KILLINAN END - Are Tipp Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?
After the debacle of the Clare game in Thurles last Sunday was a day to consolidate and hold firm.
The opposition was as challenging as it gets right now, and all things considered Tipperary can feel it was a job well done. Perhaps a win was potentially there somewhere in the background, but it never quite felt like it would happen.
As seems to be a recurring theme we once again faced a goals’ deficit, conceding a few but not really threatening to draw blood ourselves. However, Limerick’s full-back line is top quality and in his quiet way so is their goalkeeper. In that sense it’s not a huge criticism but we well know that many of Tipp’s finest hours over the past decade and more were founded on goal-scoring.
Still, there was much to be happy with and many new players like Craig Morgan, Dylan Quirke, and Ger Browne have shown their credentials. It might also be argued that Colm Bonnar does not exactly fit into the ‘lucky General’ category given the plethora of injuries that have had such an impact. At least five players who might have been in the shake-up for a jersey between 8 and 15 were unavailable – Jason Forde, John McGrath, Séamus Callanan, John O’Dwyer, Willie Connors. The performance is only enhanced through that lens.
Yet, over-egging that particular pudding is a fool’s game. Limerick were flat enough and finished the game outscoring Tipp 2-6 to 0-4 in the last ten minutes. There are strands of comfort, but delusion is best avoided.
The men who had the Semple Stadium swaying in wonderment back in 1991, would struggle to rationalise the likely tone of the Tipp-Cork game coming up. Do we assume Waterford will beat Cork in Walsh Park? Not so long ago, Cork entered the League final in full confidence, and indeed had the vote of many when it came to a predicting a winner. While the apparent altitude of Cork may have been based on flimsy enough evidence you would wonder if there is any kind of kick in them. Disastrous as their campaign has been in the context of the ambition they might have had a month earlier they still have a chance to progress if they can turn things around in the last two games.
Whatever the background for Cork coming to Thurles to play Tipp, it is a game where the home team has a fortnight to target a big performance. They will still be monitored closely. Are we closer to the Mr Hyde of last weekend or the Dr Jekyll of the Clare game? It is very tempting to err on the optimistic side of that contrast as there was evidence that a lot was taken on board from the Clare game. Yet, Limerick’s second goal did have the look of one of Waterford’s goals against us with an unmarked forward finding himself alone in front of the Tipp goal. More to do no doubt but a powerful performance in the last game will be a necessary statement and one that surely the team and management will target. We await with great interest and will have a keen eye on Cork next weekend.
Parnell Park might be worth a keen eye as well. Dublin, for once, caught a break down in Wexford winning by a point. They have threatened Kilkenny a few times in recent years without quite managing to repeat their 2013 success, but this is one they will approach with more abandon than they might have previously. Despite beating Wexford, Dublin are still vulnerable to bring caught because of the point Wexford took from Galway, so it is far from a free shot, but they are in a position of relative strength.
Their opponents might have their internal critics but as ever they know the value of a goal or two. Bear in mind that at half-time in Salthill they had conceded seventeen points – the same number they managed themselves over the seventy-plus minutes. In that sense they had no right to have Galway on their radar at all as time ebbed on. But when you score two goals more than your opponents, many cracks are covered over. Kilkenny do look geared up for goals with a willingness to have a run at defences and will no doubt test the Dublin backs at a level they have not met so far. If the Dubs stand up to that it could be a significant game.
The match in Ennis between Clare and Limerick is unpredictable given Limerick’s situation. Do they really need to get into a heavy battle ahead of a possible Munster final against the same opponents? Clare have Waterford the following weekend and still will have a shot at a Munster final irrespective of the Limerick outcome. Can they go hell for leather successfully two weeks running and potentially meet Limerick again in Clare’s third game in four weeks in the Munster final? In theory they are looking good with full points and two home games to come but it could take a fair bit out of them.