Wednesday 18 September 2019

Tipp need more leaders to stand up like Noel McGrath

Noel McGrath of Tipperary
Noel McGrath of Tipperary

Brendan Cummins

Pressure can do strange things to a team, and yesterday afternoon in Thurles we saw both sides of it from Tipperary, a team that was first buckling, but then rejuvenated by the weight of expectation.

In the first half they were comprehensively outplayed by a Cork side high on confidence, but Mick Ryan's adjustments at half-time, coupled with a renewed appetite from players, meant they were a very different team in the second-half.

Given the pressure on Tipp, I was surprised at their slow start. Cork got their running game going and Tipp tried to press their full-back line with short puck-outs, but Cork were able to slip them and work the ball up the pitch on the overlap, to play the tip-tap hurling they love. It allowed them to overrun Tipp.

However, Mick Ryan clearly identified the problem at the break and in the second-half the Tipp corner-forwards made the Cork corner-backs hit the ball long, which allowed the Tipp half-backs to get under the ball.


Tipp had all their match-ups right and suddenly you wondered whether Cork's confidence was brittle, the way they gave away a nine-point lead. Only for Anthony Nash in goals Tipp could have gone on to an easy victory.

When you sit down and look at the panel and wonder who your leaders are going to be, Noel McGrath is definitely one of them. He stepped up for Tipp yesterday and even when things were going wrong, he was superb in all areas. More will have to follow his lead.

The one concern is the amount of wides Cork hit, but Tipp showed that when they hurl for a full 35 minutes, they're a hard team to beat. They'll get better and better through the round robin and will be one of the favourites for the All-Ireland.

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However, they still need to evolve. In the second-half Tipp got their midfield pairing correct. It freed up Brendan Maher in a more suited role at wing-back, where his reading of the game has a greater influence.

Whatever Ryan did this week, they need to do it again ahead of the Waterford match next weekend - to remember that when their backs are to the wall and they come out fighting they're a different team. As supporters that's what we want to see, that they come out swinging.

Next Sunday's game will all depend on how Waterford come out of a bad defeat to Clare, but I think Tipp will beat them regardless.

Injuries are killing Waterford at the moment and it's been a perfect storm for Derek McGrath. I don't want to put the death knell on them, but they're in a dark place right now. The panel has lost a bit of strength and every team that plays them will have a view on the score difference as we go down the stretch of the round robin.

It's early days in the All-Ireland picture, but there's no doubt Galway look formidable. They did to Kilkenny yesterday what Kilkenny normally do to other teams - kept the tempo high through the game and eventually broke them.

They're embracing the champions' tag, comfortable in their own skin. The way they played showed they want to score goals, and when Galway get into Croke Park that killer instinct will be even more effective - they'll get a lot of them there at the speed they play with.

Their back line is a serious unit and their approach can be summed up in two words: no mercy. They hit everything that moves and TJ Reid found that out yesterday, playing every position up front, but still unable to get any joy from play.

I don't think it's time to push the panic button for Kilkenny, though. They're off the pace at the moment, but only because Galway were so sharp. Everyone knows what Galway have, but on any given day they can be beaten.

Cody always said yesterday's game would be a yardstick for Kilkenny, but by no means are they gone out of it at this stage.

They're going to qualify out of Leinster, I have no doubt about that, and then their next game will be a month later. For a team like Kilkenny, that's an awful lot of time to turn things around.

Irish Independent

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