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Tipp must up the ante in September date with Cody's 'masters of intensity'

Stats from yesterday’s All-Ireland semi-final victory over Galway have highlighted areas where Tipperary can improve.

NOT. THIS. TIME. Recent history may have taught us that Tipperary generally lose tight encounters but getting one over opponents of real significance, and with just a single point to spare, will fuel confidence levels ahead of another September showdown with Kilkenny.

Tipp couldn’t be going into the final in a better position. A lot done, more to do. So much more.

When Michael Ryan succeeded Eamon O’Shea as Premier County manager last year, he immediately promised a more direct approach and greater levels of physicality. 

So far, he’s been true to his word but the graphic above, provided by the GAA, provides food for thought and scope for improvement ahead of next month.

True, Tipp were direct yesterday against Galway and Pádraic Maher’s bone-crunching first half hit on Joe Canning was in the ‘physical’ bracket.

But the tackle count favoured Galway 54-33 and when Tipp come up against a team that Ryan has described as ‘the masters of intensity’, a repeat performance simply won’t do.

Many teams set their players a target of at least one hook or block per half.

Taking the 14 outfield players as a collective, you’re looking at numbers in their 20s for an entire game, in an ideal world, of course.

Tipp’s hooks and blocks totalled 11 against Galway, with the Tribesmen effecting eight.

Room for improvement? You betcha.

Tipp had more possession but lost more of their own puck-outs than Galway did, while also falling behind the Westerners in terms of contested aerial balls.

As our hurling analyst Tommy Dunne pointed out last week, if you want to stand toe-to-toe with Kilkenny, you have to match, or better them, in the skies.

Ironically, perhaps the only game of real consequence in living memory lost by a team that won the majority of the aerial exchanges was the 2009 All-Ireland final, when 14-man Tipp were hit by two late goals down the home straight.

Again, recent history suggests that Tipp are one of the few teams that can match Kilkenny in an overall context but they’ll have to come up a few notches for what promises to be a fascinating Croke Park clash.

Darren Gleeson celebrates at the final whistle Darren Gleeson celebrates Tipperary's progression to another All-Ireland final. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Looking ahead, it’s difficult to envisage Ryan making too many changes in personnel. John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer came on as sub yesterday and is almost certain to hold onto his starting spot.

While Irish Independent columnist Cyril Farrell suggested this morning that Dan McCormack might be the man to lose out, don’t expect this to happen.

McCormack’s performance was 8/10 in terms of what he contributed to the team. He provided an assist for a John McGrath first half point and was also fouled for three frees pointed by Seamus Callanan.

McCormack was directly involved, therefore, in four Tipperary points on a day when the men in blue and gold had to work hard for scores.

Farrell’s argument is that Tipp need more scorers in the team but the return of O’Dwyer, presumably for the man he replaced yesterday, Niall O’Meara, should make them more potent.

With McCormack and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher doing the spadework, it’s up to the likes of Bubbles, Callanan, Noel McGrath and John McGrath to fire the bullets.

1-4 from play from the six starting forwards on Sunday won’t be good enough to trouble Kilkenny but it’s interesting to note that the two finalists both scored 2-19 at the weekend.

Dan McCormack with Daithi Burke Dan McCormack is fulfilling an understated and effective role for Tipperary. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Kilkenny had that two-goal salvo from Colin Fennelly and scoring contributions from eight players, Tipperary the same.

It doesn’t really matter where the scores come from, as long as they come. On the face of it, Tipp and Kilkenny are evenly-matched.

Even the bookies are struggling to split them right now as Kilkenny are available at even money, with Tipp 11/10.

Tipp, more than anybody, know what lies in store. They’ve been down this road with Kilkenny before – finals in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014 (twice) the most recent encounters in early September with the Liam MacCarthy Cup at stake.

Having crashed through one psychological barrier on Sunday (the ‘can’t close out a tight match’ one), Tipp now have another Everest to scale.

After denying the Cats five-in-a-row in 2010, they now have the chance to scupper their treble dreams.

But since winning six years ago, Kilkenny have ended Tipp’s championship interest in 2011, 2012 (by 18 points), 2013 and 2014.

Eoin Kelly lifts the Liam McCarthy Cup Tipperary captain Eoin Kelly lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2010. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The Cats have the Indian sign over their neighbours but to be the best, you have to beat the best.

Getting to the pitch of the game much earlier will give Tipp a chance. Perhaps the five-week lay-off played a part in what was a sub-standard performance by their standards yesterday but this one will bring them on considerably.

And after all that’s gone before, the mantra is straightforward. NOT. THIS. TIME.

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Tipp’s goal threat, the Bonner Maher effect and THAT Eoin Murphy catch

Poll: Who do you now think will lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup in Croke Park next month?

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