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Dublin: 12°C Monday 14 June 2021

Taking stick: why has Premier’s net worth dropped?

After 14 goals in three Munster clashes in 2011, Tipperary have scored just four goals in their last six games – should Declan Ryan be worried?

SINCE BLIZTING WATERFORD for 7-19 in the Munster final last season, Tipperary have scored just four goals in six games.

It’s an alarming drop for a side that has just hit 14 goals in three provincial ties in 2011.

As things stand, Tipp have raised just two green flags in the 2012 league and both of those came in the 2-20 to 2-18 win over Galway.

Moreover, Declan Ryan’s side have not always looked so dangerous in front of goal.

Brian ‘Buggy’ O’Meara had his county’s sole chance for a major against Waterford but sent it precisely where Stephen O’Keeffe’s hurley would have wanted it, while Kilkenny’s goal was under little threat in a round-one defeat. Most recently, John O’Neill would likely have gone though for a goal at Croke Park against Dublin but for a foot trip as he ghosted past the last defender.

For the more sensitive Tipperary supporters out there, they’ll still be counting the cost of another foot trip in the same area of the picth in the All-Ireland final last September: Noel Hickey taking down Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher in the first half. For the pessimists, they’ll point out that Tipp’s goals in both the All-Ireland semi-final and final were as a result of mistakes by Dublin’s Peter Kelly and Kilkenny’s David Herity respectively.

Other than that, the goal machine that was Tipperary seems to have had it.

For now anyway. 2011’s NHL1 revealed that the Premier County had the best points differential with +28 from three wins, two draws and two losses; that figures has dropped to a mere +4 in 2012 after two wins, one draw and a single defeat.

This issue is compounded at the other end of the field where Tipperary have the joint-worst defence, along with Kilkenny (after their six-goal concession to Dublin), in terms of three-pointers given up. Not to mention the worst of any of the four teams still in contention for a league semi-final spot. Even more worryingly, there is a level of consistency to this inconsistency at the back as each league game has resulted in two goals conceded; as was the case in the All-Ireland final loss too. All of which means that the forwards are under added pressure to split the posts more often.

Of course much of this is linked to the experimental sides that Ryan has picked in the league this year, where at times he has had just one (Noel McGrath) of the six forwards he started almost all of last year’s championship with. While most recently against Dublin, Conor O’Mahony and Paul Curran – in addition to Paddy Stapleton who is yet to play in the league this year due to injury – were both late withdrawals as the defence had to be drastically realigned.

You could argue that Brendan Cummins might also have stopped both Dublin goals too, though that may be slighly unfair on replacement ‘keeper Darren Gleeson who is more than competent between the sticks. Still, the long-time incumbent has a history of getting his bas to the trickiest to shots.

All of these mitigating factors suggest that Tipperary have nothing to panic about. Indeed, you could say they are performing quite well given the absentees.

Because while Lar Corbett seems unlikely to return, the likes of Eoin Kelly, Seamus Callanan and Bonner will, and John O’Brien gave a reminder of what a class act he can be in his cameo on Saturday.

As for those men currently struggling to find the net, it would be unfair to dismiss them. Buggy, John O’Neill and Shane Bourke are still relatively new to this level while Pa Bourke takes far more flak than is merited. Indeed it was a surprise to see the Thurles man, a goalscorer in the All-Ireland final, being taken off in the latter stages against Dublin.

Bourke has accounted for 30% of Tipperary’s scores in the league thus far and though part of that has come through sharing free-taking duties with Noel McGrath, he had also averaged a couple of points from play per game.

Tipperary manager Declan ryan: INPHO/James Crombie

Which is certainly acceptable given that the opposition is not preoccupied with the more well-known, stellar-named starters. You need only look at Kilkenny’s forwards in the league final of 2011 to see how difficult it can be to replace dead-eyed experience. Without Richie Power and Henry Shefflin, Kilkenny scored just 1-07 to Dublin’s 0-22 in a rudderless performance. While Matthew Ruth, who is making a name for himself in 2012, was one of several forwards to find the going tough without the regular play-makers and pace-setters coaxing him along as they now are.

For that Kilkenny team to go on and win the All-Ireland teaches us an important lesson: that a team cannot be judged when playing without their full compliment.

Tipperary are struggling with goals in all the wrong places right now but it might not be long but they are back to their blizting best.

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About the author:

Shane Stapleton

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