Energetic Tipp leave 14-man Waterford on Munster brink

Tipperary’s Patrick Maher is hauled down by Waterford’s Conor Gleeson, which led to a second yellow card for Gleeson, in the Munster SHC clash at Semple Stadium yesterday. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Tipperary 2-30 - 0-18 Waterford

Another afternoon of liquid wristwork and fluid movement from Tipperary yesterday put Waterford to the sword with commendable economy. 

In the first half in Semple Stadium, Tipp managed 0-16 from just 19 shots: in the second half they got 2-14.

Efficiency is the aim of every management system, from hurling to heavy engineering, and on that score Liam Sheedy and his backroom team were entitled to fair satisfaction last night. 

The large proportion of home supporters in the 22,833 present in Thurles were no doubt in the same mood after 4pm.

And yet with 20 minutes to go Waterford were three points adrift and full of energy. How did they end up 16 points behind their opponents?

The small print in this case doesn’t need a magnifying glass. The game took a decisive turn before the end of the first half, when Conor Gleeson’s accomplished rugby tackle brought Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher to the ground as the goal beckoned invitingly.

Gleeson got up and dusted himself off and hung around the scene of the crime, knowing full well what was on the way. 

Not long before he and Seamus Callanan had collected a yellow card apiece for an off-the-ball disagreement, and Gleeson knew what was coming as referee John Keenan approached, hand going to his back pocket.

Hobbes told us long ago that hell is the truth seen too late, and Gleeson would no doubt have agreed with the philosopher as he disappeared into the gloom of the Semple tunnel.

That’s not to say that Tipperary wouldn’t have won anyway. They began with John O’Dwyer at full-forward and his location as the tip of the spear worked well for them. 

They were soon 0-8 to 0-4 ahead, with O’Dwyer the architect sometimes and sometimes the scorer.

Waterford stayed in touch until Jason Forde joined O’Dwyer in the scoring — one of his efforts a beautiful sideline cut — but Tipp’s steel was supplemented by the work ethic which served them so well in Cork last week. 

When Seamus Callanan hunted Waterford keeper Stephen O’Keeffe down with a hook to force a sideline it was a clear indication that the home side were in a mind to build on their first-round win.

Tipp were 0-13 to 0-6 ahead when Conor Gleeson picked up a second yellow for Waterford. The Deise got the last three points of the first half, making it 0-16 to 0-10, and to their credit they stormed into the second half.

Pressing up aggressively, they attacked the Tipperary puck-out, and with Pauric Mahony his metronomic self on frees, with 20 minutes to go they had narrowed the gap to three, 0-20 to 0-17.

Then Tipperary took over totally. Both managers acknowledged afterwards that the effort involved in Waterford’s third quarter probably sapped their reserves for the closing stages, but even so it was a stunning show of force from Tipperary: They hit 2-10 to Waterford’s 0-1 in that period, the game over long before the final whistle.

“It was a tough day,” said Waterford boss Paraic Fanning after the game.

“It was kind of funny, actually, with 20 minutes to go we had dragged ourselves back into it and we had quite a lot of momentum, actually, and then it kind of petered out. I think our legs, maybe the extra man told a little bit, but we had a tough afternoon.

“There were only three points in it so of course we had chance, but we did put a lot of energy into getting back into the game at that stage. 

We were talking about how we’d use our bench going into the last 20 minutes, but three or four quick scores opened up that bit of daylight again.”

In the blue and gold corner Liam Sheedy was understandably playing his side down: for the second time in a week they’ve cruised past the 30-point barrier, and the hype is surely building in the Premier County.

“Obviously we’ve got an extra man from midway or so through the first half,” said Sheedy.

“We went in with a nice lead but even then Waterford probably sent a warning signal to us when they got the few scores before half-time to bring it back to six and left themselves well in the game.

“Full credit to them, they had to use massive energy to get back to three points when they were a man down. To get the scoreboard back to where it was took a huge effort, and probably cost them in the finish because they were working with a man down. 

"When we got the goal it gave us that bit of breathing space and we got some nice scores after that.

“But I thought for long periods of that game we were outplayed, and you have to give Waterford great credit for that. 

"We struggled at times to move the ball through the lines, especially for long periods of that first half.

“But look, in all fairness to the lads, that’s two weeks back to back. It’s tough, I suppose for the age profile of my lads is that when you get to 60 or 65 minutes your tank of diesel is starting to empty, but I suppose I was very pleased with the bench today.”

The questions sparked by the game range from the localised to the general. Starting with the latter, is Waterford’s run in the third quarter indicative of a principal to be applied widely? 

That a team will have its time and must maximise that window of opportunity, 14 men or not?

This is an old maxim, the expectation that every side has a purple patch. The looseness of the games we’ve seen so far suggests that it’s a truism whose time has come again. 

There’s a grain of hope in it for Waterford, who now face a tough fortnight when the championship resumes.

In the particulars the summer is working out well for Tipperary. Take Liam Sheedy’s acknowledgement yesterday of his side’s age profile compared to some of their competitors, which means the fortnight’s break comes at a good time for them to recuperate.

Taken a stage further, the Tipperary appetite for work augurs well for them even with two wins in the bag. 

Seamus Callanan’s first half chase of O’Keeffe was echoed when he set up Tipperary’s first goal with an unselfish pass; he ended up with Tipperary’s second goal deep in injury-time, a visible proof of the rewards of work.

Waterford asked them more questions yesterday than Cork did the week before, but Tipp found the answers. 

One of those helping with the homework was visible kneeling on the sideline imploring the forwards to spread out: Eamon O’Shea, whose imprint was seen again in the attackers’ movement.

Despite Sheedy’s protests yesterday Tipp can believe they’ve earned their ticket out of Munster. 

Can we say with certainty who’ll accompany them? That’s another day’s work.

GAA podcast: Dalo was wrong. Emotional Cork. Limerick's Plan B? Tipp back it up. Ref justice

Anthony Daly, Ger Cunningham and TJ Ryan review the weekend's hurling.

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