Tipperary 5-19 Waterford 0-13: Wind has never won a match but it is blowing strongly in Tipperary hurling’s favour now after they subjected Waterford to a second 21-point Munster final tanking in the space of five years.
Darren Gleeson’s breeze-assisted deliveries were the bane of the Waterford defence as his bombardment caused no end of difficulty for them in the third quarter when they were outscored 3-4 to 0-2, the three goals coming in seven minutes.
Man-of-the-match John McGrath was involved in them all, scoring one either side of claiming a high ball and offloading to Michael Breen, who ran 60 yards to get on the end of the pass, before scoring his fourth goal in three games.
McGrath’s second goal came by way of a puck-out and the third from a penalty after Seamus Callanan had been upended by Barry Coughlan.
Watched by 26,508, several Waterford supporters were leaving their seats upon Stephen O’Keeffe reaching into his net for a fourth time. He had earlier been at fault for McGrath’s opener when he failed to gather a shot by Niall O’Meara, a score that also came as a result of direct ball into the full-forward line.
Given the margin, there will be those who claim this was the day the sweeper system died but then Waterford did not operate for long periods with an extra man at the back. It wasn’t tactical rocket science for Tipperary to launch an aerial assault on Waterford’s full-back line but boy was it effective. And boy do they like playing in the rain, this third straight win in the wet this summer.
Tipperary’s determination to go direct had been obvious in their wins over Cork and Limerick and it was apparent once more even in the first half against the wind. Breen’s 7th-minute point was the result of Patrick Maher retrieving a Gleeson puck-out and finding the midfielder on the right wing.
Waterford were the hungrier team in that opening period and recovered with three points after McGrath’s ninth-minute goal but there were worrying indicators. Their rate of wides was high and by half-time they had struck 10. Austin Gleeson converted two superb sideline cuts but notched up four wides by the break. Waterford were not taking percentage chances largely because they were being forced back by an urgent Tipperary defence. In all, they went 20 minutes without a score and registered just two points from play in the first half.
Tipperary’s forwards may not have been so prolific with their scoring chances in that period but at least they were making their presence felt. Four of their five unanswered points between the 15th and 31st minutes were from frees while Patrick Maher should have done more when pouncing on a puck-out mix-up in the 26th minute.
The goal, though, had rocked Waterford, as Derek McGrath acknowledged. “It seemed to, yeah. We watched last year’s Munster final again and it was six points to two after 10 minutes so we really attacked the start this time. And I think the goal went against the grain of the game at that point. We wouldn’t be happy with the nature of the goal but yeah, it seemed to throw us off. We went from being up to being down a couple of points.”
Looking at how well Tipperary used the wind, McGrath may rue not using Maurice Shanahan closer to goal in the first half. Shanahan was tagged closely by James Barry who looked as comfortable further out the field as he has done at the edge of the square.
Indeed, all of Waterford’s seasoned players struggled. Michael Walsh found Seamus Kennedy not to his liking, Noel Connors had a game to forget on the hat-trick hero McGrath and Pauric Mahony’s influence petered out in the second half.
Tipperary started the second half 1-7 to 0-8 up and the defence would restrict Waterford to another two points from play. Seamus Callanan was marked out of last year’s Munster final by Coughlan but as well as earning the penalty from the Waterford full-back claimed 1-2 from play here, his goal in the 70th minute a result of losing his man and firing convincingly past O’Keeffe.
Again, the goal came by way of direct ball being transferred into his area. Michael Ryan had reason to be a little flippant about the tactic. “A lot of ye (media) guys would be disappointed with how unsophisticated our game-plan can be at times. We try and use the full range of skills that our boys have. None of our boys are the same. They are multi-faceted hurlers. Sometimes, wind-assisted, a day like today, why wouldn’t you take advantage and put the ball right down on their half-back line or beyond it at times?”
Afterwards, captain Brendan Maher in his acceptance speech pressed upon the importance of an All-Ireland semi-final in five weeks’ time. Eleven years have passed since Munster champions lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Yesterday didn’t so much feel so much of a success as simply a springboard to set a record straight.
Scorers for Tipperary:
S. Callanan (1-11, 8 frees, 1 65); J. McGrath (3-2, 1-0 pen); M. Breen (1-1); Pádraic Maher, N. McGrath, Patrick Maher, J. Forde, A. McCormack (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford:
Pauric Mahony (0-6, 4 frees); P. Curran (0-5, 3 frees); A. Gleeson (0-2, sidelines).
D. Gleeson; C. Barrett, J. Barry, M. Cahill; S. Kennedy, R. Maher, Pádraic Maher; B. Maher (c), M. Breen; D. McCormack, Patrick Maher, N. McGrath; J. McGrath, S. Callanan, N. O’Meara.
Subs for Tipperary:
J. Forde for N. O’Meara (51); S. Curran for D. McCormack (56); K. Bergin for B. Maher (61); A. McCormack for N. McGrath (66); D. Maher for R. Maher (67).
S. O’Keeffe; S. Fives, B. Coughlan, N. O’Connor; Philip Mahony, T. de Burca, D. Fives; J. Barron, K. Moran (c); S. Bennett, Pauric Mahony, M. Walsh; M. Shanahan, A. Gleeson.
Subs for Waterford:
T. Devine for M. Shanahan (49); J. Dillon for M. Walsh (50); C. Dunford for A. Gleeson (56); C. Gleeson for N. Connors (57); B. O’Halloran for P. Mahony (60).
B. Gavin (Offaly).
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