Friday 27 April 2018

Tipp's X-factor can be decisive

TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Final: Tipperary v Tyrone, 1.45

Tipperary star forward Aisling Moloney has scored a staggering 13-40 this season. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary star forward Aisling Moloney has scored a staggering 13-40 this season. Photo: Sportsfile

Anyone who has closely followed the TG4 intermediate championship will have marked this match down as a must-watch.

These are two well-matched teams that had been picked out as potential champions before a ball was kicked this year.

Tipperary have played several matches this season which have provided incredible entertainment.

They marched through their league campaign before being brought to a replay in the Lidl NFL Division 3 final by Wexford. Clare were within a point of them in the Munster final before Wexford brought them to extra-time in the All-Ireland quarter-final. It was more of the same against Meath as the Royals came back from 12 points behind to leave Tipp hanging on for victory at the end.

In sharp contrast, it has been a straightforward campaign for Tyrone who were comprehensive victors over Down in the Ulster final before scoring victories over Longford and Sligo.

This will undoubtedly be by far the toughest test for Tyrone this year when they walk out onto the field in Croke Park and the question is whether it is one they are ready to face.

Captain and star defender Neamh Woods will do everything she can to ensure that this young Tyrone side are not overawed by the experience. Woods and former All-Star full-forward Gemma Begley are both veterans of their 2010 senior final defeat to Dublin in a game which they admit they never really showed up for.

With words of warning sure to be ringing in their ears, you can expect this Tyrone side to hit the ground running. Woods, Emma Louise Mulgrew and Christiane Hunter are a strong half-back line while Méabh Mallon is a powerful presence in the middle of the field. Watch out for young star Áine Canavan, daughter of Peter, who has been introduced for this final and can be their playmaker. She will hope to supply enough ball for Begley and Niamh O'Neill who are both deadly attackers.

Tipperary are pleased to be back in an All-Ireland final but they will not be happy with their form en route to the decider. This Premier line-up is brimming with talent and, should they deliver the performance that they are capable of, they will be well placed to win this match.

Aisling Moloney is their star turn and her withdrawal through injury in the semi-final contributed to the Meath comeback that saw the Royals come within a whisker of victory. Moloney has scored a staggering 13-40 this season and whether she plays at midfield or full-forward she will be deadly dangerous. Aisling McCarthy's free-taking will be vital to Tipperary while the hard work and defensive awareness of Jennifer Grant will allow McCarthy to get involved at the scoring end. Mairéad Morrissey is a skilful attacker and when she performs Tipperary tend to win.

If there is a question mark hanging over this Tipperary team, it is in defence, as they have conceded big scores. Tyrone, a team used to competing at a higher level in Division 2, will hope that their excellent attackers can take advantage of this weakness, especially with Gemma Begley spearheading their attack.

These are two young teams with little Croke Park experience so the team that starts best and settles quickest will have a huge advantage. Tyrone have the form but Tipperary have had the bigger tests and in a game that is too close to call Tipperary's X-factor could see them up the steps of the Hogan Stand.

Verdict: Tipperary

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