Dunne's side and took the game by the scruff of the neck when his team needed him most.

The likes of Matt O'Hanlon, Paudie Foley and Liam Óg McGovern all stood up to the plate up in trying times while Conor McDonald was deadly accurate up front.

When Cork got the goal you presumed that they were going to push on but Wexford were defiant with Chin taking the next puck-out and drawing them level again.

It summed up the game and you could see what it meant to all involved after the game, the Wexford crowd were ecstatic but in truth, Cork were truly awful. Their first touch was well off and I don't know how many balls they put over the sideline, it was chronic but Wexford deserved it.

Limerick were also beaten but to me they're in a much better position than Cork. When Clare got motoring and started varying their game between long and short they took control but their lack of a ruthless goal-scoring touch left the Treaty in it.

Shane O'Donnell is coming back to form and Podge Collins is some man to play for the footballers yesterday after being one of the Banner's better players Saturday.

Clare missed a lot of chances but they're coming back strong and will fancy their chances of getting back to Croke Park for the first time since the 2013 decider.

Irish Independent

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