Saturday 24 March 2018

Tipp experience vital as O'Shea's men end Déise's unbeaten run

Tipperary 0-21 Waterford 0-16

Tipperary captain Brendan Maher lifts the cup following his side's victory
Tipperary captain Brendan Maher lifts the cup following his side's victory
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Eamon O'Shea described it as a day when the need for patience was paramount and his side responded, turning the virtue into a crucial component in deciding the destination of the 125th Munster hurling final.

That, combined with greater big-match experience, proved decisive on the run-in as Tipperary outscored Waterford by 0-8 to 0-4 in the final quarter.

Tipperary took a one-point lead into that period and, as they increased the pressure and poise in equal measures, they finally squeezed Waterford into submission, something no other county achieved from nine previous attempts this year.

And while the disappointment of losing a Munster final was acute, the realisation that it's probably part of a learning process will settle in quickly, providing a fertile environment as Waterford begin the re-booting process for the All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Dublin next Sunday week.

Tipperary players celebrate after winning the Munster MHC final
Tipperary players celebrate after winning the Munster MHC final

Read more: O'Shea's men show gritty side to win ugly but Deise still alive

They will do so in the knowledge that Dublin are not as potent as Tipperary and that the lessons picked up in Semple Stadium yesterday will, if properly channelled, greatly enhance their prospects of reaching the semi-final.

Meanwhile, Tipperary can take some time to enjoy the warm glow created by winning the Munster title for the 41st time, before beginning the planning for the All-Ireland semi-final on August 16.

They will do with a very positive mindset, having taken Munster with two contrasting performances.

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

Their swashbuckling, high-scoring show against Limerick was most pleasing on the eye for their supporters but, in terms of making a statement about the squad's capacity to return to the levels which came so close to winning last year's All-Ireland, there was more substance in yesterday's performance.

There were sloppy aspects too, not least a wides tally of 11, but those problems can be rectified on the training ground. Waterford have even more to do in that department, having shot 13 wides, eight of which came in the second period.

The inaccuracy by both sides on a perfect day for hurling raises questions about the overall quality of the game but, in mitigation, life was made very difficult for the finishers by tigerish individual marking and defensive systems that left most channels in lock-down.

In those circumstances, the outcome was always likely to be decided on the tightest of marginals, territory which Tipperary exploited.

A classic example arose in the 68th minute, at which stage Tipperary led by three points after Waterford sub Patrick Curran had pointed. In less than a minute, Tipperary were five points clear, thanks to a splendid long-range free from John O'Dwyer and a quick follow-up by 'Bonner' Maher.

Suddenly, the game had taken on a blue-and-gold complexion and despite Waterford's resilient best, they were never going to rescue the situation.

Waterford selector Dan Shanahan has his hat knocked off as he speaks with Stephen Bennett during the defeat to Tipperary
Waterford selector Dan Shanahan has his hat knocked off as he speaks with Stephen Bennett during the defeat to Tipperary

It was all so different in the first half when, after an edgy start, Waterford found themselves four points behind after 20 minutes.

It wasn't exactly new to them - they fell seven points behind Tipperary in the Allianz League semi-final in April before settling into a rhythm that won them the game - but this was different.

Playing a Munster final in the opposition's home ground presents a much sterner test and, to Waterford's credit, their response was what we have all come to expect.

Derek McGrath has instilled such an deep-rooted self-belief into the squad that they always believe they can work through any problem that arises. They did that most efficiently in the second quarter yesterday, driving Tipperary ever deeper into defence, while picking off some superb points.

Maurice Shanahan, Kevin Moran and Shane Fives landed spectacular long-range efforts from open play and frees and, by the 30th minute, Waterford were a point clear.

Not only that, they were hurling with such powerful momentum that it really was a worrying time for Tipperary. Moran's point on the half-hour mark was typical of their determination and zeal as he thundered forward close to the sideline before arcing over an inspirational score.

Crucially for Tipperary, they succeeded in breaking the Waterford flow and points by Michael Breen and Seamus Callanan left them leading by 0-10 to 0-9 at the interval.

Waterford were back on level terms eight minutes into the second half but that was as good as it got. An excellent save by Darren Gleeson from Colin Dunford, combined with a string of wides, undid much of Waterford's hard work.

And when John O'Dwyer moved out towards midfield, a subtle shift of power was about to emerge in Tipperary's favour. It was never enough to fully shake off Waterford but it did contain enough menace to nudge Tipperary into a winning position.

The camp will be hugely relieved to have finally landed a trophy - their first since winning the Munster title in 2012 - and even more encouraged by the manner in which they achieved it.

Of course the supporters would have liked a more decisive win but that might not have been nearly as helpful in terms of getting the squad right for the All-Ireland adventure.

O'Shea can keep them grounded by pointing to the periods during which Waterford tested them to the limit. And while they came through in the end, everyone knows that Croke Park in August is more demanding that Thurles in July.

As for Waterford, their thoughts are now on Dublin, whose impressive performance against Limerick on Saturday has re-energised a season that appeared to be running out of momentum.

There was no question of a major Waterford systems failure yesterday, so there's unlikely to be any significant structural changes for the quarter-final. However, they will need to learn how to improvise when the flow is against them, as happened in the closing stages yesterday.

Even when they fell five points adrift with five minutes remaining, they didn't get enough players forward in an attempt to create a goal opening. It was very unlikely at that stage that they could survive via the points route but with so few attackers close to the Tipperary end, there was very little chance of pilfering a goal.

It's all part of the learning process for a squad with immense potential. Yesterday was always going to provide the biggest test of the season so far and while it didn't deliver the big prize, neither did it do anything to undermine them in any way.

In that sense, it was a reasonably satisfactory outcome, especially if the lessons accruing are used well enough to get them past Dublin and into Croke Park next month.

For Tipperary, it marked a staging post on a journey where the ultimate goal is All-Ireland glory in September.

In the meantime, it's good to have a trophy to show for their efforts so far. Winning it in Semple Stadium made it all the sweeter.

Scorers - Tipperary: S Callanan 0-6 (4f, 2 '65s), J O'Dwyer 0-5 (2f), N O'Meara 0-3, Patrick Maher, J Forde 0-2 each, M Breen, L Corbett, S Bourke 0-1 each. Waterford: M Shanahan 0-8 (3f 2 '65s), K Moran, S Fives, A Gleeson (1f) 0-2 each, C Dunford, P Curran 0-1 each.

Tipperary - D Gleeson 7; C Barrett 7, J Barry 7, K Bergin 7; S McGrath 7, Padraic Maher 8, R Maher 7; M Breen 6, J Woodlock 6; J Forde 7, B Maher 7, Patrick Maher 8; J O'Dwyer 9, S Callanan 7, N O'Meara 8. Subs: L Corbett 7 for Breen (h-t), S Bourke for Forde (66), C O'Brien for McGrath (70).

Waterford - S O'Keeffe 6; S Fives 8, B Coughlan 7, N Connors 7; A Gleeson 7, T De Burca, 7 P Mahony 7; J Barron 7, K Moran 8; C Dunford 7, M Walsh 6,E Barrett 5; Stephen Bennett 5, M Shanahan 8, J Dillon 6. Subs: Shane Bennett 7 for Barrett (43), T Devine 6 for Stephen Bennett (43), P Curran 6 for Dunford (62), D Fives for Dillon (67).


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