Tipperary Supporters Club

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Co. Tipperary

Eddie Brennan: Tipp showed a vital ingredient needed at this level; you have to have it in your heart

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Source: Independent.ie

What Tipperary served up yesterday was a great lesson to other teams in how to unsettle Limerick. For so much of the game, the champions were out-fought, out-worked, out-played. Tipp got in their faces, winning that dirty ball, and it reminded me of the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final.

What allowed Kilkenny to triumph then was a ravenous work rate, but what we’ve learned over the last four years – and what we saw again yesterday – is that it’s not enough unless it’s maintained for 75 minutes.

Anyone looking to topple Limerick needs a deep squad, because once their impact subs – the finishers – come off the bench, they have this ability to change gears against tired opponents. Limerick’s bench came to the rescue again yesterday, chief being Conor Boylan, who made a quick impact.

If you’re Ronan Maher and you’ve been grappling with Kyle Hayes for 60 minutes, the last thing you want to see is Boylan – a big, abrasive, direct player – who adds freshness and energy. It was the same for David Reidy, who came on just a few minutes before Boylan and popped up with a very important point when the game was still hanging in the balance.

To me, this game was set up for something left field to happen. The narrative all week had been that Tipp were going to get steamrolled, but they showed the rest of the teams how to take on the champions.

The one thing you have to do with Limerick is go in where it hurts. I wrote recently that Tipp had turned in some toothless displays this year, but yesterday they put their bodies on the line. That’s the non-negotiable of championship hurling.

They had a lot of young guys who were nowhere near as conditioned as Limerick’s seasoned players, and there’ll be sore bodies in Tipp’s ranks today after taking them on in the physical stakes.

Limerick might have been a bit casual, but this wasn’t them sauntering into the game, expecting to win. They were only as good as Tipp let them be.

Tipp had pinpointed Dan Morrissey as the weak link in the Limerick half-back line, and they went down on top of him anytime the ball went into that area. Ger Browne was elusive, going all over the pitch, and it was smart from Tipp: they were trying to get Diarmaid Byrnes out of that zone where he likes to play.

Tipp had three distinct zones they went to on puck-outs: either short to Ronan Maher or Dan Morrissey, or else they went over that zone. When they did, they made sure to steer clear of Byrnes and Declan Hannon, and that really nullified their effect on the game.

They forced Limerick long with a lot of their restarts, which isn’t Limerick’s preference, and it was clear the champions are a different team without Cian Lynch. Tipp kept their structure relatively strong and in a match like that, when you need a creative spark, the guy who was providing it was Aaron Gillane. But Tipp cut down supply to him and Cathal Barrett did a really good job, getting in his face. That’s where Limerick needed Lynch, a guy who can pick the locks, who can find the killer pass, and his presence was missed.

Limerick’s touch was off, but that was mainly because Tipp didn’t give them an inch. Barry Heffernan did a really good job at midfield, while Conor Stakelum was doubling up, helping out his backs that bit more and always looking for work. With tidier shooting, Tipp could have been further ahead at half-time.

But down the stretch, Limerick’s game-changers came to the fore. Tom Morrissey picked off some good scores, while Declan Hannon and Barry Nash also came charging forward for crucial scores.

Ultimately, though, it was the goals that finished Tipp. Gillane can be a sloppy player, a guy who gets himself involved in unnecessary stuff, but he’s also an absolute nuisance, a scourge, in and around the square. His signature move is getting behind you and floating in from your left-hand side, and he got two goals out of that yesterday. When he’s in that position and fed the ball, he’s lethal.

The story of the game, in ways, was a lot of bad wides for both sides, but we also learned Limerick can’t afford to be less than 100 per cent or they’ll get clipped. Tipp threw down a massive challenge and had them on the ropes for an hour. Limerick rode their luck, they were refereed very firm, but you could sense that if they got their noses in front there was a big kick in them. Great teams find a way down the straight.

Tipp produced a much-needed performance. The criticism had been raining in in recent weeks – some of it justified – but in those situations it’s all about what’s in your heart, your stomach.

For the future of Colm Bonnar’s project, he needed to know these players cared, that the jersey on their back meant enough to them. The players showed it did, fighting hard, and Bonnar knows he’s got a decent crew of lads.

They restored a level of pride in their jersey, and while they’ve a lot of work to do to get back to the highs of 2019, they showed a vital ingredient needed at this level; you have to have it in your heart.

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