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John Gardiner: Tipperary's adaptability, Cork's determination and Paul Ryan's accuracy

Our columnist has his say on the weekend’s hurling action.

Lar Corbett and Seamus Callanan celebrate with fans after the game Lar Corbett and Seamus Callanan celebrate a Munster title. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IT WASN’T A classic Munster final by any means today but the intensity from both teams was clear from the start and, the way Tipperary and Waterford set up with all those bodies around the centre of the field, they seemed to play into each other.

Waterford did get on top after the first 15-20 minutes, their system of pulling Tadhg de Búrca back forced Tipperary into playing a sweeper too but the Déise also appeared to be playing the better hurling.

Even though Tipperary went on to win the game, I think Waterford will have been happy enough with how they played in the first half but the quality of their game really deteriorated after the break and they didn’t use the ball the way they can, especially when Pádraic Maher started getting on top.

Likewise, when Tipp moved Brendan Maher back to wing-back from centre-forward to quieten Kevin Moran and that really took him out of the game.

Lar Corbett then came on as well and, though he only had six or eight touches, he won an important free, scored a point and took the pressure off Seamus Callanan who was being marked by two men inside.

Tipperary will obviously be delighted with the win, it’s their first Munster Championship under Eamon O’Shea, even if it wasn’t a spectacle for the neutrals.

Sweeper system

Tadhg de Búrca is crucial to the Waterford system. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

This sweeper system that teams are playing now — and Cork did it as well on Saturday night — is forcing opponents to take shots from out the field. It seems that teams, other than Kilkenny, are happy enough to battle it out around the middle of the park and try to put the points on the board from there.

The thing is, as we saw today, if one team plays a sweeper the other team nearly automatically has to play that way because they’ll have a spare man back there. It’s very difficult then for the inside forward line because their only job is to hold up the ball.

And the sweepers are playing even deeper, just in front of the full-back line, whereas before you’d have them out the field and winning the ball out the there.

I suppose the reason for so many wides this weekend is that there are really only two ways to combat the sweeper and one of them is to run the ball into the tackle and when you get a man on your shoulder you just pop the ball off and he’s free. Clare did that well against Cork at times.

Then the other way is to take the sweeper out of it all together by trying to pop long-range points over the bar but the accuracy just wasn’t there this weekend for some reason. Last night there was a bit of rain around so maybe you could forgive it but conditions were perfect today.

The exception would be Paul Ryan of Dublin. His 0-12 (0-6 from play) was a masterclass and though Limerick will be kicking themselves today after all their wides, Ryan’s role in getting Dublin to the quarter-finals cannot be understated.

Quarter-finals

General view of the 42 branding Limerick and Dublin played a hard-fought qualifier. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

I think Waterford can bounce back from today’s defeat, they’re a good team and maybe they just stuck to their system a bit too much today. In the last 15 minutes, when the game was going away from them, I thought they might cut loose and play a bit off the cuff but they stuck to their system and they weren’t getting as many chances as they might have.

But it’s not as if they’re just a system team, they’ve good players and they’ll trust Derek McGrath to set them up properly for Dublin. I think they might just have enough for Dublin in the quarter-finals.

As for Cork, I suppose you could describe it as a ‘workmanlike’ performance but I thought it was a dour game to be honest. It was riddled with mistakes and there was very little pattern to the play but, from a Cork point of view, they’ll be delighted to come out playing like that and still getting a win.

I don’t think they played particularly well against Clare and some of tactics like bringing Brian Lawton back to mark Tony Kelly had little or no impact as the Clare man still had a massive say in the game. The likes of Bill Cooper and Aidan Walsh worked very hard though and that was probably the difference between the sides.

If you’re Galway the next day and you’re lining up against Cork it’s the same old story. If you get fellas to look after Patrick Horgan, take care of Conor Lehane and obviously Seamus Harnedy — if they can put the shackles on them  – they’ll fancy their chances of reaching the semi-finals.

But the positive from the Cork point of view is that they do seem to be getting better each game and coming out of a match like that where they played poorly in parts will give them confidence going forward. They didn’t outplay Clare at any stage and yet could very soon find themselves in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Kilkenny & Tipp still favourites

Patrick Horgan Patrick Horgan could still have a big role to play in this year's championship. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

I didn’t see anything this weekend that would make me change my mind that Kilkenny and Tipperary are the two likely All-Ireland finalists. I said last week in the column that it was Kilkenny and Tipp ahead followed at the next level by Galway and then the rest.

I think there’s a chance Cork can take Galway but only if they improve and, without sitting on the fence, the other quarter-final could really go either way.

That said, without serious improvement, I’m not sure any of the four will get past Tipperary or Kilkenny and into the final.

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About the author:

John Gardiner

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