Stapleton sure Tipp defence has ‘stopped rot’

Stapleton sure Tipp defence has ‘stopped rot’ with Dublin clean sheet
Rare shut-out a big relief to veteran defender as he admits concern after run of alarming concessions

Colm Keys Twitter

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Published 14/08/2014 | 00:00

Paddy Stapleton insists Tipperary’s collapse against Kilkenny in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final has been forgotten about as they return to Croke Park for their first game since then. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Paddy Stapleton insists Tipperary’s collapse against Kilkenny in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final has been forgotten about as they return to Croke Park for their first game since then. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
The Tipperary defence has collectively found itself in the eye of quite a few goal storms this season.

Kilkenny hit them for five in Nowlan Park in February, Clare stuck four past them in Thurles and Cork did the same in a league quarter-final at the same venue later that month.

They addressed it with a sequence of positional adjustments that worked well initially, Padraic Maher’s switch to full-back appearing to create the greatest stability. But just when they thought they had reduced the flow to a comparative trickle, conceding two goals in each of their subsequent games against Clare and Kilkenny in the League play-offs and Limerick in the Munster semi-final, it flared up again with Galway’s quartet in the first-round qualifier.

For Paddy Stapleton, it was a bittersweet evening in Thurles.

There was relief to get a first championship win in almost two years but great frustration too that the goal concession tally had risen to 26 in 10 competitive games in 2014.

Tipperary were leaking goals at a rate of over two and a half per game. For a team with serious Championship ambitions, it was an alarming level to reach.

“I was more concerned than anyone in the backline because we were conceding so many goals,” said Stapleton.

“In general, there wasn’t that much overall superiority from Galway.

“Nice balls were floated in and they had a great attacker (Johnny Glynn) on the edge of the square who was able to catch the ball. That’s how a lot of the goals were scored.

“We’d be very disappointed, especially when it is individual mistakes such as high ball being caught and goals scored off them. That seems to be happening a bit, particularly against Galway. Hopefully now we have stopped the rot.”

Dublin are not a team renowned for goal-scoring capacity but to register a clean sheet against them the last day still meant a lot to the confidence of Tipperary’s defensive unit.

“It was a big thing,” acknowledged Stapleton, one of Tipperary’s most experienced players.

“There is no point in saying otherwise when you have been conceding a few goals.

“It is nice when you do shut up shop. It gives you confidence and the positivity that you can do it,” added the Borris-Ileigh man.

“It was achieved by a unit. There was no stand-out performance, especially from the full-back line.

“It was down to communication and lads trusting each other, really wanting to keep that clean sheet, no matter what.”

It was their third clean sheet from 12 competitive games, having previously shut out Waterford and Dublin in the League.

Stapleton is keen to divert blame from goalkeeper Darren Gleeson in his first full season since Brendan Cummins’ retirement last October.

“Darren has made no errors this year in Championship hurling. I have all the confidence in the world in him,” he said. “I have been training with him for six years and I know his game inside out. I feel fully assured when he is behind me.

“You are encouraged to talk at training but the killing thing is, when you get out on the field you just wouldn’t hear anyone.

“I hardly ever heard Brendan talking when he was playing. I can’t hear Darren that much either now.”

Tipp’s return to Croke Park for a first match since their collapse against Kilkenny in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final holds no relevance for them, Stapleton insists.

“That match was a lifetime ago. It’s like talking about the 2010 or 2011 All-Ireland finals.

“It’s not going to help us against Cork and it’s not going to hinder us against them either,” said Stapleton.

“A lot of the playing personnel has changed and the management is different since then. And we are also playing a different team.

“Croke Park makes no difference to me, it’s a green field.”

Momentum is building but the “tame” nature of the Dublin game is slightly concerning.

“Any team that has won a couple of games on the bounce is going to be feeling good about themselves,” Stapleton acknowledged.

“There have been a couple of good performances here and there but we are not naive enough to think what has gone before will do in an All-Ireland semi-final.

“While we are happy in the camp and delighted to be there, we know have to raise it another level.”

Irish Independent

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