New look Tipp are growing quickly
By Noel Dundon
The most important aspect of Tipperary's outing against All-Ireland champions Limerick, was they did not lose another game to their neighbours.
Too often in the recent past Tipperary have been turned over by the Treaty side and for that brief period after half time when they struck four points in succession through Gillane, O'Neill (2) and Flanagan to overturn the half time deficit and go in front for the first time since the first score of the game, the fear was that another defeat could be in the offing.
But, this Tipperary side is cut from a different cloth and they came back time and again to go in front; back to level; back in front again; and then snatch that richly deserved draw with the second last puck of the game from sub John McGrath.
Tipperary are now the only undefeated side in the provincial championship and that is significant in itself. A win and two draws sets them up very nicely to reach the Munster Final and if they can overturn Waterford next Sunday in FBD Semple Stadium it will have been a very satisfying campaign indeed.
Tipp got so much right in this game. The match-ups were almost perfect with Barrett on Flanagan; O'Mara on Lynch; Breen on Gillane; McCormack on Hegarty; and Connolly on Morrissey. Apart from Morrissey and Cathal O'Neill, Limerick found it hard to gain any real traction in attack - key men Lynch and Hegarty were totally nullified and were eventually taken off. Cathal O'Neill ran himself out of steam, but it was still a surprise to see him being subbed with five points to his name from play.
It should also be noted that Tipperary's insatiable appetite for hard work was so vital to this performance and the workrate of Conor Stakelum, Patrick Maher, Dan McCormack, Alan Tynan, and Noel McGrath set the tempo for the day.
Tipperary did not allow Limerick to dictate the terms of engagement and the pressure exerted on the half back line in particular forced a lot of errors. Tipperary scored nineteen points from turnovers - just think about that one - nineteen points fashioned from Limerick having primary possession. Paul Kinnerk and John Kiely had better get out that whiteboard again because that is a stat which will really force them to take stock.
Tipperary's defence had been coming in for criticism having shipped seven goals in two games - well, that's now seven goals in three games and they just seemed to get a lot right on the day. Ronan Maher's distribution was immaculate, while Bryan O'Mara had an immense performance at the heart of the defence. Cathal Barrett made a brilliant recovery to deny a Limerick goal before being injured as he cleared his lines - the Holycross/Ballycahill man had his warrior hat on and gave so much protection to debutant keeper Rhys Shelly who can be very pleased with his maiden championship outing.
If this performance from Tipperary does anything, it should at least win back the hearts of the Premier supporters because, this was a stirring showing where no absolutely no quarter was asked or given. It was pedal to the metal hurling from gun to tape and Tipperary never blinked. They more than matched Limerick stride for stride and gave them plenty to think about, especially the fact that their pillar players were knocked out of stride.
But crucially, Limerick did not lose either. They are still in the hunt and having been described as a tired team, how they recover for the clash with Cork next weekend will be very interesting to watch. That will be a winner takes all game and promises to be another massive clash in what has morphed into a championship for the ages.
As for Tipp, Liam Cahill will be emphasising this week the need to refocus very quickly and set the Deise in their sights. Though out of the championship, Waterford would like nothing more than to finish the campaign on a high note, and that's what Tipperary will have to be guarded against.
There is no room for complacency in this final round, but you just get the sense with this set-up, that it simply would not be countenanced.