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How do you stop the Tipperary attacking duo Callanan and O'Dwyer?

The Premier attackers will be key to their hopes of beating Galway today.

John O'Dwyer celebrates scoring the second goal for Tipperary last year against Dublin with Seamus Callanan. John O'Dwyer celebrates scoring Tipperary's second goal last year against Dublin with Seamus Callanan. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

THEY CLAIMED THEIR first Allstar awards in 2014 and were principal reasons as to why Tipperary came desperately close to sweeping to September glory.

2015 has seen little change, Seamus Callanan and John O’Dwyer once more providing the attacking inspiration that has propelled Tipperary to a Munster title last month and an All-Ireland semi-final contest today.

The duo took Limerick for a combined 2-12 in the Munster semi-final before grabbing 0-11 between them in that provincial decider against Waterford.

Seamus Hickey was at the coalface for Limerick that day in the Gaelic Grounds in June and is perfectly placed to figure out how to stymie their threat.

“You really are only a threat at inter county if you’re doing it consistently. If you’re doing it in sporadic bursts, you don’t command the respect that some players do like TJ Reid and Richie Hogan.

“They do it day in, day out and they’re the guys who are respected. (With) Bubbles and Seamus Callanan, it’s obviously the same thing now.

“Experience is probably the key to both players breakthrough and improving. The boys both have a very good work ethic. As individuals they have a desire to improve their game. They want to get better.”

Kellogg's Cúl Camp - University of Limerick Limerick Hurler and Kellogg’s Ambassador, Seamus Hickey, is pictured at the Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camp at the University of Limerick where the inter-county star delivered a new ground breaking ‘Kellogg’s Powering Play’ workshop. Source: SPORTSFILE

Callanan has been featured on Hickey’s radar for a longer period of time.

“I first would have come across Seamus when he was playing Fitzgibbon with LIT. He was a long time around the Tipperary panel but especially since last year, he is their go to guy. Especially for goals and important scores.

“Last year in the All-Ireland final when Tipperary needed scores, he rattled off points off JJ (Delaney) and really led the line better than he’s ever done before.

“This year he’s at it again where he left off last year. A brilliant game against us  in Limerick unfortunately. Munster final he was a bit subdued by the way Waterford were set up but still scored for Tipp.

“Callanan wasn’t the force he is now in his early years. He was sporadic, he could do great things on on one day and very rarely follow it up the next.


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“But his experience with age and getting a bit of confidence means he can do it regularly.”

The Drom-Inch man has been the focal point of Tipperary’s attack and for Hickey, trying to congest the space available to Callanan is key.

“A lot of Seamus’s strengths comes from how Tipperary use him. They use Lar Corbett in a lot of the same way over the last few years. Having that pocket of space and having Seamus run into it and playing the ball into it.

“Callanan can take you on, strike it left or right. Against us Niall O’Meara ran out and that opened that pocket of space that Callanan absolutely loves.

Seamus Hickey blocks the goal bound shot from Seamus Callanan Seamus Hickey blocks a goal bound shot from Seamus Callanan. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Waterford didn’t do that, they’d the spare man back. The Tipperary goal threat wasn’t there like it had been.

“In hindsight we wouldn’t have let that pocket of space open in front of Seamus like we did.”

Bubbles has burst to the fore more recently, firing 1-3 when Tipperary lost to Limerick in the 2013 Munster semi-final before last summer’s breakout campaign.

“Bubbles is a different animal,” says Hickey.

“Marking him is particularly difficult because he doesn’t need much room to actually strike the ball. Denying him primary possession is probably the easiest way to mark Bubbles.

Seamus Hickey with John O'Dwyer Seamus Hickey in action against John O'Dwyer in June's Munster semi-final Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“That’s very, very hard to do because he’s put on a lot of strength and conditioning in the last year or two. I was marking him in Limerick and I literally had him two or three times, he swung through it and split the posts.

“He’s not afraid to take shots that are deemed hard for anybody else. He makes low percentage shots, it’s very frustrating to mark him.

“Bubbles knows the shots he was trying two years ago weren’t coming off but now are coming off. It’s that experience and confidence, the nerves become less and less of a factor every year you play.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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