Westside column – May 19th 2012

There’s no disputing the headline item this week: Lar is back. His departure last February was a bombshell and now his return is equally dramatic. Lar, it seems, doesn’t do predictability. The announcement of his second coming has certainly reinvigorated the scene after the disappointment of the league. The buzz has returned to Tipperary hurling – and in good time just ahead of the championship opener. Otherwise there was plenty of club activity at the weekend with reigning champions scrambling draws in three divisions. The press announcement from the County Board on Sunday last was typically formal. They were ‘pleased to announce the return of Lar Corbett to the Tipp SH panel’. In the nature of these announcements there was to be no longwinded explanation. Lar had been preoccupied in past months ‘developing his business activities and is now once again in a position to give the necessary commitment to being a member of the panel’. That was it, curt and concise. Lar would ‘recommence training immediately’. There’s no doubt it’s welcome news that will put pep in the step of Tipperary fans everywhere. Coming at a time when Seamus Callanan is showing a return to finer form and ‘Bonner’ Maher is back playing ball once again the uplift in mood is palpable. Mind you it will hardly quell the rumour mill which has been fascinated by this entire story. Retiring for ‘business reasons’ is so clichéd nowadays that everybody believes it’s simply code for something more juicy. So the conspiracy theorists have a field day. And in this underworld of nod and wink Tommy Dunne has been the victim, the perceived villain of the peace. One wonders will Lar’s willing return now go some way to counteracting the nastier insinuations. There’s no doubt Lar’s return is a major boost to the team and, I suspect, an item of huge relief for the management also. The goal-machine that was Corbett in recent seasons gave our attack an exciting dimension one that others feared. The lightning pace, silky touch and deadly finishing was enough to give seasoned defenders the wobbles. In full flow Lar could light up any arena, so there’s no doubt hurling in general is richer for his return. Of course the problem now will be to calm expectations. Our shortage of goals during the recent league series has been well noted but it will be asking a lot for Lar to instantly turn on that particular tap once again. He’s played no competitive hurling since the county semi-final on October 2 last so one can hardly expect an instant impact now on his return. One assumes the Limerick game comes too soon for Lar to play any significant part in the action. A more practical target must be a potential Munster semi-final on June 24 should we get over Limerick. Hopefully by August, when the business end of the championship kicks in, he should be revving up to peak performance. Anyway it’s great to have him back. His career and contribution deserves a tidier encore than the events of the past six months. Meanwhile a Tipperary team travelled to Clonlara in Clare on Sunday evening for a field opening, which the visitors won by a single point. It was a makeshift Tipperary side on duty but perhaps the most noteworthy contribution was from Seamus Callanan who was credited with 1-8, 1-3 from play. Since his comeback from injury Callanan has struggled with his form but last weekend seems to have marked a return to sharpness, which is timely news indeed. He was the star show it seems on Saturday night also in Drom’s one-point win over Loughmore in the Mid. A fortnight out from the championship opener this is indeed welcome news. In general the story on the injury front appears to be positive with the walking wounded on the way back to full health. Donagh Maher played for Tipp on Sunday night while Paul Curran was in action for Mullinahone down South on Saturday. Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher is also back in action so the omens are good as we count down to the Limerick game. Seamus Hennessy too has returned for Kilruane though it appears he’s a long way off returning to county action. There was plenty of action on the club front last weekend with games in all divisions and some interesting outcomes. I the Mid reigning champions, Loughmore, fell one short of Drom\Inch, the form team in the division, while in the North, South and West all the defending champions had to do with draws. Up North Portroe pulled off a big result with a draw against Toomevara. Liam Sheedy is this year coaching his native club and clearly doing a useful job. I saw them earlier in the county league and they seemed well organised and spirited as you’d expect from a team under Sheedy’s baton. Incidentally the same Liam Sheedy is a busy man these days. After the 2010 All Ireland he retired because of work commitments – now where have we heard that before? – but this year apart from his home club he’s finding time for a role with Newmarket in Clare as well as involvement in Tyrone. In his spare time then he earns a few quid – quite a few according to recent reports on pundit payments – as an RTE analyst. He’s a busy man alright. Down South at the weekend Carrick Swans came close to a major coup against Mullinahone before an Eoin Kelly pointed free rescued a draw for the reigning champions. It appears to have been a lively game at Kilsheelan. Paul Kelly was sent off for a second yellow and Mullinahone came from behind to save the day. It was a bad weekend all round for divisional champions with Clonoulty in the West having to salvage a draw against Kickhams. After losing to Annacarty and Cappawhite in previous rounds you wouldn’t get too many backers for Kickhams in this one. However, these local derbies often take on a life of their own which at times throws logic out the window. It’s amazing how Kickhams always seem to find something special when they face Clonoulty and previous form lines are rendered redundant. They did it again this time forcing Clonoulty to come from behind to salvage a draw. I’ve heard a few reports on the game speak highly of David Butler’s input to the Kickhams effort. The game had three players sent off. John Devane, Clonoulty, and Damien McGrath, Kickhams, were two unlikely candidates for red cards, I would have thought. Clonoulty’s Conor Ryan was the third player to see red. Clonoulty also lost Thomas Butler to what appeared to be a recurrence of that knee injury which sidelined him last year. It all puts the West champions into an awkward position because they’ll now be without their suspended players for the semi-final. It’s been a troubled start to Clonoulty’s season. In the other West game at the weekend Eire Og got the verdict on Cappawhite after a goalkeeping blunder proved very costly near the end. There’s now one important game left in the West with Cashel to face Aherlow, after which the knock-out pairings will become clearer. In the Mid at the weekend I saw Boherlahan rescue their season with a spirited display against Holycross. As with all games the big wind that blew at the Ragg was a major factor. Holycross were 1-7 to 0-3 up at half time, Boherlahan failing to score from play in that spell. Amazingly Holycross failed to score at all in the second half as Boherlahan rallied strongly to eventually win by three. Goalie, Joe Ryan, hit two massive points from frees for Boherlahan, the second from about thirty yards from his own goal. A bit like Kickhams and Clonoulty in the West there’s little love lost between Boherlahan and Holycross in the Mid so this was a significant one for both teams. The result puts Holycross out of the Mid championship and earns Boherlahan a shot at Sarsfields in a quarter-final. In the other Mid game at the Ragg on Sunday Bracken’s hammered Upperchurch to top the group. The ‘Church were without James Barry but the Templemore side was minus Shane Bourke so you’d expect some cancelling of the losses there. Shane Bourke seems to be out of the reckoning for Tipperary too because of that injury, which is disappointing at a time when others are returning. The upshot of these Mid games now is that Drom and Brackens are through to the semi-finals while the quarter-final pairings are Boherlahan v. Sarsfields and Loughmore v. Upperchurch. Both Moycarkey and Holycross are out of the divisional race and now await the county open draw. A lot of games are now played in all four divisions but very little is sorted out apart from the Mid. In the West for example all teams are still in the race for divisional honours with Kickhams’ fate dependent on that final game between Cashel and Aherlow. I suppose you could argue that the ‘real’ championship has yet to begin in most divisions. Anyway the club business now takes a breather as that Munster championship opener takes centre stage. Team selection and related matters will be the hot topic as we gear up to face the Shannonsiders. All of which is matter for next week.

Comments are closed.