The Tipperary hurlers have ultimately failed to put All-Ireland titles back to back yet again. But this overall assessment is harsh on this current group. The margins for Tipp were extremely tight this year and while it won’t be back to back titles, the Premier could easily find themselves lifting Liam MacCarthy again sooner rather than later.
1964 and 1965 were the last years when the Liam MacCarthy Cup was raised by Tipperary in consecutive seasons. Having secured six All-Ireland titles during that time, each title has failed to have been backed up. It takes a good team win an All-Ireland, but great teams win multiple All-Irelands and this has led to many Tipp sides in recent years bearing the brunt of criticism from many angles.
It has been well publicised by now that Tipp were expected to build a legacy when they won the All-Ireland back in 2010. But it took them a full six seasons to lift the Liam MacCarthy cup again. Six years was simply too long for a team of this talent.
And in having such a talented group, Tipp’s 2016 success immediately saw many attentions turn straight to 2017. Would the Premier have to wait another six years for success, or would this group finally deliver on their potential and build a legacy reflective of their great rivals, Kilkenny.
Tipp started 2017 emphatically. They made statements in early games against Dublin, Waterford and Clare. Despite this being the league and not the championship, there was a clear intent about this Tipperary side and it looked as if the ‘experts in one-in-a-row’ was a tag that Michael Ryan and his players were determined to shrug aside.
Hurling followers are all aware of the great rivalry that exists between Tipperary and Kilkenny. That is why the league match that took place between the two back in March held so much significance. This was a Tipp team coming close to reaching ‘unbeatable’ status facing a Kilkenny team at its lowest ebb since 1997.
Tipp had made three big statements in the league up to that point and this was their chance to make the biggest one of all. The form book dictated that Tipperary should have opened the door of their home turf and not allowed the Cats back out without knowing that this Premier side was ready to take over the hurling high chair. But Tipp’s failings that evening were significant.
One can be 100% certain, that had the shoe been on the other foot, that Kilkenny side of the mid 2000’s would have hammered every nail firmly into Tipp, but the Premier side allowed the Cats to have another life that evening and the air of potential invincibility that was following Tipp was gone. It put doubts as to whether there was something different about this Tipp team.
They did rebound with their victory over Wexford in the league semi-final where they hit 5-17 from play and looked to be recapturing their early season swagger. Then a shock league final hammering was followed by a Munster quarter-final defeat to Cork that threatened to totally derail Tipp’s season and question their ability to handle success.
The fallout from that game was extreme. Lines were crossed with the rumours that escalated around certain players. Then Cathal Barrett was dropped from the panel to add more fuel to an ever growing fire.
Tipp then laboured to a victory over Westmeath, while any game for Tipp against Westmeath is a no-win situation in terms of dealing with expectation, this specific game provided a great chance for Tipp to show that they meant business and failure to do so, failed to put doubters and questions marks to bed.
But the Premier then made their statement against Dublin. The Dubs may have been struggling but a scoreline of 6-26 to 1-19 is as emphatic as it gets. That 6-26 included 5-17 from Seamus Callanan, John O’Dwyer and John McGrath. They displayed all that is strong about Tipp that day and it showed that they would still have a major say in the 2017 championship.
Tipp then went on to hit 0-28 against Clare in another impressive performance. Questions marks remained around their full-back line and the elephant in the room that was Cathal Barrett started to be named from many quarters about returning to solidify Tipp’s last line of defence.
The swagger had returned at the top end of the field. The aforementioned trio in the full-forward line were back firing on all cylinders. Noel McGrath was the architect, Dan McCormack and Patrick Maher were physical, Padraic Maher was imposing. And everything was pointing towards Tipp having back-door runs resembling 2010 and 2014.
The All-Ireland semi-final draw was not overly kind to Tipp. It pitted them against Galway, a team that had started the Tipp downfall with a league final hammering. Galway had negotiated Leinster with little fuss and were the team that gave Tipp their only contest in the 2016 All-Ireland winning season.
But things looked like they were coming right for Tipp at the right time and in many ways they did. What this piece is really trying to get at is that there was no shame in the Premier’s loss to the Tribesmen last Sunday.
Often when Tipp lose, the focus is put on a poor performance. But Tipp performed very well on Sunday, they just lost by one single point to another very good team.
There is still a lot of hurling left in Padraic Maher, Brendan Maher and Seamus Callanan, while most of the other players are still young in age. On top of this Tipp have been contesting minor All-Ireland finals and their schools have been performing well in the Dr. Harty Cup.
There are plenty of hurlers in Tipp at the right age and last Sunday’s loss should not be treated as a major failing to win back-to-back All-Ireland’s.
Tipp were very close. It took a moment of magic from Joe Canning for them to be dethroned. With the right attitude and continuity from their last two seasons, there is no reason why Tipp won’t be a very strong contender for the 2018 All-Ireland title.
Make sure to check out the latest episode of The 16th Man, where we question if the Super 8s is already doomed, hear from Mickey Harte and Jim Gavin after their quarter-final victories, and discuss Galway’s thrilling win over Tipperary.