Wednesday 25 April 2018

John Mullane: We should follow lead of soccer after minute's silence in Thurles was marred by a few shouts

The Tipperary and Waterford teams march in the pre-match parade behind the Artane Band
The Tipperary and Waterford teams march in the pre-match parade behind the Artane Band

John Mullane

For the first time in many years, I took in a Munster final involving Waterford in the role of spectator yesterday.

To see such a big travelling contingent in Thurles sent out a clear message that yes, the buzz is most certainly back within the county.

I don't remember such a big Waterford crowd present in recent Munster finals and I'd say we almost matched the home support yesterday.

I was in the Thurles Sarsfields centre before the game and it summed up everything good about Munster final day.

I couldn't believe the amount of Ulster folk who had travelled down.

I would have heard about this in previous years but experiencing it at first hand opened my eyes to the high regard the Munster final is held in throughout the country.

Waterford players (l-r) Michael Walsh, Eddie Barrett and Colin Dunford in action against Tipperary’s Kieran Bergin
Waterford players (l-r) Michael Walsh, Eddie Barrett and Colin Dunford in action against Tipperary’s Kieran Bergin

After the sad news that hit Waterford and Tipperary in recent weeks, it was really nice to see Noel McGrath in the pre-match warm-up with his Tipp team-mates.

Unfortunately, the minute's silence to honour the memories of Jimmy Doyle and young David Houlihan was marred by some shouts from the terraces.

I think it's time to follow the lead of our soccer counterparts across the water and call for a minute's applause instead.

The game itself was exactly what we expected: a tactical affair, and Tipp had their homework done.

The way Darren Gleeson varied his puck-outs showed how much thought Tipp put into the game.

In contrast to other teams this year, Tipp adapted their style of play to cope with the Waterford system.

That was evident in Pádraic Maher's performance - he had a colossal game as a sweeper in front of James Barry.

Tipperary’s Noel McGrath on the sidelines in Thurles yesterday
Tipperary’s Noel McGrath on the sidelines in Thurles yesterday

At the other end of the pitch, Tadhg de Búrca was equally impressive for Waterford.

It's interesting to note that over the course of hurling's three big weekend matches, we only saw two goals in 210 minutes of play.

That goes to show you the road hurling is going down with the big teams employing sweeper systems.

As the Munster final developed into a points shoot-out, Tipp had that small bit of extra class.

They were more clinical in their play in the last ten or 15 minutes to get them over the line.

And yet I wasn't despondent or disappointed leaving Thurles. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I was very proud of the lads and this is a game that Waterford will look back on and think they could possibly have won.

I was more than content with the half-time score, a point down after Tipp racked up a comfortable early lead.

I thought Kevin Moran was heroic in that first half but Eamon O'Shea reacted by dropping Brendan Maher back to nullify him.

The respective captains, Kevin and Brendan, enjoyed a ferocious battle in the second half.

Elsewhere, Barry Coughlan was outstanding in the Waterford full-back line, arguably the pick of the inside trio.

Shane Fives was very good too and hit two excellent long-range scores.

But it was Tipp who had the greater spread of scorers as Waterford, despite the best efforts of Kevin, Maurice Shanahan and Colin Dunford, found scores hard to come by up front.

I felt that we should have pushed an extra man into the full-forward line for the final ten minutes but that's the only flaw I could find in a good performance.

Read more: Dublin defeat crowns awful Limerick season

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There was also a crucial period in the second half when Waterford hit a number of bad wides in quick succession.

The game was in the balance in that spell and if those shots went over rather than wide, we might have had a different outcome.

Waterford needed those scores to go over to put pressure on Tipp, who seemed more economical in their shooting. Derek McGrath stressed after the game how proud he is to be associated with these Waterford players and he'll look forward now to the Dublin game.

The old saying is that you sometimes have to lose one to win one and this could turn out to be the case for Waterford.

For Tipperary, this was an important landmark under Eamon O'Shea, the first piece of silverware they have collected in his third and final season in charge.

What will have pleased him most was Tipp's ability to come through a battle because those question marks remained after losing the 2013 and 2014 National League finals, and last year's All-Ireland decider.

A fourth loss in a final of major consequence would have represented a big setback but the difference was John O'Dwyer's move to a roving role in the half-forward line for the second half.

He picked off a couple of lovely long-range scores and that 68th-minute free from inside his own half was an incredible point.

Last September, he missed that late Hawk-Eye effort against Kilkenny but he nailed an 80-yard effort yesterday.

Lar Corbett deserves a mention, too. I thought he looked very sharp when he came on and the experience he brought to the table was crucial to the end result.

Our young lads will learn from this but Dublin is now a potential banana skin. Waterford are going into unknown territory to an extent as they'll start as favourites against a very experienced Dublin team.

For Tipp, it's a direct route to a semi-final and that will please a demanding public.

I could sense huge relief from their fans at full-time and they'll now hope to crack on and lift another trophy before the season is out - the one they want above any other.

Read more: Horgan stands tall to deliver telling blows in gripping finish

Read more: Tipp gain sweet release in victory cut from granite

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