Can Liam Sheedy stir Noel McGrath back into his very best form for Tipperary?

Noel McGrath registered 1-4 in open play in Tipp’s facile victory over Kerry in the Co-Op Superstores Munster SHL.

On the face of it, it is nothing to shout home about, with respect to the Kingdom.

Yet, it also could mean more. Much more, in fact.

Watching Noel McGrath over the years, it became apparent some time ago that he performs best when he is happiest with his role within the team.

When I say that, I specifically refer to the times in which he is free to roam from the middle-third forwards.

McGrath is one of the most gifted hurlers the Premier have produced in the last two decades and if manager Liam Sheedy gives him licence to float around in attack, we might well see the very best of the forward again.

He conjured moments of brilliance in the last two or three campaigns, but you often found that he tended to drift out of matches for spells as well.

Of course, no player is going to constantly impact on any game. That kind of thinking is pie in the sky.

However, if McGrath can reverse the times he spent being quiet in contests with those glimpses of marvel and make the latter a more frequent occurrence once again, then Tipp will have a serious weapon on their hands this year to supplement the potentially explosive inside-line pairing of Jason Forde and Séamus Callanan.

It was mentioned here prior to the Championship last year that Mick Ryan should deploy both Forde and Callanan close to goal and leave them there.

Yet, that did not happen enough under his watch.

If you have players as devastating in possession as Forde and Callanan at your disposal, you surely have to position both men on the corners of the opposition’s square.

It will be interesting to see if Sheedy opts for this tactic during the Allianz NHL.

The beauty of this tactic is that you can withdraw your half-forward line closer to the midfield and leave oceans of space in front of the Forde-Callanan axis.

However, additional to that ploy, you then also have the option of stationing McGrath at the bottom of what would then be an offensive diamond.

While the two half-forwards complement the midfielders, McGrath could sit, essentially in isolation, in the centre-forward sector linking the play as well as profiting from the off-loads being afforded to him from the two inside forwards.

Now, what three defenders would fancy tackling that particular trio in any circumstances? The reality is very few indeed.

The Premier, when things were going against them last term, reverted to type far too often and withdrew Forde to operate in the No 10 or 12 role.

It was almost akin to substituting the corner-forward when your half-backs are getting cleaned out.

Sheedy should consider persisting with Forde and Callanan sitting on the corners of those squares the length and breadth of the country because the most likely outcome is that, between them, they could be totalling tallies in the region of 2-6 to 2-8 from play per match.

With McGrath roaming menacingly outside of them, Tipp would be extremely difficult to overcome, especially when you would then have the likes of Michael Breen and Dan McCormack adding to their power in the middle-third having dropped deep from the wing-forward areas.

Then again, Sheedy might opt to utilise that pair at No 8 and No 9, in which case, whoever is positioned in the wing-forward berths would supplement their work ethic.

Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher would slot in seamlessly to either of those wing-forward spots.

Some will argue he could work the role already suggested for McGrath.

Yet, the latter possesses more craft than the former while the former displays more industry than the latter, hence ‘Bonner’ Maher at No 10 or 12 and McGrath at the bottom of the diamond.

And then there is John McGrath. Another gem of a player, but one that would work for the team just as much as he would adding a score to the board.

He is blessed with the flair of an old school corner-forward however, he also has the capacity to mix it just as much and would be exceptional on the opposite flank to ‘Bonner’ Maher.

And the key to this tactical layout gives the Premier balance from the midfield forwards, an element they have been shy of recently.

You can never have too many high-quality options in these two sectors but piecing them together effectively is the taxing part of it all.

However, I envisage Sheedy making light work of this puzzle.

It would be extremely surprising were Sheedy to not find that balance Tipp so desperately require in midfield and attack.

Having the two orthodox midfielders supplemented by the likes of ‘Bonner’ Maher and John McGrath on the wings, with Noel McGrath in an advanced central position, will lead to opposing teams struggling to curtail the amount of possession given to Forde and Callanan.

Jake Morris pilfered 0-3 in open play against Kerry and there exist high hopes in Tipperary that he can kick-on with the seniors this year.

That will likely prove to be true as the season evolves.

Nevertheless, there is plenty of life left in the more experienced dogs for these fights yet and Sheedy will be aware of that.

The Premier can have a massive year, provided the Portroe man finds that attacking balance.


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