Saturday, Cusack Park, Mullingar, 4pm, (Ref: Cormac Reilly, Meath)
Latest from the medics and management…Tipperary manager Peter Creedon has invested faith again in the side that claimed victory against Antrim last weekend. There is one notable positional change that sees Philip Austin move to centre-forward with Alan Maloney switching inside to the corner. Brian Mulvihill and Conor Sweeney are the attackers most likely to be introduced from the bench during the game.
TIPPERARY: Paul Fitzgerald (Fethard); Andrew Morrissey (Galtee Rovers), Paddy Codd (Killenaule), Ciarán McDonald (Aherlow); Brian Fox (Eire Óg, Anacarty), Robbie Kiely (Arravale Rovers), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers); George Hannigan (Shannon Rovers), Hugh Coghlan (Portlaoise); Richie Ryan (Eire Og Annacarty), Philip Austin (Borrisokane), Donagh Leahy (Arravale Rovers); Alan Maloney (Rockwell Rovers), Peter Acheson (Moyle Rovers), Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials).
Down have yet to name their team with continued concerns over the fitness of attacker Danny Hughes but team mate Benny Coulter looks to have shaken off his injury problems.
Checking the odds…Down are 1/2 to triumph while Tipperary are priced at 9/4. The handicap betting has Down (-2) at 10/11 and in the anytime goalscorer markets, check out Benny Coulter 16/5 and Michael Quinlivan 7/2.
Clues from the form guide…Tipperary have momentum and consistency entering this game with qualifier wins over the past three weekends to their credit. Home advantage was certainly of assistance in those games but they have developed the knack of holding their nerve in tense finales as a one-point win over Wexford and a two-point victory over Antrim suggests.
Down must attempt to rouse themselves in the wake of the thrashing they suffered against Donegal in last week’s Ulster final. The optimism that prevailed after their comeback success against Monaghan has now dissipated and after last Sunday’s 11-point loss, there is plenty of scope for improvement in James McCartan’s side. Recent league meetings between the counties have been tight with Tipperary winning the Division 3 league final in 2009 by a point and the teams then drew in Newry two years ago.
The game breakers are…Alan Maloney, who weighed in with 0-6 last Saturday against Antrim, is a key marksman in the Tipperary attack while Michael Quinlivan has adjusted excellently to the senior grade following last year’s minor heroics. Down badly need to stifle the impact of Peter Acheson if they are to triumph here as he is having an outstanding season and is a forceful runner in possession. Tipperary’s defence is another area of strength with Ciaran McDonald and Brian Fox both on course for Allstar nominations at this juncture while Sligo’s Colm McGee was the last player to register a goal against Tipperary in a competitive match when he found the net on March 18th.
Down held their own for 40 minutes last week against Donegal but were guilty of profligacy in attack. Benny Coulter is reportedly back to full fitness which should help James McCartan’s side and Liam Doyle looked impressive at stages last week. But they need to compete more favourably at midfield where Donegal dominated last week and avoid being over-run in defence. Tipperary are not at the awesome level Donegal reached last week but Down cannot allow that to breed complacency in their setup.
Down manager James McCartan during last week’s Ulster final. Pic: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Gazing into the crystal ball…The hangover from provincial final defeats has been well-documented with only Dublin in 2001 against Sligo managing to turn their season around in the space of six days. It is clearly a hurdle that Down must overcome but aside from those mental scars, there was physical evidence last week that they can be prised open at the back.
Their status as a Division 1 team who reached a league semi-final in April may give them an edge on paper against a Tipperary team who have slumped to Division 4. Yet the metamorphosis that Premier county have undertaken since then has been remarkable. They are brimming with confidence after recent victories, will benefit from the game being played in the tight confines of Mullingar and are poised to spring a surprise.
Join us tomorrow afternoon as we go live from Mullingar with minute-by-minute updates of Tipperary v Down from 4pm.