By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Tipperary have built on last year’s campaign by moving one step further in reaching the last four.
To that end, beating Waterford was crucial in their development.
Bill Mullaney has been praising their character all year since taking over the reins and they have shown countless examples of that, not least when Grace O’Brien snatched an injury-time goal to deny fellow Group 2 contenders Offaly in their penultimate tie, and then, when the Championship’s leading scorer Cáit Devane slotted an equaliser against Dublin to snatch second in the table.
That ensured they would avoid Galway, who defeated Dublin by 16 points.
They found Waterford a very tough nut to crack mind you, with Devane struggling to impose herself in the face of some robust defending.
Tipp possess a lot of firepower though. O’Brien was very lively in the opening half but it was the half-forward line that had the biggest impact, especially Ciardha Maher and captain Orla O’Dwyer.
They were also able to call on the services of Sarah Fryday from the bench.
They will need their defence to be resolute if they are to cause a shock against the All-Ireland champions, who had 15 individual scorers throughout the round-robin phase.
That will require manic work rate from numbers higher than 7 but in Karen Kennedy and Mary Ryan, they have good readers of the game who are capable of winning primary possession.
The Rebels have looked very strong throughout the summer to date, clocking up a staggering aggregate tally of 15 goals and 100 points in five games.
That breaks down to an average of 3-20.
As good and all as their forwards are, Tipp will need to curtail Katrina Mackey, Orla Cronin, Amy O’Connor and Niamh McCarthy, as well as the contributions from deeper of Ashling Thompson, Orla Cotter and Gemma O’Connor, if they are to prevail.
They will find some encouragement from the three goals Arlene Watkins plundered in the last game of the group series but that was a game Cork still won by a whopping 32 points.
That illustrates the dangers of being gung-ho against the Leesiders, and the dilemma facing Mullaney and his crew, for it is impossible to see them winning this game by being overly-defensive either.
It will be intriguing to see how they approach it but either way, Cork are strong favourites.