Monday 15 July 2019

Tipp edge the battle but real war to be won now lies ahead

Tipperary 1-22 Limerick 0-21

No quarter given: Tom Morrissey of Limerick is shouldered over the sideline by a combination of Brendan Maher and Sean O’Brien. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
No quarter given: Tom Morrissey of Limerick is shouldered over the sideline by a combination of Brendan Maher and Sean O’Brien. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

So Tipperary's perfect summer arcs towards a Munster final and, maybe, something more earthy and elemental now.

Without the stimulus of silverware or a do-or-die scenario, any reluctance to delve too deeply into the forensics of this rollicking game felt entirely natural on the back of confirmation that these teams now meet again next Sunday week with a provincial title on the line.

Ronan Maher of Tipperary in action against Seamus Flanagan and Shane Dowling of Limerick. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Ronan Maher of Tipperary in action against Seamus Flanagan and Shane Dowling of Limerick. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Whatever script unspools that day in the Gaelic Grounds will, inevitably, feel more authentic than yesterday's impression of calm authority from a Tipperary team still answering every question.

Seamus Callanan's 37th-minute goal proved the decisive score, but Liam Sheedy's men were better in most departments against a Limerick team shorn of injured captain Declan Hannon and were lining out with three of last year's All-Ireland final starters, Cian Lynch, Graeme Mulcahy and Gearoid Hegarty, sitting on the bench.

That's a pretty sizeable asterisk Sheedy will factor into any considerations for that June 30 showdown, especially given the concerns now that both Cathal Barrett and Patrick 'Bonner' Maher may miss the final.

In the Old Testament world of knockout, four consecutive Munster Championship victories would have won the cup twice over. For Tipp, that has to feel like a small stone in the shoe.

Tom Morrissey of Limerick in action against Sean OBrien of Tipperary. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Tom Morrissey of Limerick in action against Sean OBrien of Tipperary. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Still, if Limerick were playing the long-game here, John Kiely communicated only frustration after, lamenting the "incomplete hand-passes, incomplete stick-passes, balls dropped" that pockmarked his team's play.

But there was relief, too. And welcome for an opportunity looming.

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"Listen, it's great to have the opportunity to go back," agreed Kiely.

Intensity

"In sport, you don't often get the chance two weeks later to go back and right the wrongs as it were. We just didn't feel we were 100pc on it today.

"It's been laid at our door for the next two weeks and we have to respond."

It was a game of decent intensity, albeit the heat came slowly and a little reluctantly into the contest; Tipp took 10 minutes to open their account, by which time they'd already registered five wides.

And that profligacy seemed to take some of the wind from their supporters' sails, given the spectacular numbers hit in recent weeks. With John McGrath and Jake Morris deployed as a two-man inside attacking line for Tipp, Limerick seemed reassured that they'd have the bodies back to offset any goal threat.

That broadly looked the case too, except on their own puck-outs, Tipp purposefully pressing high on Nickie Quaid, hoping to force a turnover.

For all that, Limerick's precision generally held in greasy conditions and they would have been content to have the margin narrowed to a single point (0-5 to 0-6) by the 22nd minute.

Limerick did mine a goal chance too, Seamus Flanagan turning James Barry and torquing towards the Killinan goal only to see his shot parried brilliantly at the near-post by Tipp goalkeeper Brian Hogan.

However, Shane Dowling faded after a bright start, Peter Casey was getting little change out of Sean O'Brien, while Aaron Gillane was just about edging an epic, elemental contest with Barrett.

Three Tipp points in a 90-second spell from Michael Breen, Jake Morris and Jason Forde then eased them 0-9 to 0-5 clear by the 24th minute, but they were about to suffer consecutive hammer-blows to two men Sheedy subsequently described as "really serious warriors for us".

First Barrett went down with a leg injury under the Ryan Stand; then, in first-half injury-time, 'Bonner' Maher was stretchered off with what appeared a knee problem.

Tipp led 0-11 to 0-8 at half-time and, though Limerick took two quick scores from Gillane and substitute Graeme Mulcahy just after the resumption, there was a palpable sense of the home team looking to go for the jugular.

First 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer had a pile-driver parried to safety by Quaid, but the Elfin man could do little in the 37th minute to stop Callanan nailing the game's only goal.

The move developed on the Ryan Stand side, John McGrath passing between two Limerick defenders to Callanan, his innate goal instinct eschewing any instinct to take a handy point. Instead, he exploded in-field towards the Limerick goal, drawing the immediate scrutiny of Richie English.

Feinting to shoot off his right, Callanan sold English a murderous dummy before drop-pucking the day's kill-shot past Quaid off his left.

That essentially forced Limerick into a chase they were never quite able to mount with any conviction.

One telling statistic: Limerick's scoring total from play in the closing 28 minutes was just 0-2, compared to Tipp's 0-6, with Kiely's men overly reliant on Gillane's free-taking.

A Limerick goal might have turned the game on its head, but Noel McGrath's brilliant 58th-minute hook on sub Conor Boylan averted one chance, while Hogan pulled off a fine save four minutes later after another sub, Pat Ryan, got away from O'Brien.

Thereafter, Tipp were comfortable, Sheedy admitting: "Look Limerick coming into Thurles as All-Ireland champions... we knew exactly what was going to be coming through the gate.

"It moves now from the comfort of having the league gone and into the real business of this Championship."

Gut-check time upon us.

SCORERS - Tipperary: S Callanan 1-4, J Forde 0-7 (3f, 2 line cuts), N McGrath 0-3 (1f), J McGrath and Padraic Maher 0-2 each, B Maher, J O'Dwyer, J Morris and M Breen 0-1 each

Limerick - A Gillane 0-12 (10f), T Morrissey, D Byrnes (2 65s) 0-3 each, S Dowling, G Mulcahy and C Lynch 0-1 each.

TIPPERARY - B Hogan 8, C Barrett 7, J Barry 7, S O'Brien 7, B Maher 7, Padraic Maher 8, R Maher 7, M Breen 6, N McGrath 8, Patrick Maher 7, J O'Dwyer 8, J Morris 7, J McGrath 7, S Callanan 9, J Forde 8. Subs: A Flynn 7 for Barrett (32 mins), D McCormack 6 for Patrick Maher (35 mins), R Byrne 6 for Breen (47 mins), M Kehoe for Morris (62 mins), W Connors for J McGrath (68 mins).

LIMERICK - N Quaid 7, S Finn 8, M Casey 7, R English 7, D Byrnes 7, D Morrissey 7, P O'Loughlin 7, D O'Donovan 6, W O'Donoghue 6, S Dowling 6, K Hayes 8, T Morrissey 8, A Gillane 8, S Flanagan 6, P Casey 6. Subs: G Mulcahy 7 for Flanagan (half-time), C Boylan 6 for Dowling (43 mins), P Ryan 7 for Casey (52 mins), C Lynch 7 for O'Donoghue (55 mins), D Reidy for Hayes (65 mins).

Ref - S Cleere (Kilkenny)

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