Friday 24 November 2017

Ryan's men still have room for improvement

IT tells you something about Tipperary that Clare played out of their skins for large parts of the game and still came up nine points short.

Ger O'Loughlin's men did little wrong and the margin of defeat was a little harsh on them for a good 70-minute display as they followed Limerick's lead from last week and defied their Division 2 status in an admirable championship performance.

And if 'Sparrow' drew up a wish list before the game, a lightning start would have been a priority -- that's just what they got. They quickly had all of their starting forwards on the scoresheet. But despite that, you didn't sense an upset and the class and scoring power of the Tipp forwards saw the Premier home.

It's the mark of champions that there's never a sign of worry when things start to go wrong and, even though Tipperary were on the back foot early on, once they benefited from Philip Brennan's error for the first goal, that was all they needed to get their foot in the door.

Tipp were never likely to push the panic button but, once they were given that chance, their big guns came to the fore and Clare were always going to struggle to find an answer.

Lar Corbett was his usual dangerous self while Seamus Callanan had a superb outing. John O'Brien at full-forward was the only starting forward not to score, but he still linked up superbly in what looks like a well-oiled machine that can operate at an even higher level.

Even before Tipp fired in three goals in five first-half minutes, you felt they had another gear to go to, and in an overall context it's the perfect result for Declan Ryan.

His side have got another decent test under their belt to follow up on the Cork match and at training for the next couple of weeks he can point to the concession of 1-19 as something they need to work on. He'll emphasise that Waterford won't be as naive as Clare were at times in defence, and with Davy Fitzgerald watching from the stands, he will have seen at close quarters just how few mistakes they can afford to make.

Tipperary also played in bursts at times and showed a tendency to take the foot off the gas. Their sluggish start is another thing Ryan can use to focus minds ahead of the Munster final.

O'Loughlin and Clare have plenty of positives to take from the game. A tally of just six wides shows you how economical they were in front of goal and they caused Tipperary some problems, as witnessed by Ryan's decision to withdraw both David Young and John O'Keeffe, who were operating on the same flank.

The performance of Conor McGrath from Cratloe was another huge plus, and while the trip to Salthill wasn't the draw they would have chosen, they still showed enough here to suggest that they can cause problems for a troubled Galway side.

But ultimately it was Tipp's class that told. Padraic Maher was outstanding again and his duel with John Conlan was an important one in terms of how the match would go and the Thurles Sarsfields man came out on top there. No fireworks just yet from Tipp but you sense they are getting there.

In Portlaoise, there was little that either Cork or Laois can take from their match. They were like two sides going in opposite directions.

Laois would have trained for their Leinster championship match against Antrim and would have been deflated after losing that game. Cork, on the other hand, have redoubled their efforts since the defeat to Tipp and their summer has plenty of life in it yet.

Irish Independent

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