Thirteen points separated Dublin and Tipperary when the latter pulled the curtains on Anthony Daly’s time in charge last summer. The difference was almost identical yesterday but in the favour of Ger Cunningham’s new charges.
This was as comprehensive a win for the Dubs as the previous meeting, an All-Ireland qualifier in Thurles, had been for Tipp; and many were the jokes and jibes on Twitter and elsewhere about so-called ‘manufactured hurlers’.
It was no shadow Tipp team Dublin saw off, with Eamon O’Shea starting 11 of the side that lost the All-Ireland final to Kilkenny. Yet Tipp fell comprehensively to their fourth opening day defeat in five years of league action.
It was an afternoon made worse by confirmation that Shane McGrath had suffered the injury du jour, aka a concussion, having been felled by a clumsy Conal Keaney challenge when contesting a high ball on the stroke of half-time.
Added to that was the sight of defender Joe O’Dwyer walking gingerly off the field with what was either a bad arm or shoulder injury, all of which makes both doubtful for the visit of Galway to Semple Stadium next weekend.
Tipp never came to grips with the pace of the game and tactical moves such as the switch of Padraic Maher from wing-back to centre-back after the interval did little to turn the tide.
Only John O’Dwyer, who scored five of his six points from play, took the fight to Dublin with any real intent on a day when Seamus Callanan’s difficulties from placed balls were symbolic of the team’s efforts.
The Drom & Inch full-forward landed his first two frees but missed three more, before John O’Dwyer and Jason Forde assumed those duties, and Callanan didn’t exactly soar in open play either what with Michael Carton for company.
Carton at full-back is one of the first of Cunningham’s experiments and it looked promising on this evidence. Another was the stationing of Keaney at wing-back, where he put in some time during the Walsh Cup.
Keaney was exceptional at times, but he was just one among many in that department. Peter Kelly was sublime at centre-back and Shane Durkin was a constant source of concern for Tipp in both segments of the field.
Dublin’s spine was exceptionally strong. Eamonn Dillon provided 1-1 from centre-forward while Liam Rushe spent the afternoon at full-forward mining a goal and a point of his own from Paul Curran who made him work hard for every scrap.
Dublin had just the one wobbly spell, midway though the second-half when they sent four point attempts wide and another short, but Tipp never cottoned on to the faint scent of blood before the hosts rediscovered their groove.
The Munster side were strangely listless all day, in fact. It took them 19 minutes to register a point from play, but Dublin were already dictating the tempo thanks in no small part to their opening goal seconds earlier.
Tipperary were intent on making life hard for themselves, particularly in that first-half in which they registered ten wides, and they regularly made the sort of mistakes which Dublin were quick to punish.
The goal was typical of that. Darren Gleeson’s puckout found an unmarked Kelly and the defender’s long ball to Rushe offered an easy point chance. Instead, he sent a handpass to the overlapping Dillon whose finish was clinical. That was the game in a nutshell.
Tipp frustration was evident with John O’Dwyer echoing concerns in the stands. “Let’s get this organised lads, c’mon,” the Killenaule forward roared after another Dublin point, but it served little purpose.
Cunningham’s side turned the screw even more, claiming three of the last four points to lead by eight before the break, by which time McGrath had been helped off after his unfortunate brush with Keaney. With a stiff, if irregular, breeze at their backs in the second-half, Tipp weren’t without hope and they were actually ‘winning’ the second-half before Rushe fired high into Gleeson’s net to bring the scoring to an end in injury-time.
Scorers for Dublin: P Ryan 0-8 (0-5f); E Dillon 1-2; L Rushe 1-1; M Schutte and D Sutcliffe 0-2 each; S Durkin, C Crummey, C Cronin, C Boland and R O’Dwyer 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tipperary: J O’Dwyer 0-6 (0-1f); S Callanan 0-4 (0-3f); S McGrath, J Woodlock, C O’Brien 0-1 each; J Forde 0-1f.
Subs for Dublin: R O’Dwyer for O’Carroll (15); C Boland for O’Dwyer (60); B Quinn for Cronin (61); D O’Callaghan for Ryan (65); J McCaffrey for Durkin (69).
Subs for Tipperary: R Maher for D Maher and T Stapleton for McGrath (both HT); C Kenny for Ryan (46); C O’Brien for O’Mahony (53); M Breen for Joe O’Dwyer (67).
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).
Dublin: A Nolan; C O’Callaghan, M Carton, P Schutte; C Crummey, P Kelly, C Keaney; C Cronin, S Durkin; R O’Carroll, E Dillon, D Sutcliffe; P Ryan, L Rushe, M Schutte. Tipperary: D Gleeson; Joe O’Dwyer, P Curran, C Barrett; K Bergin, C O’Mahony, Padraic Maher; S McGrath, J Woodlock; B Maher, J Forde, D Maher; G Ryan, S Callanan, John O’Dwyer.