Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Tipperary and Corbett lose the plot on humiliating dayAugust 22, 2012 - 8:55am
IT would be entirely natural if the Galway players and mentors took a few deep gulps watching rejuvenated Kilkenny humiliate their fiercest rivals Tipperary in Sunday’s bruising All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park, but let’s us not join the prophets of doom already passing judgement on next month’s big September showdown.
For a start, Galway are a way better team than Tipperary; are physically stronger; and possess a much more dangerous attack. Furthermore, every game is different and while we all know nobody executes revenge more ruthlessly than Kilkenny, we don’t expect Galway to be quite as accommodating as the Munster champions were last Sunday when they completely lose the plot inside and outside the four white lines.
This was an embarrassing day for Tipperary hurling as the county suffered its heaviest championship defeat in over a century. On levels terms five minutes into the second-half, Declan Ryan’s men subsequently collapsed without trace as the relentless Cats ran riot from there to the finish to register a staggering 18 point triumph.
Nobody expected such a turnaround from the interval and Tipp fans were already filing for the exits 15 minutes from the end.
They say seeing is believing, but it was still hard to come to terms with the way Tipperary were set up. It was all about Lar Corbett and the 2010 Hurler of the Year’ avoiding the clutches of Jackie Tyrell, who had the measure of the Thurles clubman in last year’s All-Ireland final. In what was obviously a pre-match tactical plan, Corbett was assigned to pick up Tommy Walsh and we were treated to the comical sight of Tipperary’s most dangerous attacker running around after the Kilkenny wing back for over 50 minutes.
It was bizarre stuff, especially as Tyrell was determined to remain in Corbett’s slipstream which hardly helped the performance of another Tipperary forward, Pa Burke, who was being picked up by Walsh.
Tempers were frayed and Corbett’s negative approach ensured he was a virtual passenger for the match. Why the Tipperary management didn’t abandon the strategy after ten minutes is beyond explanation.
Another victim in this tactical meltdown was Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher who was left toiling at full forward for much of the game. A strong runner who relishes being in the thick of the action, Maher was sacrificed in a position to which he is not ideally suited to. It made no sense whatsoever and contributed to a really poor performance by Tipperary who hardly did themselves any favours either by trying to engage Kilkenny so much physically.
It’s one thing trying to stand up to Kilkenny shoulder to shoulder, but trying to intimidate them is just a waste of time. Galway in the Leinster final tackled like demons and didn’t back away from the manly stuff, but there was no stupid aggression or deliberately trying to get Kilkenny’s dander up. Moving the ball fast is the best way to inconvenience the All-Ireland champions, not trying to move the man, if you get my drift.
For all that, Kilkenny were in magnificent order. They were unlucky to trail by a point at half-time, but they just cut loose altogether on the resumption when Corbett, symbolic of his troubled day, was nearly 40 seconds late in rejoining the action. Aidan Fogarty and TJ Reid were the two players who repeatedly drove the stakes through Tipperary hearts and with Brian Hogan lording it at centre back, the second-half quickly turned into a nightmare for punch-drunk Tipperary.
Paul Curran and company simply couldn’t cope when Kilkenny went into overdrive in the second-half. Their backline was repeatedly ripped apart; the midfield partnership of Shane McGrath and Brendan Maher was a fading force; while none of their forward line made any significant impact, notwithstanding Pa Burke’s continued accuracy from frees. Tipperary’s form in the championship had not been convincing and the chickens came home to roost on Sunday.
It’s some fall from grace for a team which swept to All-Ireland glory in such breathtaking style two years ago. In the immediate aftermath of ending Kilkenny’s ‘drive for five’, there were predictions that Tipperary had the capacity to dominate for several seasons themselves. It hasn’t happened and the serious decline of the team in such a short period of time is going to lead to much soul searching in the weeks ahead.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.