IN ALL FAIRNESS - It doesn’t feel like Tipp are champions
IN ALL FAIRNESS
There are times when I feel as if Tipperary should almost apologize for being All Ireland senior hurling champions such is the apparent lack of respect coming their way as defending champions.
Tipperary won the 2019 All Ireland title as they were the most consistent team, as well as the last team standing at the end of the campaign and that is what competitions are all about. Yet, as we come into this campaign, there is very little talk about the Premier County. Maybe it is no bad thing as the hype isn’t there.
However, there is more to it I feel. Maybe it is that Tipperary are a traditional power that doesn’t make them as appealing as the likes of Galway, Wexford, and Limerick. I don’t know why considering another traditional power in Kerry are back to the fore in football, helped by having David Clifford in their side. Yet when it comes to Tipperary, the same respect and indeed fear is not the same. Why is that?
Firstly, is it this constant drumbeat, primarily from people outside the county, that Tipperary haven’t retained the Liam MacCarthy Cup since 1964-65. It’s almost if the seven titles won since don’t count just because they haven’t put them back to back.
The titles from 1971, 1989, 1991, 2001, 2010, 2016 and 2019 should never be diluted just because Tipperary didn’t manage to retain it.
Winning back-to-back titles is something that is very hard to do and it takes special teams to do it, which is what Kilkenny were when they won a four-in-a-row and a three pairs of two-in-a-row during Brian Cody’s incredible reign in charge.
There’s no doubt that the Tipperary team that won three All Ireland title in the last decade will go down amongst the greatest of all time from the Premier County and that they may not end their careers having successfully retained the Liam MacCarthy Cup should never taint what they have achieved.
Second of all, it’s bloody hard to retain a title, particularly in the modern era where the hurling championship is so competitive. Go back to Kilkenny’s four-in-a-row from 2006 to 2009, how many realistic challengers did they have each year, one? two? This year anyone of seven teams could win the All Ireland with Laois, Clare, and Waterford the teams I feel it may be beyond them this year.
But this is no ordinary year as the saying goes as we effectively have a blitz championship being played off over the course of fifty days, and after next weekend we will have seen all ten Liam MacCarthy Cup teams in action from which to make an initial judgement as to who is shaping up well.
Limerick certainly set out their stall last Sunday with their 36-point haul against Clare. There is no doubting that in full flow Limerick are probably the best team in the country. However, there is a flaw within this team in terms of consistency. Their performance in the twelve-point win over Tipperary in last years Munster Final was the most complete of the championship, yet they still lost three games in the championship. That is the challenge for John Kiely to keep his men focused each day they go out.
Certainly, they have a style of play that is difficult to counteract when in full flow but when they are off it, even just a little bit, it can break down. It’s that kind of high risk and reward style of a Paul Kinnerk coached team.
The Cork v Waterford semi-final is certainly under the radar and despite missing Pauric and Philip Mahoney through injury, you still give Waterford a chance on Sunday as manager Liam Cahill knows that Cork teams can be brittle and how to unnerve them to get a result.
The two Leinster semi-finals are equally and intriguing. I don’t believe Dublin got the credit they deserve for the performance against Laois. 2-31 is some scoring against any team and their athletic approach and almost lacrosse style of play will pose problems for Kilkenny, but you’d suspect the cats will find a way to win.
The Galway v Wexford game is the so hard to call. Galway were coming along nicely towards the end of the National League with the likes of Evan Niland and Brian Concannon adding to an already strong attack but has that break halted their progress. We all know that Wexford will probably the best prepared team for a winter championship with the lead-in time they have had, and they should be able to go for the seventy or eighty minutes. It will be interesting to see if they have a goal-scoring approach this year as the amount of times in last years All Ireland semi-final against Tipperary, they took the easy point instead of making the final pass, failing to gamble to the extent that Tipperary do in those positions.