Lar gamble pays off for Tipp sideline
WITH 15 minutes to go in Semple Stadium yesterday, Declan Ryan would have been feeling the heat in more ways than one.
Lar Corbett was carrying out his waterboy duties, but Tipperary were floundering and they needed something, from somewhere -- the kind of brief the Thurles Sarsfields man has filled so often in the past.
But Ryan had made a big decision by not togging out Lar. It was brave, and the gamble paid off in spades as the subs he did use were the critical factor in seeing Tipp home
They progressed only after the sternest of examinations from a Limerick side that will cause plenty of headaches for other teams before the year is out.
Yesterday was another example of how hurling really is a 20-man game now.
Shane McGrath, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher, Conor O'Brien, Seamus Callanan and Shane Bourke were all sprung from the bench and contributed a combined total of five points as Tipp dominated the final 15 minutes, a period in which they outscored Limerick by 1-11 to 0-3.
The Premier men deserved their win on the balance of play, but Ryan will know that his side had their fair share of luck.
There was a question mark over the number of steps taken in the build-up to the superb Brian O'Meara goal, while Brendan Cummins made a superb save when Tipp were shipping water shortly after the resumption. But they kept their calm and their subs saw them home.
McGrath looked back to his old self, powering through the middle. Although he didn't score, Bonner Maher was impressive, and his direct, hard-running style offered Tipp a new dimension.
He and Callanan played like men with points to prove and on this evidence it's hard to see them being left out of the team for the next day.
Limerick will do plenty of soul searching as to how their challenge fell apart in such a fashion.
When he stepped away from John Allen's management team, Ciaran Carey indicated that he didn't feel Limerick were fit enough, but I don't think that was an issue yesterday.
There were a few factors that saw Tipperary take control in the final quarter. The searing heat took its toll on the Treaty men, while Tipp's greater experience was telling when the game looked to be going away from them.
But the single biggest factor was the strength of Tipp's bench, something Limerick just couldn't compete with. Of their four subs, only Declan Hannon managed a score as Tipp turned the screw late on.
For 50 minutes or so, Limerick did everything that could have been asked of them and had Tipp backed into a corner on their own patch.
If they can reproduce that in the back-door games, they'll be a team no one will want to meet because there's plenty of talent in Allen's side, they're all quite young and they'll improve with every outing.
Shane Dowling was impressive, as was Sean Tobin, and a fully-fit Hannon will be a big boost to them later in the summer. Donal O'Grady did well in his new position of centre-back too.
How such a young team react to this defeat will be the making of their year, but if they can get a couple of home games in the back-door draw, they'll be a handful.
Tipperary have hit the road now. Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Cork welcome them to Pairc Ui Chaoimh on June 24. Tipp will have to improve, but yesterday might just be exactly the kind of preparation they needed.
Ryan is likely to make changes after the the impact of his bench yesterday, while Lar will have another few of weeks' training under his belt.
Maybe he'll be sprung then. But either way, Tipp are up and running.