One cannot but be struck by hurling’s ability to evoke a reversal of fortunes, not to mention opinions.
Cork’s performance on Sunday, the perfect concoction of strategy, attitude and Corkness, had echoes for me of June 23, 2013. Rank outsiders against Clare in the Gaelic Grounds, Cork managed to secure a place in the Munster Final by virtue of a 0-23 to 0-15 victory over the Banner County.
Early season relegation had provided the naysayers with more than a little ammunition. Thus you didn’t need to be a lipreader to interpret the dialogue between Maor Foirne Kieran Kingston and Jimmy Barry Murphy when the great one quipped “F*** the begrudgers”.
Definitely not as demonstrative, but nonetheless more animated than normal, John Meyler carried the hurt, disappointment and anger of the week before and perfectly channeled it through Kieran ‘Fraggy’ Murphy and Donal O’Mahony. These are top men who, according to the Bainisteoir, “sorted out the one or two problems” Cork had against Tipp. The art of delegation is alive and well in the Rebel County. A skill in itself.
Greg Kennedy’s travails as Maor Foirne dominated the column inches last week but the growing importance of the Maors Camán agus Uisce cannot be overlooked. Many teams seem to be adopting the rugby model of communication with key message distributors located around the pitch. Ian O’Regan, goalkeeping coach with Waterford, and Limerick’s Brian Geary, are key carriers of water, hurleys and advice.
Tipperary’s unity of purpose has been especially impressive in this regard. Tommy Dunne, Darragh Egan, Eoin Kelly all have their roles and areas of expertise and all have sufficient humility to ensure Liam Sheedy’s maxim is adhered to: ‘Whatever’s best for Tipperary’.
The sight of Eamon O’Shea passionately addressing the assembled Tipp huddle prior to throw-in last Sunday reminded us all of their intended modus operandi. O’Shea’s constant discussions with Sheedy were even more fascinating. ‘Hymn sheet’ and ‘everyone’ are the words that spring to mind.
Once 48 minutes of Tipperary’s win over Cork had elapsed when Michael Breen made his way towards the sideline to be replaced by Willie Connors, Sheedy and the backroom boys knew the significance of what he had done and he was greeted by a hug full of sincerity and awareness.
Tracking Seamie Harnedy all day long, Breen allowed Padraic Maher to temporarily take up residence at the edge of the D. it was a structure unusually absent from Limerick’s set up on Sunday.
Against Waterford, the unseen Breen became the visible destroyer as he rampaged his way around Semple Stadium, clipping six points from play in the process. The Maor Uisces are not the only ones double-jobbing.
Talk of job descriptions turned my thoughts towards the non-selection, non-appearance, of Michael Walsh in Waterford’s two games. It’s more than a tad baffling that the Stradbally great and 2017 All-Star has fallen so far down the pecking order.
Paraic Fanning was right when he said he expected this team to fight to the death with four points still a possibility. Last year, with an extremely depleted squad, the lads fought on their backs for what they represented. But to make the four points more probable than possible, Paraic needs “the Brick” in his team.
Some weeks ago, I attended a Championship launch in Glen Rovers’ famed clubhouse. It was my first meeting with Patrick Horgan. He was relaxed, perceptive and courteous. The last three seasons have brought greater appreciation of his wizardry. On Sunday, aside from his obvious scoring exploits, it was the crucial angled touch in the air with his hurley that created the goal he executed so calmly. He has previous for this, having caught a number of our defenders with a similar flick in our 2018 league meeting.
These assassins have it all and Henry Shefflin correctly related the moment to Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher’s flick and angled hurley in the approach to the first Tipperary goal on Sunday. What happens after Bonner’s flick we have seen a lot over summer’s past and will undoubtedly see again.
Last week we were treated to a beauty of a pass from Bubbles to John McGrath and the execution of the finish matched the pass. Crucially, it’s the pace of the delivery that makes the difference and if there’s a hint of an ‘anorak’ in you, pull out these few clips: Kevin Moran’s pass to Colin Dunford in 2014 v Wexford for Colin’s first goal, John Donnelly’s pass to Richie Hogan during last year’s quarter final versus Limerick, or Richie Hogan’s pass to Kevin Kelly in the 2016 All-Ireland. All sublime moments of genius.
Then there was Seamie Callanan’s pass to Bubbles before Jason Forde’s goal on Sunday. Another calculated attempt to integrate that ‘extra pass’ when the handy point is on to engineer a match-changing goal. Even if Bubbles had to rescue the move with a little genius of his own.
Speaking of genius, watch Forde’s ability to change the angle of his ground pass to Callanan when returning the assist ahead of Tipp’s second goal. Aware that he’ll be hooked if he pulls for goal, Jason subtlety changes the direction of his swing. Selflessness at its best.
A week in sport can take you from introspection, to reflection to eventual clarity. Two weeks can lead to so much more.