As an exhilarating inter-county season draws to a close, we issue each team with an end-of-season report card, discussing whether or not they fulfilled expectations. Next up, we review the year of the Tipperary hurlers.
Fans of Tipperary were probably hoping to put the sour memories of 2017 to bed. They had a blistering National League campaign that collapsed at the last hurdle, falling to the 3-21 to 0-14 loss to Galway in the final. They were slow to recover from the loss but stumbled through the championship season, regaining their form in the semi-final where they again lost out to Galway in a thrilling, one-point battle.
On paper, Tipperary have a very strong panel. The feeling was that, with the return of Cathal Barrett to the panel, the emergence of some of the winning minor team of 2016 and the lessons learned from the previous year, that Tipperary would be hard to beat in 2018.
How They Fared
It’s fair to say the season didn’t pan out the way the Tipperary camp had hoped. For the second year running, they had a decent League campaign the resulted in a final spot against Kilkenny. And for the second year running, the Premier County fell apart in the final.
Their run in Munster was always going to be difficult. Four games in four weeks is a very demanding schedule. Their opening loss against Limerick was not surprising but what did concern fans was the team named for the game with four debutants handed a starting position. Couple that with the fact that manager, Michael Ryan, refused to speak to the media after the game, and alarm bells started ringing.
Tipp were a no-show in the first half of their next outing against Cork. They were nine points down at half-time and there were no indicators that it would be anything but an easy win for the Rebels. But Tipperary emerged a different team in the second half. Jason Forde and Noel McGrath led the revival before a last-gasp point from youngster, Jake Morris, forced the draw.
If Tipperary fans were hoping that draw would have sparked their championship to life, they would have been disappointed with the game against Waterford the next weekend. The Deise were seriously depleted and the prediction was that it would be an easy win for Ryan’s men. But like the previous game, they let their opponents fly into an early lead. It took a very controversial goal and some brilliance from Forde to rescue a ‘Lazarus’ style draw once again.
Ironically, their best performance came during their fourth game on-the-trot, against Clare in Semple Stadium. Tipperary looked like the team of old for large portions of the game and were eight points up at one stage. But eventually, the toll of such a demanding schedule kicked in and they ran out of steam at the end. Jake Morris hit the post at one end of the field and less than a minute later, substitute, Ian Galvin netted at the other end to spark a Clare revival. It was the first time in 20 years that Tipperary had exited the championship at such an early stage.
Highlight Of The Year
Their wonderous recovery against Cork was one of the few season highlights for Tipperary fans. Their heart, desire and determination were clear for all to see as they went flying from first gear to fifth gear in a matter of minutes, this wonderful effort from Noel McGrath helping them on their way.
Goal for Tipperary's Noel McGrath! pic.twitter.com/Wk7Xh6wCta
— The GAA (@officialgaa) May 27, 2018
Seamus Harnedy looked to have won it for Cork at the end but again, the Premier County came back at them with a point at the death from Jake Morris.
Player Of The Season
Jason Forde was the standout player for Tipperary this summer. He scored a remarkable 7-72 during their League campaign which is even more admirable when you consider that he missed a game due to the Fitzgibbon Cup final where he scored 1-10 for the winners, University of Limerick. Before the season, fans were concerned about who would fill the gap of the injured, Seamus Callanan, but Forde did so superbly.
Michael Ryan stepped down as Tipperary manager last month with the U21 manager, Liam Cahill, tipped as the man to succeed him. Tipp still have a relatively young panel and will be boosted by the fact that their U21 side were crowned All Ireland champions and you would expect many of them to feature at senior level. If they live up to their potential, Tipperary could be a force to be reckoned with but it all rests on the managerial transition.
C-. Far from what they had hoped for their season but you would imagine they would have progressed further had they not such a tough draw in Munster.