Friday 24 November 2017

Cody can plunder the spoils by dragging swashbuckling Tipp into war of attrition

Tipperary's Paddy Stapleton and Kilkenny's Eoin Larkin will see their teams battle it out for the Allianz NHL Divison 1 trophy in Thurles tomorrow
Tipperary's Paddy Stapleton and Kilkenny's Eoin Larkin will see their teams battle it out for the Allianz NHL Divison 1 trophy in Thurles tomorrow
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

If Kilkenny and Tipperary were quoted on the stock exchange since mid-February, their share-price comparison would have been very interesting, as indeed would the type of investors they attracted.

Kilkenny, rich in stability based on years of consistent trading, would have been the choice of the more cautious types, who know that while they were buying dear in a blue-chip market, they were likely to make modest profits.

Crucially, they stood to lose very little, since Kilkenny's value rarely dips very much. They could be termed 'a sound night's sleep investment'.

And Tipperary? They are not for the faint-hearted.

Their share price has fluctuated wildly over the last two months, dipping really low when successive defeats by Kilkenny (Tipp surrendered a 10-point lead to lose by six), Clare (they were hit for three first-half goals) and Galway (they again conceded three first-half goals) left them swamped in relegation trouble.

Seven weeks later, Tipperary are in the final after beating Leinster champions Dublin, All-Ireland runners-up Cork and All-Ireland champions Clare.

Their stock has soared in value, leaving those who held their nerve in mid-March very happy indeed.

Tipperary have improved in each of those games, reaching the highest peak so far when beating the Banner by seven points in the semi-final.

Clare's eye may not have been fully focused on the league ball once they had made their point in the group games but, nonetheless, there was plenty to admire about the efficiency of Tipperary's performance.

That included a score of 2-24, the largest conceded by Clare in league or championship since Davy Fitzgerald took over as manager for the 2012 season. Even in their bad patch early on in the league, Tipperary were scoring well but were leaking heavily at the other end. They are still conceding too much, but the balance is getting better.

The high strike rate is encouraging for Tipp, but Eamon O'Shea would prefer a more even spread of scores. Despite missing one game, Seamus Callanan (5-52) has scored 38pc of their total.

Add in John O'Dwyer and Noel McGrath and the yield from the top three increases to 63pc, which indicates a high dependency on relatively few. Kilkenny have a broader range of scorers, with their top three, TJ Reid, Henry Shefflin and Colin Fennelly, contributing 48pc.

Tipperary's reliance on Callanan has been very obvious, so Kilkenny will try to curb his influence both in terms of general play and in keeping the free concession rate down.

Callanan scored 0-12 (0-9 from placed balls) against Clare, so the onus on the Kilkenny defence to be disciplined in the tackle and close marking in general play is obvious.

Tipperary lost the final 40 minutes of their clash with Kilkenny in February by 4-12 to 1-5 after winning the opening half-hour by 4-9 to 1-8, which shows how games between these great rivals can take on a life of their own where norms are dispensed with. For all that, Kilkenny tend to win most of the big battles.

Still, Kilkenny are facing a really big defensive test. They conceded 5-14 to Tipperary in February (scoring 5-20) and have since seen O'Shea's men hit Cork for 3-25 and Clare for 2-24.

If Kilkenny succeed in turning it into an attritional battle, they have the power and know-how to land a 17th league title.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Kilkenny – E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, B Kennedy; J Holden, J Tyrrell, C Buckley; M Fennelly, P Walsh; R Hogan, C Fennelly, TJ Reid; R Power, M Kelly, H Shefflin.

Tipperary – TBC

Irish Independent

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