When Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher suffered his season-ending cruciate injury against Limerick in the Munster round-robin series, the topic of who Liam Sheedy would choose to replace him quickly arose.
Dan McCormack found himself on the bench at the start of the season but when Niall O’Meara picked up a hamstring injury against Cork in their championship opener, he and Jake Morris were rotated in the vacant position.
With Morris failing to hit the heights expected by the Tipperary following, Bonner’s injury threw up another dilemma. Both McCormack and Morris started the Munster final while the returning O’Meara made a cameo from the bench.
Tipp’s bench was largely propped up by the presence of last year’s U21 players and question marks hung over them as to whether or not they could perform on the big stage. That question was defiantly answered during Sunday’s semi-final triumph over Wexford.
Sheedy introduced Willie Connors, Ger Browne, Mark Kehoe and Jake Morris, as well as Alan Flynn, in the second half and they expertly matched the pace and character shown by the starting XV up to that point.
Their contributions are our focus in this week’s Championship Deep-Dive.
Semi-Final success for @KilkennyCLG and @Galway_GAA will see the two renew their rivalry in Croke Park in three weeks’ time! The below trio of star performers have been nominated for the Electric Ireland Hurling Player of the Week. Cast your vote here. #GAAThisIsMajor
— Electric Ireland (@ElectricIreland) July 29, 2019
Joe O’Connor couldn’t gather possession and instead, the ball was batted away by Brendan Maher. As soon as Noel McGrath rose the ball, Ger Browne took off down the wing while Barry Heffernan ran off his immediate shoulder.
Tipperary’s support play and movement was poor for large sections of the first half but it was much improved in the second period as demonstrated by this score. McGrath played the ball ahead to Heffernan while Browne maintained his run.
The Nenagh man sucked in three defenders while Browne showed great pace to run around the outside of Diarmuid O’Keeffe. He took the ball on the run and in full flight, blazed the shot over the bar. Perhaps with more composure and experience, Browne could have got the goal but, nevertheless, his score levelled the game for the seventh time.
Seamus Kennedy collected the breaking ball in his half-back line before creating space and time for himself to spot the option of Mark Kehoe down the wing. He expertly gathered the high ball over the head of his marker, Joe O’Connor.
Kehoe showed great physicality to push past O’Connor before he jinked onto his right and just three seconds after gathering the ball, he dispatched a monster shot between the posts from 60 metres out.
Willie Connors had a number of valuable contributions upon his introduction in the 51st minute. The Kiladangan man put Damien Reck under huge pressure when the defender was shooting for his second score of the day, resulting in a wide. Not a minute later, Connors delivered the final pass to John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer to leave just two points between the sides after Tipperary had been reduced to 14 men.
In the 70th minute, Connors stepped up with a point of his own. The score also demonstrated how hungry Tipp were to find the equalising point as they showed an intense work rate even at that late stage of the game.
Cathal Barrett made a blistering run forward who passed off to Alan Flynn. Flynn’s delivery into the square was gathered brilliantly by Paudie Foley who played the ball to Matthew O’Hanlon in midfield, however, his handpass to O’Connor was intercepted by Jason Forde who had popped up in midfield.
As the tired Wexford legs stood off their markers, Forde found himself with a number of options around him but he sent a short stick pass to Connors who controlled the ball on his hurley before striking over the bar while on the turn to level the game for the ninth, and final, time.
What a week it has been for 20-year-old Jake Morris following his match-winning goal in the Munster U20 hurling final on Tuesday evening against Cork.
History looked to have repeated itself on Sunday when Morris finished to the back of the net in the 71st minute when the sides were level. Following a tussle between Seamus Callanan and Liam Ryan, the Nenagh man rose the ball on the edge of the square ahead of Kevin Foley before creating an angle for himself.
Fanning came out to meet Morris but there was nothing he could do as the youngster coolly finished to the corner. However, referee Seán Cleere called the play back for a free in.
Undeterred, Morris popped up with the insurance point four minutes later when he excellently fielded Brian Hogan’s long-range free and from the sideline, struck the ball between the posts with sheer confidence. It was fitting that the youngster was the man with ball in hand when Cleere blew the final whistle.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 28, 2019
The performance of each substitute will give them all a timely boost as they prepare for another All Ireland encounter with Kilkenny in three week’s time.
A series of valiant displays from our Electric Ireland Football Player of the Week nominees saw @OfficialCorkGAA @MayoGAA and @Kerry_Official advance, after an electrifying round of quarter-final fixtures. Have your say on the winner below! #GAAThisIsMajor
— Electric Ireland (@ElectricIreland) July 29, 2019
In their semi-final against Limerick on Saturday, Brian Cody had the luxury of introducing the likes of Liam Blanchfield, Cillian Buckley and James Maher. While Tipperary’s 2018 U21 stars are unable to match them for experience, they proved on Sunday that when given their chance, they are able to change a game and that is what Liam Sheedy and Tipperary will be hoping for come August 18.