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Joe Canning: The consequences of another hiding for Tipperary don’t bear thinking about

Munster shouldn’t overshadow the Leinster championships, where yet more drama is on the cards

About midday last Sunday I arrived in Thurles and went for a drive around the town, just to soak up the atmosphere. I’m not sure what I expected to see but all I saw were red jerseys. When the game started all you could see in the ground were red jerseys. This was a home game for Tipperary, where even a draw was going to keep them alive in the championship, and the Tipp crowd just deserted them. It must have been a ratio of 10:1 Cork to Tipp inside Semple Stadium.

With 20 minutes to go I saw Tipperary supporters walking out. A game that had been in the balance at half-time was already over. Watching from the RTÉ studio in the corner I was amazed by how naive Tipp were in their set-up. There was space at both ends of the field, in fairness, but Tipp basically allowed Cork to play the way they wanted.

Their full forwards and half forwards didn’t come out the field for puck-outs so there were acres of room for the Cork half forwards to run into. This Cork team still has weaknesses but if you give them space they’re going to crucify you. Tipp knew that and they still went man on man, almost deciding that they were going beat Cork at their own game. It was madness.

The decision not take off Cathal Barrett before Cork’s second goal was crazy too. Brian Hayes burnt him and when Barrett gave up the chase it looked like he was limping. But the physios came on to the field and Barrett played away. A couple of minutes later he was turned over for Alan Connolly’s second goal and then they took him off. It summed up the poor decision-making that killed Tipp.


During my career I experienced what the Tipperary players felt in the second half. I remember an All-Ireland final against Kilkenny when we were leading at half-time and they killed us in the second half. I played in an All-Ireland quarter-final in Thurles when Waterford beat us by 10 points.

On those days you feel helpless. I was looking at the Tipperary players in the second half last Sunday and they were putting simple chances wide because the game was gone and their heads were gone. Some days, when it goes wrong, it turns into a spiral, out of your control.

Liam Cahill spoke afterwards about the integrity of the Munster championship and the importance of representing the Tipperary jersey in the right way. That’s going to be a huge challenge for them against Clare on Sunday. They’ve already had two hidings this summer; the consequences of another one don’t bear thinking about.

I don’t see any prospect of a blowout in the Gaelic Grounds. I saw a lot in Waterford’s performance last Sunday to give them encouragement. After what happened at the end of the Clare match, with the disputed 65 and the uproar that followed, you can image what Davy Fitzgerald’s approach will be this week: it’s us against the world, nobody wants us in this championship. It was the kind of approach that Ger Loughnane often used when Davy was playing for Clare.

That only works, though, if you have the players to go to war and I think Waterford have. I was impressed by the way they hung in there against Clare last Sunday. The issue they have to address is being tighter at the back. For two of Clare’s goals Tadhg de Burca was missing from the middle because he was looking to join the play on the wing. In his absence Clare went straight through the centre.

After Limerick’s defeat against Cork and their strange performance against Clare, people have questioning the All-Ireland champions and wondering if they’re coming back to the pack. I don’t see it like that. Against Cork they were still in front in injury-time, having absorbed everything that Cork could throw at them. I saw more than enough in the second half to convince me that they’re still on track.

The biggest problem that I see for Limerick this year is their injury list. Over the years they’ve often had at least one big injury to cope with, but this year they’ve had three or four at the same time. Peter Casey is gone for the year, Mike Casey went off against Clare, Darragh O’Donovan hasn’t played in the championship yet this season and Seán Finn was forced off against Cork.

A big thing for Limerick under John Kiely has been their capacity to finish games off with a massive impact off the bench. Cathal O’Neill and David Reidy have been big players in that role, but because of the injuries they’ve been starting games. Graeme Mulcahy has been used a lot in that role too, but he didn’t come on against Cork and maybe he has fallen down the pecking order. Three of the young lads that came on in Páirc Uí Chaoimh are in their breakthrough seasons. It’s hard to expect players like that to turn a game around.

Limerick have so much experience of these pressure situations, though, that I can’t see them getting caught. Making fast starts hasn’t been the pattern for Limerick, but I can see them targeting that on Sunday.

The Leinster championship has been overshadowed by the Munster championship again, in terms of attention and promotion, and I think that’s wrong. Every year, since the round-robin came in, the Leinster championship has produced a dramatic final day. Of the four teams at the top of the table, any two of them can reach the Leinster final, and any three of them can qualify.

The key thing on Sunday, I think, will be home advantage. Dublin are playing really well, and I think they should have beaten Kilkenny last Saturday night. If their game against Galway was in Parnell Park it would be very hard to call, but Galway’s record against them in Pearse Stadium is good.

From Galway’s point of view this is a game they must win if they’re going to do anything later in the year. They haven’t done anything so far to suggest they can win the All-Ireland but there’s still time to turn that around. It has to start on Sunday.

I’m not sure what to make of Kilkenny. With the exception of Adrian Mullen all of their injuries have cleared up and they should be kicking on now. John Donnelly has been one of the best forwards in the championship so far this year and he’s been backing up his performances from week to week. They needed him again in Parnell Park last Saturday night.

Kilkenny haven’t beaten Wexford in the championship for the last two years, and they didn’t beat them in the league this year either. Wexford are going well and there is no outcome in Nowlan Park that would be a shock, but I just think Kilkenny will shade it.

One way or another it could be another insane weekend.