Sport Hurling

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Premier have class to get even better

Cyril Farrell

JUST a week after Kilkenny gave us a timely reminder of their capabilities in the Leinster final, Tipperary produced what is undoubtedly the performance of the year.

They didn't show us anything we haven't seen before. Theirs is a simple game plan, but they have it down to a fine art.

Shane McGrath set the tone with his first few possessions as he launched long balls into Tipp's full-forward line -- and when the men inside are in the sort of form they were in yesterday, it's easy to see why they play that way.

Once again Lar Corbett was the main man on the big day and his incredible tally of 4-4 speaks for itself, but as a unit Tipperary's three full-forwards were as close to unstoppable as you'll get.

In some ways, the numbers on their back don't seem to matter as Tipp seem to have a very fluid system up front, with players given the freedom to express themselves a little and it is paying off spectacularly.


You'd imagine that all six forwards will remain in situ for the rest of the championship, but they have a couple of others coming back to fitness, not least Brendan Maher.

He'll probably be reinstated, to the first 15 so Declan Ryan's side could get even stronger as they edge ever closer to September.

The other variable in all of this is Waterford. Tipperary would have been favourites, but there was no hint that the Deise would be demolished like that.

Michael 'Brick' Walsh was moved to the full-back line with Kevin Moran filling in a No 6 and while both men played well, there was a sense that the team was unsettled a little.

The Deise's gamble of throwing debutant Jerome Maher in at the deep end didn't pay off and at the minute there's no one better than Tipp to exploit any chink in your armour.

Even though Waterford have been through the mill before, Davy Fitzgerald faces a huge task to lift morale ahead of their All-Ireland quarter-final tie with Galway, who are riding on the crest of a wave.

Of course, Waterford are not 21 points off Tipperary or anything like that, but a heavy defeat like that can sap the life out of a team and Davy will need the senior players to help pull them out of this hole.

For Galway, the game against Dublin must seem like a distant memory now. On the face of it things haven't changed that much since, but the forwards are starting to fire.

As well as being good hurlers, Joe Canning, Joe Gantley, Cyril Donnellan and Ger Farragher are big men and are hard to stop when they build up a head of steam.

It's also worth noting that they have racked up 6-48 in two matches in a week and the games probably can't come quick enough for them right now.

Other than the opening exchanges, Cork weren't really at the races on Saturday and it was a disappointing way for them to end their season.

With Tipp and Kilkenny safely through to the semi-finals, a lot of people might be expecting a third consecutive All-Ireland final between those two, but no one will fancy taking on Galway when their tails are up and I honestly think that they could have a major say in the championship yet.

And then there's Limerick. You'd have expected them to beat Antrim, even before the Saffrons were reduced to 14 men, and they have set themselves up nicely for a tilt at Dublin.

It'll be interesting to see how Anthony Daly's men react to their defeat in the Leinster final, which was their first real speed bump of 2011.

Either way, one of those two sides will find themselves in an All-Ireland semi-final, and they'd have taken that at the start of the year.

Irish Independent

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