Westside Column 30 August 2019

 

WESTSIDE

 

Blitzkrieg was the German modus operandi in world war one. The tactic was simple: hit the enemy early and decisively with lightning speed and power so that they have no chance to recover.

I don’t know if Liam Cahill is interested in military history but the Tipperary tactics on Saturday evening last were straight from the German handbook. A devastating eight minute blitz floored Cork and while they got back on their feet and battled gamely in the second half the initial damage was never undone.

Seldom has a team delivered such a stunning barrage at the start of an All Ireland final. Eight minutes into the game and some late arrivals to the Gaelic Grounds must have been puzzled by a scoreboard that read 4-1 to 0-4 in Tipperary’s favour. Turn around guys and head home, the game is over. You’ve just missed the crucial action.

Such was the nature of that opening onslaught by a Tipperary team in a hurry. The game was only eighteen seconds old when Billy Seymour had the ball in the net. It was the opening blast from a man-of-the-match display that would eventually harvest 2-5 in total.

Cork actually recovered from that sucker punch to hit the first three points of the game but then came the second Tipperary major, for me the goal of the match. It was a classy ensemble move that saw Seymour and Morris combine before the latter centered to Andrew Ormond for the emphatic finish. The Cork defence was by now bamboozled.

Seconds later Seymour had the third goal and Jerome Cahill finished the fourth in what was a relentless bombardment of the Cork posts. The pace, the aggressive running and the instinct for goal displayed by the team was just too much for a Cork attack that had been forewarned by the Wexford semi-final but still couldn’t cope.

The adrenaline from the senior All Ireland win had clearly transfused to the U20s and all our expectations of a tight fifty/fifty game were rendered redundant. Winning can be infectious and not for the first time we benefitted from the proximity of two major finals.

It was likewise in 1989. The intoxication of the senior win over Antrim that September swept the county’s U21s to an extraordinary win over Offaly at Portlaoise. That was the occasion of the huge crowd and Dan Quirke’s hat-trick of goals against a star-studded Offaly side, many of whom went on to All Ireland senior success in the nineties.

2010 of course was similar with Galway the luckless victims at Semple Stadium. So this phenomenon has history. You can’t precisely quantify the value of a senior win but clearly there’s a type of bandwagon effect with the younger team hitching a ride on the wave of euphoria that surrounds them.

After that stunning goal-rush in the opening eight minutes matters settled down. The rest of the half was even, though Conor Bowe came close to a fifth goal when he brought a great reflex save from Ger Collins. At the other end goalie, Aaron Browne wasn’t tested though a few Cork raids looked dangerous and Eoghan Connolly was forced into a foul that brought a yellow card.

Half time arrived with the lead resting at eleven points; nothing bar a major collapse would salvage this one for Cork.

To the Rebels’ credit they kept plugging away in the second period and had their spell of dominance. Eventually Tommy O’Donnell rattled in a fine goal and we shuffled a bit uneasily as the lead began to slip. It came down to seven at one stage with Aaron Browne making a fine save to hold the line. Another Cork effort whizzed past the right post.

In the end we reasserted control, Cathal Bourke’s late goal restoring the half time lead of eleven. Thereafter it was a case of ‘Slievenamon’ with the needle stuck before Craig Morgan could deliver a fine acceptance speech to kick off even more celebrations.

It’s a remarkable win with many of these lads now being tipped to step up to the senior panel in the months ahead. There was certainly a method and energy in the team that only comes from meticulous preparation by all involved.

For goalie, Aaron Browne it surely capped an incredible week for the family. Lisloran, or the Bowery as we often nickname the towns land, has definitely been put on the map. There’s an interesting historical parallel because the Kickhams club has a great goal keeping tradition going back to the late Donal O’Brien who net minded for Tipperary in the 1961/62 successes. Donal hailed from the same towns land as Aaron before emigrating to the US.

Interestingly when Aaron’s brother, Ger collected a Celtic Cross with the seniors he became the first from Kickhams to achieve that honour since Donal O’Brien. For the Browne clan there was double delight on Saturday because Aaron’s cousin, Devon Ryan was also a panelist and for the Kickhams club there was treble delight with Kieran Breen wearing the number nineteen jersey.

It will be interesting to see how many of this team gets the call from Liam Sheedy in a few months. Jerome Cahill, Paddy Cadell and Jake Morris are already on board. You’d expect defenders like Eoghan Connolly, Craig Morgan and Bryan O’Mara to join them. Ciaran Connolly impressed at midfield and there’s no doubt forwards like Billy Seymour, Andrew Ormond and Conor Bowe will get their chance at some stage. Very likely there will be others too some of whom are still young enough for this team again next year.

It’s a rich supply line when put alongside the reserves already chomping at the bit on Liam Sheedy’s team sheet. Inevitably it takes these players time to develop but having them coming from a winning background is a valuable bonus. Incidentally there’s a little knot of Tipperary players now with a unique collection of medals including U21 and U20 ones, a combination that won’t be repeated unless the age groups change, which might happen because there’s growing discontent with the U17/U20 groupings at present.

For Liam Cahill and his management this success represents an amazing achievement following the minor win of 2016 and the U21 last year. I’d still list that U21 triumph last year as the most astounding of the lot but that’s not to diminish either of the other two. You have to go back to the three-in-a-row U21 successes of 1979-1981 for a comparable achievement in Tipperary.

As a manager Liam Cahill has been brave, meticulous and adaptable. His decision in 2016 to grasp the dual-player issue was courageous with so many snipers waiting in the long grass should he trip up. He ventured where others dared to tread.

Besides I know of no management team that has been so painstaking in its search for talent – and so open to trialing players and testing options. You’ll see Liam and his fellow selectors, T.J. and Sean, in the depths of winter at club or schools’ games all over the place assessing different individuals. Clearly that diligence pays off.

With his winning record he’s clearly now a senior manager in waiting. I’ve no doubt he will be tempted to move outside the county, a temptation I hope he resists. He clearly has that X-factor which draws the best from players and, selfishly perhaps we’d like that talent to remain in Tipperary.

He heaps praise on his lieutenant, Mikey Bevans for his work on the training pitch. It’s a partnership that clearly has inbuilt chemistry.

The speculation is already rife concerning Liam Sheedy and his future plans. Unlike 2010 I’ve no doubt he’ll be sticking around this time, at least for another year. Managing expectations is now vital in Tipperary if the mistakes of the past are to be avoided. With Sheedy at the helm and Cahill at his back we have two of the best in the business to steer the Premier ship on to further success.

Finally while the county has been basking in the afterglow of the All Ireland senior success, with the warmth enhanced now by the U20s, is has been fascinating to watch our eastern neighbours and their reaction to it all. The ‘Cats’ are licking a lot of sour milk, methinks, their utterances ill-becoming a county that has achieved so much on the hurling field in the past.

I assume there are a lot of decent, level-headed Kilkenny folk who disapprove of this guff but the voices we’ve been hearing since August 18, mainly from pundits and ex-players, have all been singing off the same hymn sheet – a sheet dripping with bitterness. The basic lack of graciousness to Tipperary in all of this is unbelievable.

I was reminded at the weekend of the 2009 final and how Marty Morrissey incurred the wrath of Brian Cody for having the audacity to even mention dodgy refereeing decisions that might have impacted that game. How things have changed! Now all they want to discuss is a refereeing call that the vast majority of neutral opinion say was entirely correct.

For a county that has won so much you’d expect a bit more poise than this. At least Jackie Tyrrell had the good grace to retract somewhat during the week but mostly it’s been one-track stuff that refuses to see what’s obvious to others. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Meanwhile it’s back to the break and butter business of club fare next weekend. A hectic schedule awaits.

 

 

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