FROM TIPPERARY’S ROCKY road, why the home-and-away draws are not the answer, to why Waterford’s fight only takes you so far — Shane Stapleton looks at the weekend’s important issues…
That Tipperary will have to do this the hard way.
Declan Ryan’s men might be looking at arguably the toughest route an All-Ireland winner has ever faced if they are to regain the Liam McCarthy Cup in 2012. The probable/possible route might be Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny and Galway — that would be some achievement as all have proved to be made of the good stuff.
That it’s a squad game.
Tipperary were able to bring in Eoin Kelly, Shane Bourke and, belatedly, Seamus Callanan into their forward line and that helped tip the scales late on. Bourke hit 1-1 and Kelly 0-3 in the second half while Waterford, in that second half, managed 0-5 in total with just 0-1 from the bench.
That fight only takes you so far.
There were 90 dirty balls (possession up for grabs) in the game and Waterford won 61% per cent of that (55-35): 27 to 18 in the first and 28 to 17 in the second. Still, the class of Tipperary and the wastefulness of the Déise attack decided the tie in the second half.
Goalkeeping errors are costly.
Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe got lost under a high free from Eoin Kelly and it resulted in a Shane Bourke goal for Tipp while Wexford’s Eanna Martin flapped and allowed Cork’s Luke O’Farrell nip in for a major. Both errors did their side’s momentum little favours.
That home-and-away draws are not exclusively the way forward in the qualifiers.
You’ll find plenty of supporters of this route and certainly the clash of Clare and Dublin in Ennis a week before the final set of qualifiers seemed to back that up: a raucous home crowd in a small venue. While that all makes sense, it is a massive disadvantage to the away team in a knockout competition.
The hurling double-header (as part of a Saturday triple-header) at Semple Stadium might have had just over 20,000 in attendance but it was rockin’. It was fair to all sides too.
On the billing, Tipperary’s footballers were the only home team but they were well outnumbered as they beat Wexford so there was certainly no disadvantage to any team present.
Cork, the Models, Limerick and Clare all played away from home but on a great pitch in a central venue.
Tipperary captain Paul Curran gives the cup to 7-year-old Jack McGrath after the presentation ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
That this young generation of hurlers are exceptional.
It was difficult to pick the standout star on Saturday in Semple Stadium because there were more than a few. Indeed it’s notable that a number have quickly taken on the free-taking responsibilities with their counties.
Jack Guiney grew into Wexford’s clash with Cork so well and took his frees nicely, set up chances and swung over a couple of scores. Shane Dowling already looks a mature part of the Limerick forward line, and that’s among a very young crop. Graeme Mulcahy, Sean Tobin, Declan Hannon and Kevin Downes represent the next 10 years of Treaty hurling and the future looks to be in safe hands (didn’t they say that after the three under-21 All-Irelands not so long ago, says you).
Clare, of course, have very few experienced campaigners in their ranks and though they say goodbye to the championship, they’ve left their mark. We’ll spare you the tedium of naming out half their team.
For Cork, Luke O’Farrell stole the show and it’s a wonder that he was not a starter from day dot in championship 2012. He scored two goals and won a penalty, all in the space of eight minutes.
That it’s a shame to say goodbye to some of this year’s teams.
You may not care that Wexford are gone from the championship because, thanks to a cursory glance at the 10-point deficit against Cork, they quickly become an afterthought. In truth, it’s the dismissive attitude that any decent side will beat them by as much as they want.
Yet that is to ignore the entertainment they provided on Saturday. As we mentioned already, they conceded three goals in eight minutes but they never threw the towel in. Liam Dunne has made them a resilient bunch and the pity is that we won’t see them again.
The Models might struggle against the All-Ireland challengers but they would give most others a rattle, and we’d love to see more of them. As we would Offaly, who pushed the same Cork team for 60-odd minutes in the previous round of qualifiers.
Clare are possibly a step ahead of Wexford right now and, again, we would love to see more of them. That’s two weekends in succession of pulsating action involving the Banner County.
The GAA has a valuable commodity in the re-emerging crop of hurling sides, and it needs to finds ways of using it more. As things stand, the years are passing by with some teams playing just a couple of games. That makes no sense.