Flagging Tipp need to re-find spark quickly
By Thomas Conway
There was an almost mournful atmosphere around the Tipperary dressing-room last Sunday in the TUS Gaelic Grounds. The players were disappointed. So too were the management.
They thought had been caught on the hop by Clare the previous weekend and had come to Limerick determined to rectify the errors and reinforce the message that Tipperary mean business in 2022. But things panned out very differently.
Clare proved that their display in Thurles was no flash in the pan. Their game is as intense as it is intricate - full of short stick passing and relentless support-play. It is, quite literally, maximum-risk, and when it goes wrong it inevitably leads to disastrous consequences, but when it works, as it did for them last Sunday, it can be spectacularly impressive.
Tipp, in contrast, seemed like a team without an identity. They flirted with the short-passing game, yet sometimes opted to go long and looked confused with the ball in hand. It was a little baffling to watch, and a little puzzling for the Tipp management team as well.
Reflecting on the performance, Tipp selector Dinny Ferncombe was typically honest. He admitted that Clare were superior, acknowledging Tipp’s frailties and citing their poor conversion rate as a key factor in their overall demise.
“On today’s performance, yes, over the course of the sixty or so minutes, I don’t think it was good enough,” he admitted.
“We were second-best in a lot of places, but in saying that, we started the game quite well, we delivered some good ball into our full-forward line, but we just didn’t convert those chances, the conversion rate just wasn’t good enough. And that caused the confidence to slip out of us.
“Whereas Clare took their chances - they created scoring opportunities and they converted them.”
The reasons underlying Tipp’s dip in form aren’t entirely clear, but Ferncombe believes that fatigue may have influenced their past two displays.
Bear in mind that many of these Tipp players have been on the go, almost non-stop, since early February. The Drom & Inch contingent also returned to the panel off the back of an energy-sapping club championship campaign. A similar argument could be made in relation to Clare and the sizeable group of Scariff-Ogonelloe players within their ranks, but the Banner have not had to deal with the immense psychological pressure which now weighs on this Tipperary team.
Tipp entered 2022 as the pretenders - the side everybody expected to challenge the triple axis of Galway, Cork, and Kilkenny. They may well still do so, but perhaps this defeat to Clare is an illustration that, psychologically, Tipp remain a work in progress. The weekend after next, Tipp and Clare will square off once again, by which time both teams will be in All-Ireland championship mode. That is when the situation will get really serious. For Ferncombe and the Tipp players, these next two weeks could prove crucial, as the Holycross man acknowledged.
“As a management we have to try to analyse these situations, to put a finger on why they happened,” Ferncombe added.
“Because I think if we look at our performances in the league, right up to the game against Galway in Ballinasloe, we really seemed to be peaking - we were sharp on the ball, our support-play was really good, we were creating chances.
“Over the past two or three weeks we’ve started to see mistakes creeping into our game, and I genuinely feel that maybe there’s a sense of tiredness there, a sense that we might be overworked, so as a management we’re going to have to go back and review a few of those things, because obviously we want to make sure we’re in peak condition come the All-Ireland Championship.