The clash between Tipperary and Galway was a big game for the Premier men. It looked bleak at one stage in the second-half but Tipperary staged an emphatic comeback and answered some of the questions that have been asked of them.
The Tipperary hurlers have shipped a lot of criticism over the last two years. Ever since their capitulation in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny things have been at a low ebb in the Premier county. Declan Ryan stepped down after that defeat, amid speculation of unrest in the camp.
Eamon O’Shea took over with an ambition to lead Tipp back to All Ireland glory. O’Shea had been a big part of the backroom team that Liam Sheedy had in place in Tipperary’s All-Ireland winning year in 2010. There was a lot of excitement regarding his appointment, but that soon turned to anxiety.
Worryingly for Tipperary fans, the level of performances dipped considerably at the beginning of O’Shea’s time in charge. His first game in charge saw a hammering at the hands of Cork in their league opener in Páirc Uí Rinn. They did go onto qualify for that season’s league final but lost out to Kilkenny yet again.
In the 2013 championship season Tipperary lost both their games to Limerick and Kilkenny and found themselves out of the championship in the first week of July. It was a long summer for Tipperary as they were heavily criticised for their performances.
Some of the criticism may have been harsh; they drew the short straw in last season’s qualifiers, Kilkenny away, an assignment that any team would fear. The Premier men duly lost and were left with the whole of the summer of 2013 to analyse what went wrong, and watch a magnificent hurling season unfold from the side lines.
They needed to bounce back strongly in 2014, but the start of the league suggested that Tipperary hurling was falling down a landslide. They stumbled to a win at home to Waterford and followed with three consecutive defeats to Kilkenny, Galway and Clare.
In their final make or break league game with Dublin, they stumbled over the line. So, instead of a relegation play-off, they found themselves in a league quarter-final. Their season did gain some momentum from there, they reached the final where they lost to Kilkenny in extra time .
This encouraging league showing was not replicated in the Munster championship where the Premier men threw away a lead to lose to Limerick in their opener. With this defeat, the criticism and questions all returned again. Did they have the bottle? Did they have the heart? Were they under-performing? Did they over-perform in 2010? Were they overconfident? Were they motivated mentally to go the extra step to win games? The list of questions was endless.
The qualifier draw was unkind to them again, pitting them against the losers of the Kilkenny v Galway game. The opponents proved to be Galway and the stakes were huge for both sides. A win would help to get the season started again, while a loss would leave a long Summer for the post-mortem.
Tipperary’s character had been questioned, but they certainly showed it in abundance against Galway. They trailed 4-12 to 1-15 with twenty minutes remaining. A team that was low on confidence could easily have thrown in the towel in this situation, but Tipperary came from behind and finished strongly.
Galway only registered one point in the final twenty minutes while Tipperary scored 2-10. It could be argued that Galway ran out of steam due to the extra games that they had played, however Tipp deserve immense credit for their comeback.
Certain players showed a lot of character. Padraic Maher was taken for two goals at the start of the second-half. Many players would have dropped their heads completely, but Maher was moved to the half-back line and was a real driving force behind their victory.
Lar Corbett was another player who showed leadership when it really mattered. He scored two points at vital stages of the game, one of these was the score that gave Tipp the lead for the first time in the second-half; a lead they would not surrender.
Seamus Callanan delivered big time. He is a player who has been criticised for his performances on the big championship days but he turned up with 3-1 from play and 3-8 overall. Tipp set up in a way that allowed Callanan to play to his strengths and he delivered.
Noel McGrath was another player who performed and finally looked to be back to his best. It was by no means a complete performance by McGrath but for the first time in a while he showed his full array of skills. He scored points but also pulled the strings from further out the field and created a lot of the teams scores.
Overall there was a lot more fluidity to Tipperary and they seemed to have e a much clearer game plan. They created space in attack and played the ball into winnable positions for their forwards. Ball winning is not their biggest strength and they need to adapt by playing the ball into open spaces. They played this way against Galway and had the look of the 2010 Tipperary team.
Whether they will be afforded as much space by other teams is another question. Sterner tests certainly lie ahead for the Premier men but the the win over Galway will give them much needed confidence.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Seaninryan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.