Tuesday 18 December 2018

Cyril Farrell: Tipp must address crisis in confidence to rescue All-Ireland hopes

Michael Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

To put it simply, they can't go on like this. If Tipp are to be what many believe - genuine contenders for the Liam MacCarthy - then yesterday's get-out-of-jail escape at the Gaelic Grounds will have to mark a watershed moment in their summer.

Once again they came out of the blocks like the walking dead, lumbering through a grim first-half performance before eventually finding their feet.

To me there was one big reason for the six-point deficit at half-time, which was as much to do with Waterford's tactics as it was Tipp's lethargy.

For the first time in a long time, Derek McGrath started with an orthodox formation for Waterford: six backs, two midfielders, six forwards and no sweeper.

Given the injuries which had ravaged their side, it was something they were forced into and, though unusual, it meant when the ball went into the full-forward line you had plenty of bodies up there.

The Tipp backs were being stretched, it was three on three, and a lot of Waterford supporters were thrilled to see them playing that way. You had ball raining in on Tom Devine, Patrick Curran and Stephen Bennett, and when the breaking ball spilled out they had the Tipp backs under all sorts of pressure.

Waterford players were zipping around throughout the first-half, winning all the breaking ball, but Tipperary looked dead on their feet.

A lot of that could have been down to confidence, something this Tipp team appears to be lacking at the moment.

Their supporters mightn't mean it, but the reality is that when Tipp win a game they're the best in the world, but when they lose they get very down. As a result the players seem to take it personally, which they shouldn't. If they can get the confidence back, they'll flow again.

Playing with 14 men certainly doesn't help, but for me Michael Cahill deserved to be shown a second yellow card yesterday. He was sold a dummy by DJ Foran and made contact with the hurl, even if he didn't mean it.

In the end, Michael Ryan had no option but to go for broke, taking off Noel McGrath, Dan McCormack and John McGrath. It was desperation stuff, but it worked - the lads were raring to get game time and they played refreshing hurling.

As for the goal that wasn't a goal, it was a huge turning point, one that spurred Tipp's players to kick on and rescue a result. But what was clear yesterday, yet again, is that Tipp's lack of pace at the back is being found out.

The Waterford forwards were very comfortable and very, very dangerous all day, while Derek McGrath's decision to drop 'Brick' Walsh to wing-back came to fruition - he loved it back there, facing the ball.

Most teams will have seen how Cork exposed Tipp at the back with their pace and now that it's become a trend, others will be trying that too. To turn things around, Tipp have to tighten things at the back and start getting out to the ball in front. They can't keep playing from behind, or indeed coming from behind on the scoreboard.

They're a team you can't write off, though. In Liam Sheedy's time they were beaten by 10 points by Cork and still won the All-Ireland, so if they can finish third in Munster, they'll be a dangerous team coming through the other way.

Cork also look dangerous, despite being unable to get past 14-man Limerick at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday. It was a great game of hurling with fantastic stick work and plenty of 20 and 30-yard passes. These lads attacked the space instead of the man, which makes for a much more flowing game that rewarded the huge crowd.

Limerick are the new team on the block, refreshing in how they're playing, though Cork will feel they left the win behind.

Maybe it was the fatigue of the weekend before, but they again just didn't finish out the game, didn't do the small things right when it mattered. They are Munster champions, though, something so many seem to forget, and to me they're near the finished article.

That game showed the beauty of the new championship format, but we saw the ugly part yesterday when Offaly were relegated after defeat to Dublin. They need to allow six teams in Leinster, because Offaly is too good a hurling county to go down.

As for the All-Ireland picture, no prizes for guessing who my team to beat is: Galway.

They took Wexford by surprise in the first-half on Saturday when they had the breeze and went direct with ball to the edge of the square, where they played Johnny Glynn - who wasn't originally listed in their starting line-up.

Wexford's passes were constantly breaking down in the middle third and in the end they were no match for Galway, who are playing with great confidence. The biggest worry for them will be injuries, but if they manage to stay healthy, it'll take some team to stop them.

Irish Independent

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