Tuesday 16 January 2018

John Mullane: Tipperary must not have home advantage for next month's Munster final

Noel McGrath of Tipperary signs autographs after the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Limerick and Tipperary at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Noel McGrath of Tipperary signs autographs after the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Limerick and Tipperary at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Limerick manager TJ Ryan Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

John Mullane

First things first. Next month's Munster hurling final will be played in Limerick.

It makes sense from a Waterford point of view to bring the game to the Gaelic Grounds.

As much as Waterford are comfortable playing in Thurles, and have had many great days there, I remember Tipperary captain Brendan Maher speaking after last year's Munster final and stating that there was no way they were going to lose the game on home soil.

With very little to choose between both counties, it will come down to fine margins and Waterford won't want to give Tipperary any initiative whatsoever. The Gaelic Grounds might not be a venue that many Waterford fans like travelling to, but when we last beat Tipp in a Munster final, in 2002, it took us hours and hours to get home from Cork. It was well worth it though, and if the result goes our way on July 10, we won't feel the journey home.

Questions have been asked of this Tipp team in recent years, one of the most regular focusing on their stomach for a fight. Yesterday, and with 14 men, they delivered - and the impact of this victory in terms of morale cannot be underestimated.

They outfought and outworked Limerick, and just like last week, we're talking about the performance of a corner-back.

Seven days ago, I waxed lyrical about Kilkenny's Paul Murphy, and this morning we need to talk about Cathal Barrett.

This fella was head and shoulders above everybody else in the man-of-the-match stakes and so early in the season, he's put himself in contention for the Hurler of the Year award.

He drove Tipperary on and up front, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher was back to something approaching his best. In the second half, Noel McGrath caught fire and while Brendan Maher was quiet in the first half, he thundered into the game after half-time alongside Michael Breen.

Tipp's full-back line was solid and in the half-back line, Pádraic Maher looks as lean as I've seen him since 2009-2010.

Tipp are men on a mission but they'll have to plan without John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer for the Munster final.

He can have no complaints with the red card, but Waterford can't get sucked into a sense of complacency next month because Bubbles won't be playing. Sometimes, missing a talisman can galvanise a team, and his absence for the best part of 50 minutes didn't faze Tipp yesterday.

They're used to playing against sweeper systems and being outnumbered in any case, 7 on 6 more often than not, and 6 on 5 wasn't too difficult to cope with.

Gavin O'Mahony played the spare man for Limerick but I felt he was too far out and didn't fulfil the role effectively.

It was strange in that Limerick, despite the numerical advantage, looked like a beaten docket with 20 minutes left. Their body language was poor and we didn't see any of the qualities we've come to associate with a Limerick team.

Where was that manic aggression, that passion, that pride? I was waiting for them to make a connection with their travelling supporters because Limerick's fans are often the 16th man.

But there was none of that, and on the pitch, Limerick had no structure to their defence and looked clueless at times.

I'd heard talk coming into the game that Limerick were in disarray behind the scenes, with uncertainty surrounding their camp, and that manifested itself in their performance.

The Hawk-Eye call that went against PJ Ryan's (pictured) men was a big one and when John McGrath arrowed over a big point for Tipp in the 46th minute, I felt that was game over, and we were only 11 minutes into the second half. A word on Hawk-Eye, while I'm at it.

It's great to see it in Thurles, don't get me wrong, but compared to Croke Park, it's very slow.


There should have been more time added on at the end, and while we're told that it takes 30 seconds for a decision to flash up on the screen, it felt like much longer.

In Leinster, there was the predicted victory for Galway over Offaly by 10 points. Offaly got off to a flier but had captain Colin Egan sent off and played the entire second half with 14 men.

Still, they remained competitive and that's encouraging as they move on.

I haven't seen the incident, but the word is that Conor Cooney's red card may have been harsh for Galway. If he's out for the Leinster final, it's a big loss to the Tribesmen but I noticed that Andy Smith, Jason Flynn and Cyril Donnellan came off the bench so there's a bit of depth there. But the acid test is coming down the tracks for Micheál Donoghue and his players on July 3, in the form of Kilkenny.

Only then will we know where they truly stand.

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