Tuesday 14 August 2018

Cyril Farrell: Silence speaks volumes for Michael Ryan as Tipp outsmarted by Limerick's group thinking

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan near the end of the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Limerick and Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Tipperary manager Michael Ryan near the end of the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Limerick and Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Cork players Sean O’Donoghue (left), who had a brilliant match, and Seamus Harnedy celebrate at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

It's no great surprise Michael Ryan didn't want to talk to the media after such a bad start to the Munster Championship, because in truth there was very little to celebrate for the Tipperary manager after a six-point defeat to Limerick.

It's part of the game, talking to the media, but Ryan is entitled to do what he did. As a manager, though, I always found you're as well off talking to the media - win or lose, you have to take these things on the chin.

Going out to play in the Gaelic Grounds I'd say his team were well shook. When they saw the line-up, most Tipp people will have known there were injuries because you'd expect the likes of Brendan Maher to be on, but he only appeared with 20 minutes to play.

From the start, Limerick's team play was way ahead of Tipperary's, whose forwards were struggling to get points from play. The Limerick corner-backs were very tight, very hard, and their half-back line was very good all through the game. The Tipp forwards looked dangerous, but they never got any room to move or play their natural game.

Up front, even when Limerick weren't scoring they were very dangerous, working the ball through the full-forward line with ease. Tipp had put Séamus Kennedy and young Alan Flynn at corner-back, and tried Willie Connors and Billy McCarthy in midfield, but even though they went in a point up at half-time Limerick were already on top.

There was a method to Limerick's play. They played the possession game the whole time, having continued with essentially the same team they ran with in the league. They played a lot of 20-yard passes with the hurl, working out better positions for fellas and eventually they got on top of Tipp.

Limerick definitely deserved to win and were in no way flattered by the winning margin. They're in a good position now, a great sporting county - no matter what the sport is - whose support will only get stronger and stronger.

Their work rate is very high, their fitness is very good and they're definitely playing for one another. In this format, you have to be winning at home and that's what they did, which Tipp will have no option but to do next weekend when they welcome Cork.

During the week Michael Ryan will be trying to take the positives out of their game. There are some, when you consider who was missing from their starting 15 - the likes of Brendan Maher, Seamie Callanan, Bonner Maher, who would all be on when they're at full strength.

There's huge pressure on Tipp now, so I expect Ryan to throw caution to the wind against Cork. He'll have to go for broke rather than keeping the 50/50 lads off. When they analyse yesterday's game they'll see Limerick had a lot of chances and they could have won by more.

For Tipp, one win will put them back on track, but let's be clear: they're going to need a win.

That won't be easy with Cork arriving high on confidence, a team which played smart hurling to get past Clare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday. It was a right good game, but in the end Cork were just more clinical.

I never saw the Cork forwards work so hard, and it was like that all around for John Meyler's men. Their backs played very well too, with Sean O'Donoghue having a brilliant game at corner-back and Mark Ellis also very impressive.

At midfield Darragh Fitzgibbon did a huge amount of running and Pat Horgan was immaculate from frees. Up front they worked their socks off and they always got back, hooking and blocking.

But Clare played well too, and they'll recover and make it tough for Waterford on their trip to Ennis next Sunday. They'll feel they should beat Waterford with the benefit of this game.

After one weekend in Munster, it's as we expected - in that we have no real idea what to expect.

Leinster, on the other hand, is panning out as predicted and it looks as if Offaly and Dublin will be bottom of the pile.

There are plenty of benefits to the revised championship format, but for me it's crazy if Dublin or Offaly, whoever is bottom, can't play in the Leinster Championship next year.

And while the flurry of games is good for spectators, it almost feels as if they're cramming them all in.

But the biggest effect of the new format won't be on county teams; it'll be on clubs who have been deprived of players for so long. The way things are going, you mightn't have clubs at all after a while. Scanning over the fixture list for the weekend action, you'd want to be watching all the games, and while the attendances were generally decent and the quality was high, there's a risk of getting too much of a good thing.

At the moment, we're starting to straddle that line.

Irish Independent

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