Splitting the Posts: Tipping point for Ryan
19:45, 19 Aug 2012
Shane Stapleton at Croke Park
A penny for Liam Sheedy's thoughts and why The Cats' semi-final win was as much about Kilkenny brilliance as Tipperary absurdity...
So many words to describe what can only be referred to as ‘it’. Embarrassing, inept, incredulous, insane — Tipperary’s shambolic performance was a continuation of what has been a major regression under Declan Ryan.
Of course the man has put his heart and soul into the job, there’s no questioning that, but the tactical acumen to succeed against the best evidently is not there. The players have to take their share of the blame; as much as they do in success, so too they must accept their share in ruin.
There is plenty to go around because make no mistake, this 4-24 to 1-15 defeat is ruinous. What Liam built in search of Liam is now but a memory. Sheedy is instead landing titles with Portroe now, a parish that never touched its like before until they beat Toomevara in the north Tipp final.
A penny for Liam Sheedy’s thoughts — his real thoughts, not those neutered by a media-friendly façade (as is the norm for all ex-this and thats, not just him) — on what has happened to his dynasty in waiting. Does he agonise over seeing the vehicle he assembled with great care rolling down the side of a mountain?
Because 23 months ago, they were the Ferrari, Porsche and Bugati Veyron of hurling. Even 12 months ago, most pundits wondered would anyone stop Tipperary for years to come. On Sunday, the wonder was how they can recover. They can but it will take some doing.
Look at the case for the prosecution. Your best forward is Lar Corbett and he becomes a sideshow, part of a merry-go-round featuring Tommy Walsh, Pa Bourke and Jackie Tyrrell. All well and good if the circus ends with a decent show but these guys stood stranded on the carousel. Getting dizzy, going nowhere.
Corbett set up a point for Shane McGrath in the fifth minute, came out late for the second half because he was apparently changing his shirt, got a yellow card on 42 minutes, and set up John O’Neill’s missed goal chance on 64. In between that, he ran a marathon worthy of New York, London, Chicago, Dublin or, most precisely, worthy of Flora. What was the point of it all?
Brian Cody had decided on his match-ups and as a forward and opposing manager, you simply have to accept it. Swallow the pill hard and try to beat your man, don’t run away and ask for a different medicine. Just because you don’t like the orange-coloured Calpol Six-Plus, that doesn’t mean you can go back to the purple Calpol. It was the definition of a sideshow, most exactly because the game bypassed this childish insanity. The Lar bomb deactivated, and Pa Bourke grounded into the bargain — self-detonation, for sure.
As for the game, Kilkenny ran away because they competed better and for longer. Whereas they won the 50-50s and contested ball battle 31 to 28 in the first half, it was a landslide 44 to 20 in this sector after the break. The Cats won 12 of the first 15 just after the break and, just as against Limerick in the last round, it provided a platform for what was to come. The landslide, followed by the victory.
We can write songs, psalms and odes to Brian Cody about his valour and how his teams manifest this through him, with him, in him… and, oh holy God for everyone else. But they have been written before and even if not everyone likes him — inside or outside the county — his influence continues to pervade. Whereas on Sunday morning there were questions (Is the panel good enough? Are they on the wane?), they have been responded to but it’s unclear if they have been answered fully because of how ludicrous the challenge was.
That’s not to detract from Kilkenny, they were marvellous, and they honed in on every weakness. It’s just that there were so many to exploit in Tipperary, gaping wounds to make Michael Rice’s gashed hand seem but a nick.
Why, oh why, was Corbett trying to keep Pa Bourke’s man scoreless? Even if, fair enough, he kept Jackie Tyrrell scoreless too — that’s our ludicrous summation of an absurd event. Not forgetting that Corbett hasn't scored for Tipp since returning to the panel. Explain to us please, Declan Ryan, why your best line-breaker, Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher was almost exclusively used in the full-forward line rather than half-forward where he has been excellent; in fact, a Noel McGrath pointed effort ricocheted off the post on 38 minutes and surely you want your best stickman, Corbett, there to pounce rather than arguably your worst. Moving on, why did no player take on his man? How can you take to the field with no Plan B and a barely passable Plan A?
Plan A didn’t work in 2011 and it sure as hell wasn’t going to work this time either. Kilkenny should have been ahead by six points or more by half-time but for a fine Brendan Cummins save and wastefulness by the Cats. Cummins, who will go down a legend no matter what, has had a few near mishaps in recent times — last year’s final when a long ball was rescued on the line by Paul Curran, a drop against Cork where a soft free was blown — and Aidan Fogarty’s goal happened to be the biggest moment of the game.
Whereas TJ Reid’s major in the first half did not precipitate a game-breaking blitz, this came amid one: a 3-8 to 0-1 run from minutes 42 to 63. For old time’s sake, Henry Shefflin’s precision break on goal and expert handpass assisted Reid on 27 minutes; number two came after the Ballyhale King snapped one over Conor O’Brien and fed Taggy, whose effort was eminently stoppable. The rest was typical, marvellous Kilkenny — boot on the throat until their own heel wore down.
Again, we’ll talk about match-ups because while Kilkenny got theirs right — even if tactical absurdity eventually ensured as much — Tipperary did not and they forgot what worked before. Taggy Fogarty scored a total of 0-1 in his last two All-Ireland final starts against Paddy Stapleton — free from injury since before the Munster final — and yet this was ignored. The fact that Taggy was taken off in both games, disappointed, was somehow missed. Contrast this with how Cody saw Tyrrell nullify Corbett before, and he has now seen it again. Identifying horses for courses, and an ability to learn from mistakes, not to mention correct calls, from the past was the difference.
Tipp did not, Declan Ryan did not and, as much as he is hurting after putting his life into this job, he has shown that he is not for this course.
They say you go backwards by standing still — in that respect, Tipperary are gathering pace.
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