Kilkenny hurling legend Jackie Tyrrell has identified Tipperary’s defence as their biggest weakness.
The 35-year-old won nine All-Irelands and claimed four All-Star awards during his inter-county career and is universally recognised as one of the toughest defenders of all time so it’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about defending.
Writing in The Irish Times, Tyrrell claims that Tipperary’s defence has let them down this year. To illustrate his point, the James Stephens man highlighted the outstanding performance of the Premier’s attack in 2017.
“Going into this year’s quarter-finals Tipperary are carrying some interesting stats: in their last four games they have scored an average of 28 points and that includes a no-show against Galway in the league final.
“Take that one step farther. In this year’s championship, considered to be a bit of a mixed bag for them, a campaign with no huge conviction, they have averaged 32.3 points per game. That’s phenomenal scoring by a forward unit, which from the outset has been accused of being patchy and inconsistent and lacking ball winners and penetration.”
Having witnessed Tipperary trounce Dublin two weeks ago, you’d think Tyrrell would have been impressed with the side.
However, while the former Cats corner-back was in awe of the Tipp attack, he cringed at some of their defending. Tyrrell believes the back six have regressed massively since last year.
And while the two-time Fitzgibbon Cup winner feels Michael Ryan’s defence have some stylish hurlers, they lack a mean streak needed to win All-Irelands.
“Their six backs are very good on the ball and supporting each other. That’s part of the problem. Dinking lovely passes here and there, crossfield balls to their forwards. That’s great but defence is measured on what you did to stop the other team’s forwards.”
These are certainly interesting points from Tyrrell and the stats would back him up. In their defeat to Cork earlier this summer, the Tipp attack struck 1-26, but still lost the game.
Even in their trashing of Dublin, the Premier managed to concede 1-19.
This will be a worrying aspect of the Tipp side as they go to battle with Clare this weekend. The Banner do contain a far more dangerous attack than that of Dublin.
In fact, over the duration of the decade, it must be said this problem has been a constant reoccurrence. Just take a look at the 2014 drawn All-Ireland final. On that occasion, Tipp managed to take the Kilkenny defence for 1-28. However, due to some slack defending, the game finished in a draw. Tipp conceded 3-22 the same day.
Another prime example is the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final. Tipperary once again conceded over 20 points and it took Seamus Callanan to produce miracles just to keep them in the game.
Even in last year’s All-Ireland final they conceded 2-20 to a less than spectacular Kilkenny attack.
The fact is that over the course of the decade, Tipperary have almost been winning games in spite of their defence.
Luckily for the Premier, they have consistently held the most lethal attack in the game since 2010.
Tipp supporters will be hopeful of a more solid performance from their defenders this weekend. They will also pray for more of the same from their sextet up front.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena