Tipperary v Dublin, Thurles, 2pm Sunday 23 March 2014

Tipperary v Dublin, Thurles, 2pm

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sunday, March 23
Allianz Hurling League Division IA
Tipperary v Dublin, Thurles, 2pm

So fine are the margins in Division IA of the Allianz Hurling League this year that both Tipperary and Dublin can make the quarter-finals of the competition, while both can also be relegated.

Bottom of the table on just two points – gained in somewhat fortuitous circumstances in their opening game against Waterford – on a three-game losing streak and with the worst scoring difference (-13) in the top flight, Tipperary are in desperate need of a pick-me-up.

A victory over Dublin on Sunday would be just the tonic for their manager Eamon O’Shea and the Premier County’s beleaguered supporters. Lose or draw and Tipperary will finish bottom of the table and in a relegation play-off the following Sunday. Even if they do win, it might not be enough to save them from a relegation shoot-out, depending on other results.

After a disappointing first championship under O’Shea last summer, the spring campaign has yielded little to suggest they will fare any better in 2014, but the manager is sticking admirably to his guns despite a poor run of results, which has seen Tipperary win just one league or championship game (the 2-13 to 0-16 defeat of Waterford on February 15) since they beat Dublin in the Allianz League semi-final on April 21 of last year.

“My strong belief is that this team will get there but at the same time, I understand the frustration,” O’Shea said this week. “We all feel frustration as a team not winning but we will get there once we find rhythm in our play and our work-rate and so on matches everything else in what we do.”

There were worrying signs in last Sunday’s 3-16 to 1-19 defeat to Galway. They trailed by eight points at the break, were very reliant on Seamus Callanan’s scoring prowess (1-11) to drag them back into the game and have now conceded 12 goals in their last three games. O’Shea has made four personnel changes for the game, with Darragh Egan replacing Darren Gleeson in goals and Pádraic Maher ruled out through injury.

Tipp’s 4-20 to 0-17 victory over Dublin in last year’s semi-final was the last time the sides met, but Anthony Daly’s side came into that game after playing in Division IB, and will be in buoyant mood after a 1-22 to 3-13 win over Kilkenny last Saturday night. Although not without its flaws, Dublin’s performance was as close to championship level as we have seen from any team this year. Danny Sutcliffe hit 1-5 and dominated Tommy Walsh to such an extent that the nine-time All Star was taken off at half-time.

After the game, Sutcliffe spoke about the need to address Dublin’s greatest problem this year, which has been wild inconsistency. Terrific wins over Clare and Kilkenny have come only after they were badly beaten by Galway and Waterford respectively in the previous rounds.

“The big thing with us is we’re hot and cold and that inconsistency isn’t going to do us any favours,” Sutcliffe said. “We knew we’d get a performance against Clare because we had lost the week before (to Galway). Inconsistency…the footballers go out and play every week, we’re not doing it, we need to get that sorted.”

Both of Dublin’s defeats this year have come on the road, and while teams winning on home turf has been one of the key patterns this year, Daly’s charges will fancy their chances of bucking that trend and securing a place in the Division I quarter-finals, and inflicting further misery on Tipperary in the process.

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