Wednesday 21 February 2018

Truth hurts for Deise as defensive wall cracks

David Kelly

David Kelly

ONLY victory for the people’s team could prevent the people’s final taking place next month.

Ultimately, it was a bridge too far for a Waterford team who, such was their devout attention to suffocating the opposition, ended up suffocating themselves.

Waterford’s brio of old had been supplanted by pugnacious pragmatism but their renewed devotion to defence was predicated upon a sufficiently strident limiting of Tipperary’s dizzying rotating forwards.

By the time the match had ended its supposedly defining era, Waterford’s race was run.

First-half inefficiency had mocked their harassment of an opposition who profited better from their opportunities. And they didn’t reckon on a previously maligned Tipperary defence applying chloroform to the Waterford front men.


If one chose to view the afternoon through a necessarily restrictive prism, then the relative fortunes of the respective Eoin Kellys highlighted the underlying differences between the teams. As the game neared the end of its third quarter, Lar Corbett’s extemporised point had pushed his side five points ahead and Davy Fitzgerald decided that it was time to haul ashore one of his talismen.

Fitzgerald had earlier gambled and failed with the decision to perch Brian O’Halloran at the edge of the square for the game’s opening bows where he was summarily gobbled up by the avaricious attentions of, chiefly, Paul Curran.

Now, with Waterford flailing in the midst of Tipperary’s increased vigour and classier movement, he was forced to address the growing evidence that Kelly’s decline in standards from play this summer had been overshadowed by his persistent accuracy from placed balls.

Minutes earlier, with Waterford just four points down, captain Stephen Molumphy had arrowed a ball down the right wing to the unfettered Kelly; betrayed by rust and a mysterious lack of confidence, Kelly completely failed to gather the opportunity.

It was in that moment that Fitzgerald decided that Kelly had to depart. When he did so, Kelly was not in agreement with his leader’s decision. As he departed the field, his pace increasing after being initially stunned into intransigence by the sight of his number in red neon, he mouthed something at the Clareman.

We presume it was not a pleasantry. Justin McCarthy hauled off Dan Shanahan two years ago and that heralded the end of one era. Fitzgerald’s arrival manfully instigated the resuscitation of the Deise. Prolonging this soap opera may be just as difficult.

Seconds after the departure of one Eoin Kelly, the other flourished. Paradoxically bedevilled by problems from the placed ball, Tipperary’s Kelly would mask these deficiencies with the first of two killer goals which brooked little argument about where the day’s pre-eminence resided.

Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy praised his Kelly after the game and referred to the persistent back twinges which have affected his training regimes all summer.

“But once the adrenaline of the big game comes around, he shows what he can do,” the Tipperary man said admiringly.

“Ah, he’s alright,” enthused Noel McGrath, whose first-half effervescence had militated against the fact that his colleague was more subdued in the opening act. “He showed he’s the finest and he’s flying it.”

Even if Kelly had been subdued in the first half, he had also provided the game’s one burst of genius, scooping a loose ball up on the volley and lashing the sliotar over the bar from about 50 yards in one delicious, improvised display of true class.


With King Henry now absent from the expected coronation as five-time champions, perhaps Prince Kelly, Tipperary’s record championship accumulator, can step in to aid what everyone assumes is an impossible task on the first Sunday in September.

Now, with Tommy Walsh joining Shefflin in the casualty ward, their odds must be tightening. Kelly benefited from an admirable support cast yesterday, with Noel McGrath brimming with as much enthusiasm and brio as he has done all summer, splicing a brilliant display with four first-half points from play.

John O’Brien, deemed surplus to requirements by many of Tipperary’s most devoted followers, answered all doubters in style with a symmetrical haul of six points, three in each half.

Tipperary galvanised in support of each other, altering positions with ease and utterly bamboozling their supposedly prepared opponents, where even the hitherto unstoppable ‘Brick’ Walsh, hassled ceaselessly by Corbett, symbolised a sadly crumbling defensive edifice. In stark contrast, Waterford could provide no such succour for the limitless energy and verve of John Mullane.

His marker could have been red-carded by the game’s end but Waterford seemed content for much of the piece to allow him plough a lone furrow, especially in the opening half. Chopped down at every opportunity by Paddy Stapleton, the lone rider Mullane was ultimately forced to venture reluctantly to the edge of the square, and thence to the ‘40’. It was an insult to Mullane to forage so needlessly in solitary confinement for so long. By the time Ken McGrath and Shanahan appeared, the marshalling of the veterans was altogether a case of too little, too late.

Once Waterford’s ceaseless promotion of defensive rectitude had been unplugged by Tipperary, they had no alternative plan to put into production. Their atavistic tendencies, seemingly exiled to their brutish, boxinginfluenced training regimes, were undone by sheer class and unstoppable momentum.

Fitzgerald’s logic had seemed to gather speed as the hub of the crowd advanced towards the cathedral in the early afternoon sunshine. As they poured forth shortly after five o’clock, not even they could deny that such logic had been roundly trumped by the power of truth.

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