A dejected Kevin Moran leaving the pitch in Thurles on Sunday. Photo: Inpho.
Munster SHC: Tipperary v Clare: The Big Match Review
Is there any stopping the Tipperary hype train now?
One Waterford fan confidently predicted that they will lift Liam MacCarthy as he made his way towards the exit. John Mullane was first to hop aboard in Páirc Uí Chaoimh a week earlier. “These lads are going to be serious All Ireland contenders,” he proclaimed on RTÉ Radio.
Liam Sheedy tried to quell all that talk but he will have his work cut out now. By the third minute, the chant “Tipp, Tipp, Tipp” went up. This is Tipp 2.0. The Sheedy express. A mean machine. Destination Croke Park.
Waterford have gone off the rails since the league. On Sunday, scores were hard to come by and they were easy to score against. And that was with fifteen on the field.
SEVEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES WITHOUT A WIN
From the throw in, they lacked confidence, energy and urgency. This was their seventh straight championship game without a win (Galway, Clare, Tipperary, Limerick, Cork, Clare and Tipperary). A lot was riding on this fixture, yet they got off to another lacklustre start. In recent games, they seem more reactive than proactive.
Waterford went man to man with the Tipp forwards. Noel Connors on John McGrath, Conor Gleeson on John O’Dwyer, Calum Lyons on Jason Forde, Philip Mahony on Patrick Maher, Conor Prunty on Seamus Callanan and Tadhg De Burca on Dan McCormack. Tipp dragged their men all over the place in true Eamon O’Shea style. Prunty started at centre back before he switched with Gleeson. Then Bubbles moved out to centre forward! Tipp called the tune. The space that was created by this constant movement along with the lack of pressure out the field had the full backs chasing around after blue and gold shirts. Gleeson’s second yellow was an act of desperation to stop a certain goal.
The fourteen men rallied magnificently either side of half time and got within three before Jason Forde finished them off. 2-10 to 0-1 is how the last 22 minutes played out. That final quarter flurry, and the damage it did to Waterford’s points difference, effectively ends the season in mid-May. It will take a miracle to get back on track. Two wins over Limerick and Cork to start with.
Tipp’s work off the ball was as impressive as their work on it. There’s a steel to them with Sheedy at the wheel. Waterford didn’t front up collectively until the third quarter. It took Gleeson’s dismissal to ignite them.
Throughout the league, a hard working half forward line tracked up and down the field. In the first half, Tipp had it too easy. Backs and midfielders weaved through the Waterford attack without a finger laid on them, lifted their heads up and picked out the perfect ball for the inside forwards. One player walked towards the sideline and offered his opinion on the tactics. A worrying sign.
It was too passive. Take John McGrath’s second point for instance. Two forwards watched on while Ronan Maher found his man in the corner. Jack Prendergast and Patrick Curran tried to close him down but they needed support. Prendergast’s block on Michael Breen was the first meaningful tackle up top. They only gave away three frees in that opening half.
By contrast, the Tipp forwards tormented the Waterford backs with the ball and without the ball. Breen capitalised on a loose De Burca clearance, Seamus Callanan hooked Stephen O’Keeffe and Ronan Maher pointed the sideline and Forde banged over a stray O’Keeffe puckout. Tipp weren’t afraid to foul either in order to upset Waterford’s rhythm off restarts. They conceded eight frees, most of them high up the field.
Waterford rolled up their sleeves on the restart. Tipp were forced into mistakes. Shots were rushed and clearances went awray. Austin Gleeson pointed off a turnover ball. Thomas Ryan tracked back and hooked O’Dwyer and Breen. Prendergast pressurised James Barry into overcarrying and John Keenan awarded a free in that Pauric Mahony converted. Jamie Barron then won another free and raised a fist to the crowd. 20-17 after 53 minutes.
“Waterford, Waterford” was the chant now. The Forde goal took the fight out of them again.
Tipp played no miss hurling for the first quarter. Ten points from ten shots, including two stunning sidelines, into the Town goal. Forde hit their first wide in the nineteenth minute.
By the final whistle, they totalled 32 scores from 45 attempts. 4-58 in two Munster championship outings. 4-48 of that from play.
Forde, O’Dwyer, Callanan and John McGrath are gold star forwards. Proven score getters on the championship stage. The sextet that Sheedy named on Sunday all started the 2016 All Ireland final where they hit Kilkenny for 2-29. They work in perfect harmony.
The last eight championship meetings between these counties from 2009 to 2019 show seven Tipp wins and that infamous draw twelve months ago. In those games, the Premier have produced 4-14, 3-19, 7-19, 2-17, 0-21, 5-19, 2-22 and 2-30. That’s 25 goals and 161 points. And that doesn’t include the 31 points from the 2012 league clash. Waterford only scored five goals and 138 points over those eight games.
The Déise are struggling in that department. The attackers that lit up the 2013 All Ireland minor championship and the 2016 All Ireland under 21 championship haven’t kicked on to the next level just yet.
The goals have dried up. None in open play over the last five matches although Patrick Curran was most unfortunate. The contribution from midfield was massive in 2017. 5-23 between All Stars Jamie Barron and Kevin Moran. All from play. Throw in 1-18 from Austin Gleeson as well. They broke the lines. Only Jack Prendergast ran right at the Tipp defence on Sunday.
The forwards look lightweight at the moment. Like the Clare game, Waterford found it hard to make the ball stick inside. High or low. They had more joy when they worked the ball around the centre and shot from further out. Stephen Bennett, Thomas Ryan, Tadhg De Burca and Pauric Mahony all pointed from distance. Moran linked the play. Much like the style under Derek McGrath.
And what’s the best forward combination? Paraic Fanning has tried out eleven options already while DJ Foran and Michael Walsh have yet to see game time. The starting fifteen for Limerick is anyone’s guess.