Analysis: How Tipperary's bench saved their season, their long ball strategy and unforced errors

Michael Ryan deserves credit for his brave calls against Waterford, writes columnist Tommy Dunne.

TIPPERARY WERE CLEARLY aided by that controversial goal in their Munster SHC draw with Waterford on Sunday, but it must be said Michael Ryan’s side showed remarkable character and bravery to force a draw and keep their season alive.

Derek McGrath and Michael Ryan after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was a hugely entertaining game for the most part – even though at one stage it looked like Waterford were going to run out easy winners. Tipperary were able to respond and drag themselves back into the game with the clock running out and the bench was pivotal in that regard.

The furore over the ‘phantom goal’ garnered most of the post-match headlines, but neither team can dwell on the incident too much with important games coming thick and fast this weekend.

After closer inspection of Sunday’s tie, there were aspects of both teams’ performances that will please their respective managers.

A significant concern from a Tipperary perspective is the amount of work they’re leaving themselves to do in terms of trying to claw games back from the brink week after week.

Waterford probably deserved to win the game and would have done so had Gleeson not been adjudged to bring the ball over his own goal line. They’ve been extremely unlucky with refereeing decisions and injuries, but performed admirably on Sunday given the circumstances.

Noel Connors and goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe argue with the umpire after a goal was awarded Noel Connors and goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe argue with the umpire after Tipperary's second goal was awarded Source: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Waterford’s sharp attacking play

Waterford are not always associated with deadly attacking play, but for three-quarters of the game on Sunday their forwards looked very sharp – particularly in the first-half.

A snapshot of their statistics after 16 minutes made very good reading for Derek McGrath. By that stage of the game they were 1-9 to 0-6 in front, having converted all 10 of their scoring chances. They had no wides on the board, which highlights the quality of their attacking play early on.

Some examples of the Deise’s impressive forward play:

1 minute, 34 seconds — Tom Devine was extremely lively and caused lots of problems for Tipp early on.

The diagonal ball which caused the Premier lots of problems the previous week against Cork reared its head once again in the Gaelic Grounds.

In this instance, Pauric Mahony hits a lovely pass across the pitch in front of Devine.

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Devine, who spent last summer in the US, lets it run across his body before darting towards goal and flashing it over the bar.

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3:35 – Stephen Roche blocks down Joe O’Dwyer and Patrick Curran picks up the break. The DCU youngster runs at the Tipp backs and is fouled for a handy score. It’s a great early sign for Waterford, who are looking dangerous everytime they attack.

9:01 — Devine makes a brilliant tackle to dispossess Padraic Maher and pops the ball out to Jamie Barron. The All-Star midfielder nails another superb point.

15:29 — Conor Gleeson, an excellent performer on the day for the Deise, hits a long clearance onto the edge of the Tipp square. Curran taps the ball down to himself and pings it over the bar.

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It’s not great defending from Tipperary, but Curran shows some very slick corner-forward play to engineer a score. McGrath’s forwards are very much on-song at this stage.

37:36 — Waterford began the second-half in the same rich vein of form and score the opening two points from play after the restart. The first arrives through Stephen Bennett, who lands a terrific effort, and then Pauric Mahony follows up with another point.

38:03 — Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh launches a tidy pass from his half-back line to the opposing 45 where Devine has positioned himself near the touchline.

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Devine wins a terrific catch over Kennedy and once he lands, turns to run straight at the Tipp posts.

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Seamus Kennedy is forced to foul Devine in order to prevent a goalscoring opportunity.

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It results in another free from Pauric Mahony, which puts them nine points ahead.

Waterford’s attack was really aggressive, strong and had a good all-round look to it. They weren’t afraid to take on their men and put the Tipperary defenders under huge pressure when they came out with the ball.

Considering Waterford were short so many leaders like Kevin Moran, they functioned really well up front. They didn’t exactly play with a conventional six forwards, but they did have an attacking presence all the way through.

2. Tipperary’s long ball strategy

Tipperary’s willingness to deliver long ball inside suited the Deise, who had plenty of players back to deal with it when it happened. Waterford have played Tipperary enough times over the last few years to know what was coming, so they were ready for the aerial bombardment.

They mightn’t have had a full-time sweeper situated back, but Waterford did drift deep when they were without possession. Tipperary’s eagerness to go direct and long played into Waterford’s hands for large swathes of the game.

7:36 — A Tipp puck-out goes long and John McGrath contests it in the air. It breaks to the ground where Waterford wing-back Philip Mahony picks up possession and is fouled by Noel McGrath.

Waterford are awarded a long-range free and their first goal arrives off the placed ball.

11:46 — Michael Cahill wins a ball out in front of his man and plays a smart pass out to Jason Forde, who is inside his own 45 near the touchline.

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Forde is a long, long way from goal and has an unmarked Ronan Maher available for a short stick pass into midfield. But he decides to go long towards John McGrath and once again the Premier forwards are outnumbered three to two.

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Waterford bat the ball down to the spare man and come away with possession. A swift counter-attack up the wing sees a long pass dispatched into the paw of Stephen Bennett.

Sean O’Brien clips Bennett’s helmet and it results in another pointed free from Pauric Mahony.

15:22 — Wing-forward Dan McCormack finds himself deep inside his own half as he often tends to do.

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He mops up a long ball but hits a poor delivery into an area where three Waterford defenders surround a sole Premier attacker.

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Waterford had numbers back a good portion of the time but they got the balance right and carried a threat up front all the time. They weren’t playing with one man inside 50 yards as they typically did in 2017, but remained defensively solid.

21:23 — Cahill makes another long clearance but it lands straight into the path of Austin Gleeson who is on his own in oceans of space.

Gleeson feeds Mikey Kearney for another scoring chance but his shot goes wide – Waterford’s first of the game.

34:56 — Tipperary launch another long clearance up the field, this time from the stick of Padraic Maher.

Maher takes a good look before he hits it, but his intended target Seamus Callanan has a Waterford defender either side of him.

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The Deise were able to come away with breaks in that type of situation very frequently and managed to keep the dangerous Tipp attack under wraps for the most part. Callanan, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and John McGrath were kept relatively quiet throughout.

Tipp had one hint of a three-pointer in the opening half when Stephen O’Keeffe came out to block after a great Premier move, but that was the only goal chance Ryan’s men had in the first period.

3. Tipperary’s unforced errors

I felt Tipp made a huge amount of mistakes during the game and because there were so many, they are worth examining in more detail.

4:44 — Brian Hogan’s puck-out is intercepted by Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, who pops a short pass to Devine. The 23-year-old wins possession unchallenged and knocks it between the posts from distance.

Tipperary had serious issues with their own puck-outs and clearances the previous week against Cork. While there was a marked improved in that area on Sunday against Waterford, it still proved problematic at various stages.

10:28 — Brendan Maher, who was one of Tipp’s best players on the day, is under no pressure when he sends a diagonal ball across the field straight into DJ Foran.

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Foran can hardly believe his luck and raises a white flag without much fuss.

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10:58 — Hogan sends a short puck-out to Cahill. The corner-back collects possession in space but drops it as he advances forward.

He manages to recover and slip a pass to Noel McGrath, but the Loughmore-Castleiney star carries it out over the sideline. This passage of play is symptomatic of Tipp’s carelessness in possession in the early stages.

24:55 — Waterford’s second goal arrives after another unforced error in the Tipp defence. A long, searching ball from O’Keeffe is dropping wide, but Padraic Maher keeps it in play and bats it into the danger zone.

Pauric Mahony is in the right place at the right time and buries the ball into the back of the net. It’s very unlike such an experienced team to concede a goal like this.

26:15 — Cahill fouls Curran and Waterford are handed another easy point from the hurley of Pauric Mahony. That’s 1-1 Tipp have conceded of their own making in less than 90 seconds.

36:32 (first-half stoppage-time) — Another loose Brendan Maher clearance across the pitch is picked up by Brick Walsh. A slick Deise move results in Foran slotting over the bar, but more importantly, the referee hands a second yellow to Cahill for a wild swing at the forward as he raced through.

39:25 — Sean O’Brien has plenty of time but miscues his pick-up and the ball rolls out for a Waterford line ball. Pauric Mahony strikes the sideline cut off the post and Devine is on hand to feed Curran for a score.

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It was a good Waterford attack, but the move originated from a Tipp mistake.

43:30 — Another Tipperary line ball is hit straight to a Waterford player.

47:22 — There’s no danger to Tipperary when Tommy Ryan hits an aimless ball inside from midfield that drops short into goalkeeper Hogan.

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But Brendan Maher barrels into Ryan with a late hit and the referee awards a free where the ball landed right in front of the posts.

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Pauric Mahony clips the free over with ease and Waterford get a score from nothing.

4. Impact of the Tipperary bench

As I mentioned earlier, the goal decision had a huge impact on the outcome of this clash, but Waterford looked to be getting away from Tipp in the third quarter. They were in complete control of the game and Tipp had to do something drastic.

The subs Ryan brought in made a huge contribution to his team forcing their way back into the contest. Three players introduced had a major impact on the game: Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher comes in at 46 minutes, Cathal Barrett arrives into the fray on 54 minutes and Jake Morris is brought on at 59 minutes.

Each of them make a tangible contribution after coming in.

51:22 — Bonner has an immediate impact when he finds himself surrounded by four Waterford defenders but battles manfully as the ball drops to the deck.

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His physical presence stops Waterford from clearing the ball and McCormack arrives on the scene to scoop up the loose sliotar.

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The wing-forward feeds John McGrath, who’s fouled near the Waterford D. Forde strokes over the free. Waterford 2-20 Tipperary 0-15

54:49 — A sideline cut is directed towards Bonner Maher and the Lorrha-Dorrha ace wins the break before passing out to Billy McCarthy.

The latter sets-up Barrett for a well-taken point and the gap is down to 10. Waterford 2-20 Tipperary 0-16

56:40 — A long O’Dwyer clearance is brilliantly fetched from the clouds by Bonner Maher and he’s manhandled by Austin Gleeson in front of the posts. Forde applies the finish from the placed ball. Waterford 2-20 Tipperary 0-17

57:37 — Barrett tigerishly wins the break from an O’Keeffe restart and launches the sliotar into the danger zone. Brick Walsh is there but misjudges the flight of the ball and Forde pounces, passing across to Bonner Maher for an excellent finish into the net. Waterford 2-20 Tipperary 1-17

66:49 — Five minutes after Tipperary are awarded a contentious goal, Morris makes two stunning blocks on Waterford defenders in the space of a couple of seconds.

Bonner Maher is sent through on goal but fails to execute his pass to Forde for a certain goal. A score didn’t arrive from this play but on another day Tipperary would have hit the net.

Morris hit the equaliser against Cork the week before and on Sunday brought the sort of fight to the Premier attack that was lacking in the first period. He’s made some small but very valuable contributions on his introductions over the last two games. Waterford 2-20 Tipperary 2-19

69:40 — Barrett is taken down in front of the goals and Forde slots over the free. Waterford 2-21 Tipperary 2-20

Forde adds another in the final few seconds of stoppage-time to seal a share of the spoils for Tipperary and tie the game up at 2-21 apiece.

Ryan deserves enormous credit for making the calls that ultimately shifted the pendulum back in their favour.

He took a huge risk in withdrawing influential forwards of the calibre of the McGrath brothers and Bubbles O’Dwyer, but the subs that came in were absolutely critical to Tipp hauling themselves out of the fire.

Dan Shanahan argues with umpires after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO


Tipperary did improve defensively from their draw with Cork and the decision to switch Brendan Maher to wing-back once again paid dividends on Sunday.

The 2016 All-Ireland winning captain made a couple of mistakes but his overall game was excellent and he was a driving force on the half-back line. After a difficult start on Devine, corner-back Kennedy improved steadily as the game went on while Tipp’s three aforementioned subs had a telling impact.

Waterford will be extremely dissapointed considering they had a numerical advantage for the entire second half. If Tipperary’s second goal had not been given, then the Deise would surely have won the match.

McGrath will be devastated, but his players gave a superb display when you take into account the key men they were missing. Their forward play, particularly in the first-half, was outstanding and looked very slick during different spells.

The Deise were desperately unlucky not to win the game, but must quickly regroup ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Limerick. Tipperary, meanwhile, live to fight another day.

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