Westside column – November 5th 2011

Westside column – November 5th 2011

 

It was a disappointing Munster debut by our new county champions; Drom were heavily out-gunned by the ‘Gunners’. Five points was the end deficit but it could easily have been more substantial if the Waterford champs had taken even a percentage of their chances.
Elsewhere the Cashel appeal is set for hearing this week – as is a counter move by Ballybacon.
So, there’s to be no extended involvement for the latest holders of the Dan Breen. There’s a known pattern here where first-time county winners tend to lack the type of crusading spirit needed to drive on for further honours. One had hoped that Drom would be different but it was not to be. The ‘Gunners’ were the ones on a mission here and Drom could never match their intensity.
Un-seasonally mild conditions and a disappointing attendance of just 2,183 provided the backdrop to this Munster quarter-final. On Halloween weekend Drom seemed somewhat spooked by the occasion and I think they’ll have major regrets when they look back on their maiden journey into Munster. Only a handful of the side played to potential so I’m afraid this game adds a very disappointing postscript to their senior season.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this game was the fact that the scoreboard tots stayed so tight because one sensed throughout that Drom were struggling. They got hit for an early goal when full forward J.J. Hutchinson flashed a first-timer past Damien Young. The Drom full back line defended poorly in the lead-up to that score. At this stage Pauric Mahony was looking dangerous at right wing but already the Waterford men were wasting a lot chances. They had nine first half wides and added a further seven in the second period.
Worryingly for Drom at this juncture Callanan was getting little space, Philip Mahony eventually taking over the man-marking job, which released Wayne Hutchinson for more expansive hurling duties. That Waterford half back line was central to the game’s outcome.
Still Drom stayed in contention and did have some individual items of significance in the opening half. Woodlock was busy and enterprising at midfield as was Johnny Ryan, the latter firing over two points, the second a real gem from the New Stand sideline. At half time one sensed that Drom were second best but then a glance at the scoreboard showed just a point between them.
In fairness to Drom they were luckless with injuries. Corner back, Martin Butler, had to retire before half time and they lost Johnny Ryan during the second period. I note too that Callanan was reportedly unwell before the start and an injury to Liam Ryan further reduced their options.
Still injuries are part of the currency of the game and you use what you have. A bigger difficulty for Drom was the lack of bounce in their play; they seemed more reactive than proactive. At times there seemed to be almost an air of resignation about their play. Repeatedly their defenders were slow off the mark, giving that few paces to their opponents which can make all the difference. Such was the case two minutes into the second half when Ballygunner struck for their second goal, Brian O’Sullivan almost nonchalantly tapping into the net. Drom were now five adrift and the outcome was well signposted.
Thereafter nothing really suggested that there was any way back for the Tipperary champions. The ‘Gunners’ were more positive in everything they did, more energetic in the rucks, faster on the ball and always looking like winners. The wastage of chances held them back and the structure of the game became problematic too. Drom played a two-man full forward line but the ‘Gunners’ pulled back a player as well so it became defence dominated.
The Drom goal four minutes from the end briefly revived hopes of a tight finish. David Butler made a strong run but the chance seemed to be gone when his shot rebounded off the post. However, in the follow up the ball came back out to Callanan who showed lightning wrists to lift and whip home a fine goal in one sweeping movement. Remarkably there were a mere three points between them now but significantly the two final points came from the ‘Gunners’ to close out a result that was never really in much doubt.
In the past Drom have struggled when Callanan was held. What was different in the county final was the fact that the supporting cast in attack answered the call, with such as Pat Lupton, David Butler and David Collins producing big games. This time I’m afraid it was back to the old trend once again. As ever statistics are revealing. Drom’s forwards scored a mere 1-2 from play over the span of the hour and it’s difficult to win games on such figures. By contrast Ballygunner’s attack hit 2-10 from open play.
And so Drom close out a season that will still reverberate for its historic breakthrough, though a final encore may have been lacking on the Munster stage. Individually their best players were James Woodlock, Johnny Ryan (until injured), Eamon Buckley, Paul Stapleton and James Ryan. The goal was Callanan’s main input while Seamus Butler was busy but fumbly on the ball.
For the ‘Gunners’ it was a useful win. That Wayne Hutchinson-led half back line was a major plank in their game. Pauric Mahony was magnificent in the first half – less so in the second on a day when his radar was on the blink. The O’Sullivans (sons of medic Tadhg, I’m told) are lively operators and Andy Moloney still has a deal to offer too. Late replacement Stephen Power was another to catch the eye and they’re strongly placed now to push on for provincial honours. They face Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh in the semi.
The Cashel K.C. relegation appeal it seems will be heard this week by the county’s CCC, the committee which oversees all domestic championships. This comes on the back of a Munster Council ruling that the case must be heard by the local body but there’s a further complication now in that Ballybacon have apparently submitted a counter-objection.
Amazingly at this stage no committee has yet ruled on the substantial issue at stake. Instead the debate has been all about jurisdiction and other technicalities. If you sense that there’s a reluctance to bite the bullet then you’re probably right so it will be very interesting to see what emerges during the week.
Clearly Ballybacon have a major stake in the outcome and rather than sit on their hands they’ve decided to submit a counter-objection to Cashel’s. Either way we’ll surely have some ruling this time, though it will hardly end at that.
The King Cormacs’ club obviously feel that they are on firm ground here since the playing of extra time in the match breached a rule. According to one source the County Board was forced to admit as much at the Munster appeal meeting though that wasn’t part of the Munster ruling which instead related to the hearing of the case within the county. On the face of it the county CCC would appear to have little choice but to rule in Cashel’s favour and that’s obviously the fear down Ballybacon way.
Of course while Cashel club may be technically right as per rule, there is the moral argument that they agreed to play extra time and should therefore abide by the outcome. Of course even here Cashel will argue that they were forced to play extra time and then you’re into the hearsay area of who said what after the final whistle. One point that’s very clear from all of this is that our structures for hearing objections and appeals are utterly inadequate given the way this affair has dragged on.
Interestingly I detect within Cashel a lot of divided opinion on the case. The club leadership obviously feels very strongly about pursuing a replay with Ballybacon but you hear a lot of contrary views too. One body of opinion favoured the initial appeal because it bought time thereby facilitating the return of two players. Some would have left it at that and gone ahead with the Borrisokane game. Others are obviously more trenchant in their approach. Anyway we await developments this week.
As we drift into winter the playing fields may be going silent but in the background the GAA never sleeps. It’s the time of year when plans for next season are already being hatched and personnel put in place to lead the charge into 2012. A significant recent development was the appointment of a new minor management team to try and shape our fortunes in a grade that is seen as so critical to future wellbeing. It’s also a grade that has become somewhat problematic for Tipperary since those back-to-back wins of ‘06/’07.
Raymie Ryan’s cabinet has been replaced by a new management team led by ex-minor winning captain, William Maher from Ballingarry. He’ll be aided by Brian Horgan (Kickhams), Noel Morris (Loughmore) and Martin Maher (Borrisoleigh). It’s a fresh-faced line-up of men who’ve all played county up to senior level. They carry our hopes for revitalisation in a grade that has struggled in recent years.
After captaining Tipperary to the All Ireland minor win of 1996 William Maher was seen as a bright prospect until that unfortunate eye injury put paid to his on-field career. Since then he was heavily involved with Dublin minors for a spell and of course was part of our U21 management team that won the title in 2009. He now steps up to a position that carries a heavy onus following an alarming dip in our minor graph in recent years. I suspect the dual-player issue will be just one of the problems they’ll face in the months ahead. We wish them well.
Our senior hurling management hasn’t been idle either as they put personnel in place to plot our 2012 season. Cian O’Neill’s departure to Mayo left a void which has now been filled by Ross Dunphy. A Wexford native and Kildare-based army man, he comes with an excellent reputation in the area of physical preparation. The Tipperary scene isn’t unknown to him either following spells with Toomevara, so clearly he’s a man Tommy Dunne feels comfortable with. I’m sure as I write he’s putting personal training programmes together for the players to work on over the closed season before collective training commences in January.
By now most counties have their teams in place to lay the groundwork for next season. Interesting to see our neighbours, Limerick, will have Donagh O’Donnell doing the coaching as part of John Allen’s management team. Donagh is no stranger to Tipperary having spent terms with several clubs during which he enjoyed quite a deal of success. He coached Boherlahan to their last big hurrah in 1996, brought Kickhams to Western success a few years later and took Clonoulty to a county final.
Incidentally I don’t quite understand Limerick’s objection to the new league structures. Of course it would be nice to be listed among the top flight but surely, given their stage of development as a team, a spring-time in group 1B will bring less pressure and allow them develop some  momentum. Division 1A will be a pressure-cooker with little scope to ‘blood’ new players.
P.S. Last week I erroneously stated that Aherlow won their first county senior football title in 2010. ’06 was of course the groundbreaker – 2010 merely consolidation.

 

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