Thursday 19 September 2019

Martin Breheny: 'Tipp deserve title but talk of domination is nonsense'

Tiniest of margins separates seven or eight teams in great times for hurling

Limerick celebrate All-Ireland glory last year and (right) Graeme Mulcahy dejected after defeat to Kilkenny
Limerick celebrate All-Ireland glory last year and (right) Graeme Mulcahy dejected after defeat to Kilkenny
Graeme Mulcahy after semi-final defeat to Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Graeme Mulcahy did his best on 'The Sunday Game' on Sunday night to disguise the frustration which swept across Limerick earlier in the day as they watched Tipperary flatten Kilkenny.

Not only that, but the 14-point winning margin was the highest in a final since Kilkenny beat Waterford by 26 points in 2008. Prior to that, no final had been won so convincingly since Tipp's 18-point success over Antrim 30 years ago. Kilkenny hadn't suffered such a big defeat in the final since losing to Tipperary - also by 14 points - in 1964. So, irrespective of what angle it's viewed from, last Sunday's final was most unusual.

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That's why the frustration clouds banked so heavily across Limerick. In late June, they beat Tipperary in the Munster final almost as comfortably (2-26 to 2-14) as Tipp won on Sunday, but had their All-Ireland ambitions wrecked by Kilkenny.

How do they - or indeed anybody - equate that? Granted, Kilkenny had a full hand in the semi-final, whereas they were a man down for all of the second half last Sunday.

In the comically superficial world of modern-day punditry, where winners get everything right and the losers everything wrong, we're told that Tipperary would have won comfortably anyway, even if Richie Hogan hadn't been sent off.

Really? How can anyone be so sure? The sides were level early in the second half, so a 15 v 15 game might have taken a very different route. We simply don't know, no more than we know how Limerick would have fared against Tipperary in a third clash.

Graeme Mulcahy celebrating Munster victory over eventual All-Ireland winners Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Graeme Mulcahy celebrating Munster victory over eventual All-Ireland winners Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile

That's the beauty of hurling in this era. Probably never before were as many teams capable of beating each other on a given day. To win the All-Ireland, a team has to play well on the 'given days' and get lucky with it.

Tipperary were fortunate this year that after losing to Limerick, they got Laois in the quarter-final, enabling them to regain their confidence. It was a crucial turn. And before there are howls of protest from Premier country, I'll point out that they didn't enjoy any breaks whatsoever last year.

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Nor indeed did they help themselves by cramming club action in April, which undermined Michael Ryan's preparations. Despite that, Tipp came within the width of a post of finishing third in Munster, a position from which Limerick went on to win the All-Ireland. Tipp allowed Liam Sheedy more room last April, the fruits of which were evident as they won four games to reach the final.

Enter Limerick and a painful reality jolt, which rattled Tipp fans. Sheedy is probably in need of a back rub to ease the aches from all the congratulatory slapping since Sunday. It has been a tough year for his back, which felt quite a few knives sinking in after the Munster final.

Now, he is portrayed as a messiah, poised to lead Tipperary into a golden era of multiple All-Ireland successes.

Really? Wasn't that predicted for Galway two years ago? And for Limerick 12 months ago? In the latter's case, it was reinforced for most of this year until Kilkenny intervened. The truth is that while Tipperary are champions, it's daft at this stage to talk of them becoming a dominant force.

And I speak here as someone who tipped them in these pages last May to win the All-Ireland title. I did it on a hunch that if the gods looked their way, they could do it.

At last four counties can justifiably feel that luck deserted them, while others will have different takes on events. Limerick should have a late '65, which would probably have sent their clash with Kilkenny to extra-time. Kilkenny will feel that Hogan's dismissal, on a borderline call, changed everything last Sunday.

Galway were squeezed out of Leinster on scoring difference in a summer when they were without Joe Canning. Clare also missed out on scoring difference in Munster.

Dublin's defeat by Laois was probably down to the wrong attitude. Cork will wonder why they couldn't retain the form that enabled them to beat Limerick twice this year.

Wexford won Leinster but are left wondering what might have been after watching Tipp, who they ran to two points, win the All-Ireland. The biggest concern has to be Waterford, who have completely lost their way.

Tipperary are deserved champions, but to suggest that the success is certain to lead to further glory next year is to ignore the happy fact that there are still seven or eight counties with a genuine chance of winning the All-Ireland in 2020.

If only it were the same in football.

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