Monday, June 25, 2007

Premier Cru?

Tipp's alternative name (the Premier County) is becoming an embarrassment, at least from a hurling perspective. They deservedly lost heir epic Munster battle with Limerick yesterday and few fans could really quibble. Everone's enthusing about the 3 great matches and the excitement of it all - I'm just left musing at what's gone wrong. Looking at Babs Keating's belly I wonder if it symbolises the current state of Tipp hurling - we've gone soft. We need a lean mean Ger Loughnane type.

I remember vividly the last All-Ireland they won in 2001 against Galway. At the end of a comfortable win for Tipperary, the jubiliant young team did a circuit of the pitch waving at their supporters. One player, the immortal Declan Ryan, walked apart from the celebrating players. He seemed to be looking around the stadium as if to soak it all in for the last time. This was his third All-Ireland victory and the end of a glorious career. Some of the younger players there that day (Eoin Kelly, Eamon Corcoran, and John Carroll) should have had a good look around as well because it looks like it'll be a long time before they play in an All-Ireland final again. This Tipp team lack character.

Limerick won because they showed greater strength of character and hunger. They were also physically braver. Players like Mike O'Brien epitomised the Limerick team. He's not very big and he's not very skilful but he put himself about with absolute physical abandon. The same went for the more (much more) substantial Mark Foley. Tipperary were a far more stylish and skilful team but they failed the physical test. Time after time it was a Limerick hand that plucked the ball from a thicket of hurleys and burst downfield. The modern game is so fast and furious that artistry alone will not suffice, and in fact often plays a secondary role. Seamus Butler is a lovely player but is shy of the physical commitment to go with it. The Moran brothers have both qualities as of course does Eoin Kelly for Tipp and Eamon Corcoran. But too many players went absent. Where was John Carroll?

Limerick won't win the All-Ireland this year. In fact I doubt that they'll win Munster. They dominated Tipp yesterday and yet barely won. They hit 13 or 14 wides to Tipp's 5 or 6. For all their heart, they lack a cutting edge. Most of their points were from long range. They were not a threat around the goal. I fear that the Munster teams will soften each other up over the next 2 months and Kilkenny will claim another title.