Anticipation mounts as the build up to the Munster championship intensifies.
The sight of Waterford and Cork in town next Sunday will quicken the pulse of followers. The long wait is nearly over, Sky is in place (complete with a Tipp representative in Nicky English) and the cameras will soon be rolling as the action kicks off. Hopefully, it will be an invigorating summer. Sure, where would we be without it?
For Tipperary their preparations sent them against Waterford and Wexford in the past week. The build up has been noticeably upbeat since the league final with Lar’s return adding to the air of positivity.
Waterford came to the Stadium during the week and played what appears to have been a lively work-out behind closed doors. Nothing riles the blood of some more than this ‘closed-door’ policy. Whether intentionally or not it fosters an air of secrecy and the handful who are locked out take grave exception to the exclusion.
Against that the manager will claim the right to have an odd session where every word and deed isn’t relayed to the outside world, especially in an age of instant digital communication where events can get skewed in the telling.
Anyway this isn’t the first Tipperary management to do a lock-out, though past experience would surely have counselled against such a move.
It was, apparently, a second string Tipperary side that entertained the Deise. Conor O’Mahony was the only member of the league final side to start against a Waterford formation suffering its share of ill-luck at the moment. Some reports gave Waterford a two-point victory in the game; word from the Tipp camp was that the home side won by one. Who cares? These events are training spins and no more – another reason why it seems silly to lock gates.
A personal score of 1-5 from Conor Kenny seems to have been the stand out contribution on the Tipperary side.
On Sunday evening then Tipperary travelled to the south-east, to Oulart-the-Ballagh, for a final pre-championship work-out against Liam Dunne’s Wexford. It appears we played a first string in the opening half and led at the interval before ringing the changes at half time and eventually losing by nine.
The concession of five goals had an ominous déjà vu ring to it but again I suppose it’s in the context of an experimental formation where we ended the day with about four of a likely first-fifteen. James Logue was the call-up goalie on duty and he seems to have taken the blame on at least one of the goals. That number one slot on the team is problematic and hopefully won’t cost us dearly during the summer.
And so we head into the final two weeks of preparation for the visit of Limerick. The mood seems to be optimistic with preparations going well and most injuries cleared up. Part of the rationale behind recent challenge matches was to give game time to returning players like Gearoid Ryan, Lar Corbett and Paddy Stapleton in a bid to bring them up to pace. Returning players certainly intensify competition for starting slots in the championship.
The only negative on the injury front is news that Michael Breen broke a thumb in that U21 game against Kilkenny. It’s rotten luck for the Ballina man who missed out on the springtime action. He wasn’t in line to start against Limerick anyway but is seen as a player with major potential and these injuries are most unfortunate.
Meanwhile on the club front a player to pick up a particularly unwelcome injury at the weekend was Leaving Certificate student, Colin O’Riordan. His hand injury came courtesy of quite a nasty pull by a Moycarkey defender in the Mid’s losers’ section game at The Ragg on Sunday. The backman rightly saw red for that blow and Bracken’s eased out to a seven-point win in the end.
It was a tight enough affair for much of the game. Shane Bourke rifled in a first half goal to give Bracken’s an interval edge of four. Bourke scored 1-4 from play and with O’Riordan and free taker, Shane Scully, in much better form this week it gave them a critical edge on a Moycarkey side once more heavily dependent on Kieran Morris, scorer of 0-11. I liked the midfield contribution of Aidan Fogarty too for the winners and wing back, Cathal Scully, chipped in with two useful points.
Moycarkey were most disappointing and will have a last chance to salvage something in the county series when they face Annacarty in their final game.
In the other game at The Ragg on Sunday Boherlahan fell to another heavy defeat, this time to Upperchurch. The winners were fourteen up at half time and eventually prevailed by a margin of nineteen. The ‘Church were too strong for their opponents, especially with a decent spread of scorers led by Padraig Greene who hit seven from play. By contrast Darragh Hickey was Boherlahan’s main attacking asset.
That result means that Boherlahan, like Moycarkey, are out of the Mid race and now face a long wait for their final match in the county series. I’ve been praising the new structures but here’s the downside: teams with nothing to play for might now have to wait until mid August for their final game in the county series.
Under the present system the final games in the county round-robin series must wait until the divisions have reached semi-final stage. Depending on how the county fares in both senior hurling and football there will probably be only a few windows of opportunity for the divisions to play down to semi-final pairings. So, it’s conceivable that those final games won’t be played until August.
Surely it’s unacceptable that clubs, some paying outside trainers, should have to wait for up to three months, to play a meaningless game. Boherlahan have still to face Kilruane and Cashel must play Holycross but barring bizarre outcomes that group seems already decided. For Cashel to avoid a relegation play-off they need to beat Holycross and then hope that Kilruane hit cricket innings against Boherlahan in order to bridge a score difference of over forty points.
Meanwhile in the West Kickhams edged out the King Cormacs in their championship round at Golden on Sunday evening last. As a game it at least had the merit of being tight. Kickhams shaded the first half and looked set to push ahead on resuming when going six-up. Then a great save by the King Cormacs’ goalie, Owen Quirke, on a David Butler shot and a Mickey Coleman goal at the other end suddenly reopened the issue. It stayed tight, Kickhams doing enough to hold out for a win that was more adequate than impressive.
It’s been a traumatic time for the King Cormacs who changed coach and management since their mauling by Kilruane. T.J. Connolly is now in charge and they have a final chance to make the West semis when they play Cappawhite; Kickhams are through to the final four alongside Clonoulty and Annacarty.
Finally we’ll be interested neutrals when Waterford and Cork collide at the Stadium in their Munster opener on Sunday. The Deise have been ravaged by injuries and on known form you’d expect Cork to shade this one. The rebels have plenty attacking potential but issues persist around their defence. Interesting to see how it evolves.