John Mullane: ‘Tipp’s performance was heartless and too casual … it’s hard to see a way back’
I’VE defended Tipperary’s senior hurlers in the past, but I honestly don’t think you can defend the performance they delivered against Limerick yesterday.
Like a lot of the Tipp fans who streamed disappointed out of Semple Stadium, I think I’ve finally given up on them. If I was supporting Tipp in Thurles, I’d have been pulling my hair out. The performance was heartless and too casual.
Since Liam Sheedy left as manager after the 2010 All-Ireland success, they’ve missed the energy he used to bring to the dressing-room and the sideline.
I don’t think the standard was great yesterday – Tipp had 12 wides and Limerick 11. Were Limerick at their best? No. But they still won the game. Why? Because they had heart, guts and a manic aggression. In your face, typical Limerick.
I should have seen this coming and the Limerick display was typified by that full-back line – Tom Condon, Richie McCarthy and Séamus Hickey. That’s what missing in the Tipp forward line – the kind of character those Limerick lads bring.
I felt sorry for ‘Bonner’ Maher – he kept plugging away, but he was the only fella that could say he brought those qualities to the table today in the Tipp attack.
I thought Pádraic Maher and Mickey Cahill did well, before he got injured, and young Cathal Barrett had a fine game. But Tipp’s Achilles heel is a lack of leadership in attack. When the game is in the melting pot, a lot of their big players go missing.
Where do they go from here? That’s a huge question. Is there a way back for Tipperary? I doubt it very much.
It’s going to be very hard for Eamon O’Shea to lift this ship. They came back from losing to Cork in 2010 to win the All-Ireland but I don’t think the quality or the leadership is there to turn this around.
How many times did their forwards hit aimless balls into Nickie Quaid’s hands yesterday? I felt sorry for ‘Bonner’ Maher up front. He never stopped trying and John O’Dwyer did well too, but the other forwards were well below par.
Tipp were cleaned out at midfield too, but perhaps we should have seen this Limerick performance coming. I read some of the stuff from their camp during the week referring to the fact that they didn’t get the recognition that they deserved for last year’s performances. And they went out and proved a point.
It was typical Limerick – they stayed in the game, played very direct and, when the game was in the melting pot, they came with that manic aggression and guts to get them over the line.
The only danger now is the six-week break to the Munster final, but this game will bring them on. Some of their shooting was erratic and they left an awful lot of scores behind too.
The decision to disallow Graeme Mulcahy’s 63rd-minute goal was a very poor one from Barry Kelly. And he was harsh too on Kieran Bergin a couple of minutes earlier when, after winning a free, the Tipp player became tangled up in an opponent and the hurl flew out of his hand.
A couple of huge scores that may be overlooked and which turned the game were Donal O’Grady’s brace of points in the second half.
O’Grady was in too deep on Brendan Maher, but when he decided to look for space inside his own half, he found it and those scores provided Limerick with a real springboard.
Another big moment was Paul Browne’s point in the 38th minute, shortly after Gearoid Ryan’s goal for Tipp. And Dowling’s free on 52 minutes, with Limerick two points down and under a lot of pressure.
Dowling was immense yesterday and, last year, Limerick took the decision to leave him on the bench. Now, we’re seeing the value of Dowling when he starts, but Limerick also have a massive defence.
For Tipp, all of the talk throughout the league was about June 1 – D-Day, deliverance day, and how they were going to rectify what happened last year. But how does O’Shea lift things now? I don’t think there’s any way back for them, to be brutally honest.
But for Limerick, another long, hot summer yawns in front of them.
Tribesmen must get focused for Cats
We were all waiting for Galway to make a bold statement in the Leinsterchampionship yesterday and yet it was Laois who came within a 20m free of dumping them out.
We wondered whether it would benefit Antrim or Laois going in against stronger opposition but it was Laois who prospered at O’Moore Park.
You’d also wonder now if Laois went all out to beat Antrim on the previous weekend because this was one hell of a display.
Laois are a tough nut to crack in Portlaoise and while Galway had to come from a long way back to win, I think they’ll improve.
Laois are a team heading very much in the right direction and surely it’s only a matter of time before they claim a big scalp.
This scare poses serious questions about Galway and where they’re really at but it might be the kick up the backside that they need to focus them in a potential clash with Kilkenny.
Galway really are a Jekyll and Hyde outfit, well capable of going out the next day and putting up a big performance. But Galway will be worried again after putting in a below-par performance against Laois last year too. That really threw Galway off course for the remainder of the year.
But again, I’m not ruling them out and I still believe they have the quality in their squad to pose problems for a lot of teams throughout the summer.
Wexford, in contrast, sent out a massive statement of intent against Antrim. And their showdown with Dublin is a game that I’m really looking forward to.
Working down in Wexford, I’m hearing from the local people that they really believe something is achievable with this team going forward. Antrim were tricky opposition but Wexford went about their business in a really accomplished manner and delivered a clear message to Dublin that they had better be prepared for the mother and father of all battles at Wexford Park.
The Leinster champions are possibly without Danny Sutcliffe and I think they’ll have it all to do against a spirited Wexford team heading very much in the right direction under Liam Dunne.
Sky to open with Kilkenny cakewalk
WHEN the dust settles on Nowlan Park next Saturday evening, Sky Sports might feel they could have picked a better game to kick off their coverage of the GAA with.
It all depends on which Offaly team turns up, but I can’t see anything other than a comprehensive Kilkenny win.
The Cats will be on their guard, particularly as Offaly gave them a run for their money last year. Complacency won’t be a factor.
The Sky cameras will descend on the Kilkenny City venue but this one could be over from a long way out and I’m expecting Brian Cody’s men to begin a new era with a top-class display.
Next Sunday, Cork and Waterford renew acquaintances and a lot of Deise fans are believing again.
I’d expect a big travelling contingent from Waterford and we could have anything up to six players available again.
Shane O’Sullivan is back from suspension and it is hoped that Stephen Molumphy, Darragh Fives, Jamie Barron and Maurice Shanahan will be fit too.
Young Ryan Donnelly is back as well and he is a real talent to keep an eye on. I give Waterford a really good chance but it all depends on how much both camps have learned from the first game.
The one thing that Waterford have in their favour is a great tactical awareness and I’d question Cork on that score.
I wonder if Cork have that tactical nous and if they’re playing to any real game plan.
The Rebels will start as favourites again and all the signs point to a Cork win, but just like the first game, it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s little or nothing in it again.