Tuesday 20 November 2018

Erratic Premier have what it takes to make 'operation survival' work

John Conlon (pictured) and Tony Kelly scored 1-17 between them from open play against Cork and Waterford and with the Tipperary’s confidence rather brittle, Clare will feel they can build a decent score. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
John Conlon (pictured) and Tony Kelly scored 1-17 between them from open play against Cork and Waterford and with the Tipperary’s confidence rather brittle, Clare will feel they can build a decent score. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Martin Breheny

It's 90 years since Clare last beat Tipperary in the championship in Thurles and not for 20 years have Tipp been eliminated from the All-Ireland race as early as June 10.

The nine-decade wait for Clare in Thurles is slightly misleading and will have no bearing on tomorrow's clash, but the fear of exiting the championship so early could have a significant bearing on how Michael Ryan's men perform.

There's no safety net for them now. Only a win can keep them in All-Ireland contention and, even then, other results in the final round (Cork v Waterford, Clare v Limerick) would need to run their way.

Tipperary have no input into the latter so all they can do is win tomorrow and hope it's enough to save their season.

If this game were in the first round, they would be reasonably confident but much has changed over a few wild and turbulent weeks when split-personality performances have left their supporters totally bewildered.

The squad and management can't be too clear either on what's happening. The sloppy finish against Limerick was one thing, but it was relatively straightforward by comparison with the extraordinary events over the last two Sundays when Tipperary had to rein in leads of nine and 11 points against Cork and Limerick to even earn draws.

They did though, underlining how much momentum they are capable of generating when on full power. But what about the valley periods, times when they look like juniors who have mistakenly turned up in the senior championship?

There's no logic to it, which is both a positive and a negative for Clare. Nicely rested after a two-week break, they will feel that if they can impose full impact on proceedings and open up a decent lead, Tipperary might lack the energy to launch a third comeback.

This, after all, is their fourth games in 21 days, with the previous three especially draining from both a physical and mental viewpoint.

The big question is whether Tipperary's courageous comebacks, especially last Sunday, will steel them for a massive effort or will all the exertions leave them vulnerable against a Clare team that beat Waterford by nine points two weeks ago.

Their five-point defeat by Cork in the first round didn't full reflect Clare's performance, so they needed a quick retort against Waterford, which was duly delivered.

Granted, Waterford were well below full strength but they were equally handicapped last Sunday, yet came so close to beating Tipperary.

John Conlon and Tony Kelly scored 1-17 between them from open play against Cork and Waterford and with the Tipperary's confidence rather brittle, Clare will feel they can build a decent score.

They probably will too but then the same applies at the other end where Tipperary have prolific finishers once the game flows their way.

The scoring rate was most uneven against Cork and Waterford but they still averaged 2-21, a return that wins a lot more games than it loses.

Of course, their concession rate was the same, leaving them with the challenge of sorting out the overall alignment and playing better individually.

They are capable of both. And with the fear of exiting the All-Ireland championship even before the Munster round robin is completed adding to the importance of the game, Tipperary will be on highest alert.

This is a massive game for Tipperary, one which could end their season or keep them involved in the All-Ireland race.

They have the experience, know-how and motivation to get over this challenge.

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