Premier win could ease supporter fears
Thursday, March 13, 2014
The claustrophobic nature of Division 1A means the conversation about Tipperary this time next week could very well change to the prospect of quarter-finals.
By John Fogarty
But right now Sunday’s trip to Galway’s Pearse Stadium reeks of relegation, the losers facing the prospect of a survival showdown next month.
A relegation final, as Clare and Cork showed last year, would hardly signal the end of Tipp or Galway’s seasons, but for Tipp, other questions need to be answered.
Tipperary are the only team so far to lose a home game, and their edgy win over Waterford in February’s opening weekend remains their one victory across league and Championship since last April’s heavy semi-final win over Dublin, whose strenuous training regime in the build-up to that game qualified their performance.
Len Gaynor and Declan Fanning would hardly be regarded as hard-hitting observers but both were critical of the positional awareness of the players in Sunday’s defeat to Clare. Gaynor also highlighted the chopping and changing to the team. A total of 11 positional switches and three personnel alterations were made to the side from the one named on the previous Thursday. Given few, if any, other counties have played more games than Tipperary this season, it’s a source of bemusement that there is still so much tinkering.
Afterwards, Eamon O’Shea showed no signs of panic about the concession of four goals, nor did he following the game in Nowlan Park where they were hit for five. There are suggestions some of the changes from the team that lost to Kilkenny were made for disciplinary reasons.
The latest piece of conjecture, of which there are many in Tipperary hurling, surrounds Lar Corbett’s inter-county future.
The first sighting of the 2010 hurler of the year this year came not on a pitch but on the irreverent Republic of Telly on RTE2 last Monday night. Traditionalists may have thrown their eyes to heaven. Corbett’s promotion of his business interests have been held against him as a distraction from his hurling, yet he was Tipperary’s greatest threat in last July’s qualifier in Kilkenny before he tore his hamstring and remains their best goal poacher.
Conceding nine goals in their last two Sunday outings, though, is Tipp’s chief concern and left them floundering for explanations about the style and the roles some players were asked to fill. O’Shea knows the magnitude of the job ahead of him. Last October, he succeeded in being handed an extra season on top of his initial two-year agreement. The last manager to do that was Dublin’s Pat Gilroy at the end of 2009 after realising it was going to take more than another season to mould a team. It might not be until next year the best is seen of Tipperary under O’Shea, but there will need to be some green shots this season if the disconnect between the team and supporters that goes back to the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final isn’t to deepen.
At a time when many are confused about the team, a win in Salthill on Sunday — a happy hunting ground for Tipp over the years — would be a result they could all understand.
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