Thursday 18 January 2018

O'Shea's men need to start displaying more composure

Cyril Farrell

Tipperary needed the win much more than Kilkenny, that's for sure. It was tit-for-tat throughout and you couldn't have asked for a better game in terms of the skill and quality on show.

At the end of the day, Kilkenny's experience saw them through – just as it tends to do so often on the big occasions.

Brian Cody will have his Championship team picked after yesterday. It almost picks itself, to be honest. There were a few new faces blooded, but it was the experienced players who saw them through.

TJ Reid and Richie Hogan were brilliant throughout and it was probably fitting that it was their quick-thinking that won Kilkenny the game.

It was a simple move, but the composure that Reid showed has been a hallmark of Kilkenny down through the years.

They never panic regardless of the situation that they find themselves in and, ultimately, that's why they won.

JJ Delaney has been around a long time but he is still just as important as ever. He seems to have the full-back spot nailed down now. Richie Power fits that bracket as well, and he also came good.

Yesterday's game was a great advertisement for league hurling. It was thrill-a-minute stuff and up until the final whistle, no one knew which way it was going to go. If that is anything to go by for the summer ahead, we're in for another special Championship.

DISCIPLINE

Last year it was the same and neither side ended up in the All-Ireland decider but, judging by what we saw in Thurles, it's very difficult not to imagine that both Kilkenny and Tipperary will be in the shake-up come the autumn.

Despite Tipp losing, Eamon O'Shea will be quite pleased with how his team performed. James Barry, in particular, looks like a great find for them. Their half-back line has a very settled look to it now which can only bode well going forward.

It was John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer's first real game this year and he looked good. There's no doubt they'll be bitterly disappointed with the result but make no mistake about it, Tipp will have no fears heading into the Munster Championship.

They will probably feel aggrieved by some of the referee's decisions as well. I don't think it was a case of them having poor discipline.

They conceded two penalties and there were a couple of questionable free calls that went against them but that's the way it goes, unfortunately.

In fairness to TJ Reid, he took both goals well – the second one was an absolute bullet, no one would have stopped it.

In both instances, we saw him adopt the controversial Anthony Nash-style approach and it worked to devastating effect.

People can say what they like about the rules of the game, but players are going to keep doing it for as long as they can get away with it.

Many forget that to be able to strike a ball like that is a great skill that has to be worked on and perfected.

I spoke to a few Tipp supporters as I walked out the gate yesterday and the feeling amongst them was the same: "Why can we never win these tight games against Kilkenny?"

They played some lovely hurling but lacked that bit of composure at crucial times. Tipp are still improving, and it's important to note that.

Eamon O'Shea has them playing a possession-based game which when it works looks great, but when it doesn't come off it can be costly.

Darren Gleeson's pass that went over the line right at the death was the perfect example. If it had come off, it would have been great but he was perhaps better off firing the ball into the forward line to give them a chance of snatching the win.

Noel McGrath had an excellent game but there was a moment near the end of normal time where he would have been better off passing to a team-mate rather than going for the point. Kilkenny won the ball back and ended up scoring two quick points. That's the main difference between where these sides are at the moment. Kilkenny are clinical and composed under pressure, without panicking.

Tipp's game plan worked effectively but there is still some fine tuning to be done. I wouldn't worry about them going forward. Kilkenny again left Thurles the happier of the two sides, but don't write off Tipperary just yet.

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