Tomorrow, Semple Stadium, Thurles, 3pm, (Ref: Eddie Kinsella, Laois)
Latest from the medics and management…Tipperary have made just the one change to their team with Alan Maloney starting in attack as Brian Mulvihill makes way.
TIPPERARY SF: Paul Fitzgerald (Fethard); Andrew Morrissey (Galtee Rovers), Paddy Codd (Killenaule), Ciarán McDonald (Aherlow); Brian Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty), Robbie Kiely (Arravale Rovers), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers); George Hannigan (Shannon Rovers), Hugh Coghlan (Portlaoise, Laois); Richie Ryan (Eire Og Annacarty), Alan Maloney (Rockwell Rovers), Donagh Leahy (Arravale Rovers); Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials), Peter Acheson (Moyle Rovers), Philip Austin (Borrisokane)
ANTRIM SF: TBC
Checking the odds…Tipperary are favorites at 8/11 with Antrim at 11/8. The draw is priced at 15/2 with the handicap having Tipperary (-1) at evens.
Clues from the form guide…Tipperary have turned their season around after a terrible start to the campaign. They lost their first five games in the league, shipping a couple of bad beatings from Wexford and Sligo on the way, but have turned matters around in remarkable fashion. They concluded the league with a draw against Longford and victory over Offaly, put in a brave display challenging Kerry in the Munster championship before dispatching Offaly and Wexford in qualifier ties in recent weeks. Last Saturday’s victory over Jason Ryan’s side was deeply heartening and they are a buoyant force at present.
The mood in Antrim football is similarly positive. Three years on from reaching an Ulster final against Tyrone and running Kerry close in the qualifiers, they are back in a positive place. The disappointment at losing to Monaghan in the provincial quarter-final this year was eased by getting past a difficult hurdle in Ruislip against London and then last Saturday, they produced a fantastic one-point victory at home to Galway.
The game breakers are…Tipperary build their challenge from the back. If a list was to be compiled of some of the most under-rated defenders in the country then the Premier corner-back Ciaran McDonald and wing-back Brian Fox would be at top of the list. They have both been magnificent in recent games while Paddy Codd has anchored the challenge superbly from full-back.
It’s noticeable that a Tipperary team that conceded seven goals in three consecutive league games in March has now kept five clean sheets on the trot. Allied to the combination play of George Hannigan and Hugh Coghlan at midfield, the scoring threat of Philip Austin and Michael Quinlivan which has helped alleviate the loss of Barry Grogan, and the excellence of Peter Acheson, and Tipperary have much to offer.
Still Antrim are not a mediocre outfit. The McCann’s, Tomas and Michael, kicked seven points between them last week but it was the leadership they showed which was most significant. As a team Antrim are well capable of converting point-scoring opportunities from long-range, they showed great spirit to edge out Galway last weekend while James Loughrey and Justin Crozier are excellent defenders. The departure of Aodhan Gallagher from the panel, on the back of Paddy Cunningham’s recent exit, was not a positive sign though.
Gazing into the crystal ball…In both Casement Park and Semple Stadium last week, there was euphoria after Antrim and Tipperary’s respective victories. Whichever team has come back down to earth quickest will be decisive but it is certain that both will be pleased with this draw having avoided the heavyweights. There is a golden opportunity here to reach round four and the league meeting earlier in the year when Antrim won by three points in Thurles suggests there will be little between the teams.
But the Tipperary line-up has undergone drastic changes since with only eight survivors from that starting fifteen, and only three of them in the same position, which has lead to substantial improvements in their performances. It’s a tight call but Tipperary have turned Semple Stadium into a fortress of late and have done enough to suggest they can maintain that run.