Davy Fitzgerald column: Tipperary transitional period near the end

The Tipperary hurling public will accept a defeat provided they go down with a bit of fight.

That’s why they’ll live with Sunday’s loss to Limerick in a way that they never could with the Clare debacle in Thurles.

They stood up after that horror show and while it was a seven-point defeat in the end, the final margin was harsh on them, with the game taking on a very different pattern to that which was anticipated pre-match.

Tipp showed far more desire, they were much more competitive in the 50-50 exchanges, both from puckouts and breaking ball.

Colm Bonnar made a big call by replacing Brian Hogan with his namesake Barry in goal. I thought it was harsh as Brian had made some unreal saves. Maybe it was puckout-related, but it seemed a strange decision to me.

For the most part, Tipp got it right in how they policed the Limerick half-forwards. I’ve been saying it for a long time now that Gearóid Hegarty, Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey should be followed and not allowed to drift. There was no Lynch this time but Tipp were aggressive on the Limerick half-forward line and got their rewards for it.

But when doing that, you must have an extra defender covering. They didn’t have that against Clare and got exposed but they were fairly solid on Sunday.

However, Aaron Gillane’s two goals could have been prevented. Seamus Kennedy and Cathal Barrett were caught ball-watching, allowing Gillane to float in behind them and win possession with the goal at his mercy.

And Tipperary didn’t stick with the gameplan all the way through either, and to their great cost. Hegarty drifted back unmarked and did untold damage in the last 20 minutes.

But they can still take heart from the performance and it’s important that Colm Bonnar is given time.

It’s hard for them to take losing three games on the bounce, with the possibility of a fourth, but they’ve blooded eight new players having suffered with retirements and injuries.

But while it’s great for the young lads to be getting a chance in League and Championship this year, 2023 will be massive for them. There may be leeway granted for a poor Championship showing this year, but it won’t extend beyond that.

The transitional period will be over very shortly and then they need to start winning.

As for Limerick, they’ll have been happy just to get the victory in the end but I didn’t see the intensity and physicality that was apparent in the first two games. I was behind John Kiely and Paul Kinnerk at the Waterford game and their body language was very animated, almost as though they were playing themselves.

I didn’t see that from them on Sunday and that edge was lacking in the team’s performance too.

But, in fairness, they never panicked and took over with 15 minutes to go. Hegarty was a massive part of that and Gillane was impressive too, while also sailing close to the wind once again.

On balance, I think a yellow card for his swing across Ronan Maher was the right call. As the impact came he released one hand from the hurley, which suggests to me that he wasn’t intent on hurting the player.

Clare have the personnel to rattle Limerick

Clare won’t fear Limerick on Sunday and playing in Ennis is a massive advantage for them.

Limerick will naturally be favourites but Clare have more than enough good players to compete with them. They have to be smart in their approach, however, and I can’t wait to see how they set themselves up tactically.

People may think that Limerick will ease up but I don’t buy that – they’ll want to win.

I expect a fast and furious game. Clare have to throw everything at it and be smart.

They have a chance because they have the players. Look at their results, while underage performances have been encouraging of late too.

People may be lining up to knock the county board but plenty of work has been done – these players didn’t just arrive overnight.

The structures are sound – there’s a stadium to be proud of, a good training ground despite what the knockers may say and hopefully the senior team can put on a top performance on Sunday that will deliver a victory.

Either way, I don’t think the coming years will be too bad. The last 25 certainly haven’t been.

All on the line at Walsh Park

Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final, FBD Semple Stadium, Thurles Tipperary 2/4/2022 Cork vs Waterford Waterford’s Tadhg de Burca and Patrick Horgan of Cork Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Waterford and Cork are coming from different places ahead of Sunday’s meeting and while it may be round robin, there’s a knockout edge to this.

If Waterford win they’re into the All-Ireland series and en route to a Munster final. Lose and they’re in a scrap to stay in the competition ahead of a trip to Ennis.

Cork, meanwhile, can’t afford another defeat with victory a must to keep themselves alive in this Championship.

They also need the win to banish much of the negativity surrounding the team at present. They must show fight, physicality and desire, key areas in which they’re being questioned at the moment.

On form, Waterford should win but, given the backdrop, I’d expect Cork to fight like tigers.

What changes will their management make this time? Will there be more bite up front?

There’d want to be, but I’d still expect Waterford to shade it.

True Dublin will be revealed on Saturday

It’s a very big game for both Dublin and Kilkenny at Parnell Park on Saturday evening.

Kilkenny will have been hurt by the defeat in Galway and now need a win to stay in contention for a Leinster final spot, where I suspect Galway will be waiting for them again.

Dublin have played ok without hitting their full potential. I’m looking forward to how they’ll measure up with Kilkenny for intensity. During the League meeting, Kilkenny were very physical and Dublin struggled around the middle.

I expect a tight game, it may even end in a draw, but we’ll know a lot more about where Dublin are afterwards.

Elsewhere, while Westmeath did well against Dublin I don’t see anything but a comfortable Wexford win over them this weekend. The same with Galway over Laois.

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