Watching both teams warming up, I zeroed in on the goalkeepers.
Limerick ‘keeper Nicky Quaid mostly went through his warm-up routine of shot-stopping with sub keeper Barry Hennessy. It is a well-practised routine at this stage.
Meanwhile, at the Town End in Thurles, Tipp keeper Brian Hogan was being put through his paces by replacement goalkeeper Paul Maher and Conor Hammersley, with coach Tommy Dunne both orchestrating the warm-up and central to it.
When Hogan made a save, Dunne rolled fast balls to him from five metres, followed them in and forced Hogan to sidestep him as the big net-minder advanced with the sliotar.
I was struck by the intensity of the preparation. It had more of an edge than Limerick’s.
From the demeanour of the Tipp outfield players, it was obvious they were well up for this game. I wondered if the Treaty were in a similar frame of mind. Tipp looked sharp.
They harried their opponents relentlessly and their first touch was top-drawer. Limerick didn’t look as fired up and there was a ‘phoney war’ type atmosphere between these two great rivals.
During the game, the Tipp sideline showed the same intensity as their players.
And as the game drew to a close I looked down at Limerick manager John Kiely from my vantage point high in the stand. He was in conversation with selector Brian Geary and coach Paul Kinnerk.
They didn’t look perturbed by the situation and I felt this loss would suit them nicely as preparation for the rematch in two weeks’ time in their home patch.
Tipp’s greater firepower was evident throughout and they looked more dangerous than the Treaty attack. Although John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer only scored one point near the finish, his movement, first touch and support running was central to the Tipp attack.
The Tipp forwards were constantly on the move, creating space for colleagues.
Captain Seamie Callanan lined out at centre-forward and relished his role as he showed continuously for the ball into the space around him. He also showed great enthusiasm for work, regularly tackling back into midfield and beyond.
Up front, his movement was terrific and his pace unhinged the Limerick defence. He finished with 1-4 from play, vying for man of the match with centre-half-back, Paudie Maher, who dominated the central zone of the Premier defence.
Maher had 12 possessions in the first-half and nine in the second. He used the ball well, scoring two points from play and setting up attacks regularly with pinpoint accuracy to colleagues further upfield. In contrast, the Limerick attack were reliant on points from Aaron Gillane from placed balls to keep pace.
Apart from one dangerous run by full-forward Séamus Flanagan after 17 minutes, Limerick offered little threat. On that occasion, Flanagan lost his marker just to the left of the Killinan End. Flanagan veered to the left in the moment before he struck.
This narrowed his angle and made it easier for Brian Hogan who saved Flanagan’s powerful shot with his body by being in the correct position and set for the shot.
I remember the great Kerry football goalkeeper Johnny Culloty, no mean hurler by the way, making countless saves with his body.
Body position is so important for net-minders. The right body position forces attackers to try and squeeze shots through impossible gaps. Hogan wasn’t really threatened after that and he gave an assured display.
This bodes well for Tipp for the remainder of the year as the goalkeeping position was far from certain after the league.
Overall, Limerick played better in the second half. Wing-forward Tom Morrissey came more into the game, scoring three points, and half-time substitute Graeme Mulcahy brought some extra energy to the inside attack.
However,the game’s pace ebbed and flowed and the Tipp forwards continued to pressurise the Limerick defence as they attempted to transition the play constructively to their attack.
Ten points from frees by Limerick’s Aaron Gillane will concern Tipp manager Liam Sheedy. His other major concerns were injuries to experienced corner-back Cathal Barrett (hamstring) and to the in-form Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher.
Both will be a huge loss if, as expected, they miss the Munster final. And if Bonner’s knee injury is as bad as feared, it could derail Tipp’s efforts to capture the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
What of Limerick? They can point to the fact that this was their third game on consecutive weekends as a contributing reason to their defeat.
However, Gearóid Hegarty has been their most impressive attacker in this campaign. Yesterday, he was on the bench with other regulars.
Whereas Cian Lynch and Graeme Mulcahy saw game-time, Hegarty did not. That is further proof that Limerick were testing the waters, without going all out for the win.
I expect a big change in attitude in two weeks’ time.
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