Munster final 2009 overview

July 16, 2009

MAKE sense of that. Beyond the pageantry and the pitch invasions, four Tipperary goals should have copper-fastened victory over Waterford yesterday in Semple Stadium’s Munster SHC final, but the Premier county were, surprisingly, only four ahead at the close.

Should we disregard that points difference? Are there now lies, damned lies and scoreboards? Tipp should have had plenty to spare over the Déise yesterday, and once they managed that fourth goal just after half-time the difference should have been expressed in stark black and white, but Waterford were a live option into the closing minutes.

The game wasn’t a classic. A Munster hurling final is usually a steak that doesn’t need the sizzle, but the razzmatazz of the GAA’s 125th anniversary celebrations were a major ingredient yesterday. The Munster championship-winning captains of the last 25 years were introduced at half-time in the senior game, the Artane Band provided the entertainment and Jimmy Doyle of Tipperary brought a lit torch into the stadium to culminate the triumphant procession from Hayes’ Hotel.

Hey, in the new Ireland everybody gets to march on the 12th of July.

In the game itself, Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald admitted afterwards that his plan was to go for goals early, and Eoin Kelly proved that after five minutes. He lined up a 21-metre free after five minutes and decided to test the Tipp concentration, squeezing in a goal.

Tipp settled, and Seamus Callanan and Lar Corbett were prominent in establishing their rhythm. With the elegant Noel McGrath getting involved they carved open goal chances at the Waterford end, taking three of them. Corbett surged along the end line before the break for the third to seal a terrific Tipp half.

In 35 minutes Tipperary
had racked up three goals and 10 points. The only question
at half-time was whether
they could avoid the 20-minute sabbaticals which afflicted them against Cork and Clare.

The answer seemed to arrive minutes into the second half: a defensive mix-up in front of the Waterford goal allowed Corbett a simple ground pull for Tipp’s fourth goal. At that stage it was 4-11 to 2-6 and Waterford looked in need of snookers.

But once again, Tipp faded. Waterford managed the last six scores of the game and could maybe count themselves unlucky that their best goal chance in the second half fell to the inexperienced Maurice Shanahan, whose shot was blocked with quarter of an hour left.

If that had fallen to another Waterford predator,
the ending might
have been far more nervy for Tipp boss Liam Sheedy.

“Waterford outhurled us for long stretches in the second half,” said Sheedy afterwards. “At times we were hanging on with the odd point. We’re glad to be back in Croke Park. At times some of our play was top class, we just have to continue with the struggle for that consistency.”

Sheedy was acknowledging that Tipp’s second-half fade-out would drive today’s agenda. So did star midfielder Shane McGrath. Kind of.

“I don’t really care,” said McGrath. “We’ve the cup in the dressing-room. Ah, I know it’s a worrying thing for us, but we’ll sit down next week and have a chat about that. We’ve four or five weeks to prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final. Another step to get to where we want to be, an All-Ireland final.”

Waterford have their own worries. A ruthless edge in front of their own goal has been missing from their armoury for years, and yesterday proved that all over again.

“Tipp were in control of the game for a lot of it,” said Fitzgerald. “It wasn’t that Tipp slackened — we kept going with it, we kept driving and I’m proud of the lads for that.

“We have to look at our mistakes. The first goal, the one just before half-time and the one just after half-time came from mistakes we made. Bad errors. But we’ll put down the heads and work away. We have the character and I’m glad to put that to rest after last year.”

Tipperary have their own work to do. Consistency is something to improve; is discipline another area to focus on? They picked up four yellow cards to Waterford’s one, and at one stage in the first conceded a 20-metre free, defended that — and then conceded another 20-metre free for off-the-ball foolishness when the ball had been cleared outfield. Costly.

There were green shoots yesterday for Waterford. They picked up a first minor title since 1992 with a team staffed by youngsters who have spent summers following their heroes to All-Ireland semi-finals. Some of those should join Noel Connors in the rebuilding.

It’s the same for every county: the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

Teddy Kennedy said that nearly 30 years ago. The men who met in Hayes’ Hotel 125 years ago would have endorsed it.

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