Limerick midfielder James Ryan was man of the match then - he dropped back in front of his half back line to take passes from defenders and he then moved the ball with short passes, keeping possession. Their centre forward Donal O’Grady roamed into midfield, making himself available once his defenders gained possession, and Tipp opted to keep their centre-back, Brendan Maher at home.
Ryan’s marker, Shane McGrath, fell between the two stools of marking O’Grady or Ryan, so effectively Ryan had a free role in the middle.
Limerick will hope to replicate this tomorrow as Tipp normally play a traditional lineout. It would help corner backs Seamus Hickey and Stephen Walsh, who don’t like being ‘pulled about’ by roaming forwards.
An ability to score from long range and hurling intelligence are the main criteria to operate this tactic. Declan Hannon has both these prerequisites and I’m expecting him to play the O’Grady role.
The tactic forces the centre back to make a decision - to follow his man or to stay in his position. If he stays it affords the centre forward many scoring opportunities.
If the central defender follows his man he leaves the middle open with avenues into the inside line of attack. Tipp centre back Padraic Maher is a huge player for the Premier and I’m expecting Limerick to change positions regularly in an attempt to move him out of the centre, lessening his influence. Tipp, searching for Brendan Maher’s best position, could do worse than playing him as a holding third midfielder.
The Limerick corner forwards will criss-cross to confuse the defence but this tactic is most effective when outfield players are given time to measure their attacking deliveries. Cian Lynch has added a new dimension to Limerick’s play. He can fill a number of forward positions and is comfortable in midfield as well, and his pace and long range scoring ability make him a difficult proposition for any defence.
Limerick employed a simple tactic against Clare - the half forwards played in midfield, leaving lots of space in front of Lynch, isolating him one on one with his defender on the left and finding him easily with angled deliveries from the right. I expect similar tactics tomorrow, with Lynch being asked at times to operate as a roving centre half forward.
Limerick a traditional game and their defenders like to have specific roles in specific areas rather than being pulled about as they were against Clare. Tipp normally oblige and Limerick will bank on this happening tomorrow.
Tipp spent last weekend in Carton House putting the final touches to their plans. Based on last year’s performance avoiding the concession of scorable frees should be top of the agenda.
At the other end the main objective must be to get quality ball to Seamus Callanan. Hecan be a deadly hit man but in the corresponding fixture over the last two years he’s spurned some good goal chances.
Richie McCarthy opposes him for the third year running and at this stage of the proceedings the Kilfinnane man is ahead on points. He’s quick off the mark, an excellent reader of the game and thrives on swooping on any breaking ball around the goalmouth.
He’s also well versed in the art of ‘possession prevention’, a necessary skill for a good full back.
Last year against Tipp McCarthy was under pressure early in the game, picking up a yellow card in the first fifteen minutes. Direct running at the number three can pay dividends in this situation.
The angle of the run against a defence is what makes the difference and Tipp’s main attacker needs to force his way through on a direct route to goal route rather than being coursed away from the danger area.
Too often attackers turn sideways to shoot which makes it is easier to effect a tackle; the Tipp full forward needs to drop his shoulder and go forward, drawing in defenders before offloading to a colleague or going for broke himself.
More perseverance and strong running might yield more goals. If Callanan gains possession with his back to goal he needs to show good leadership qualities by turning, facing his opponent and taking him on.
Limerick fans believe that Tipp have a soft underbelly and that they’ll fold when the chips are down, a charge levelled by some of their own until their run to the final last year.
Some believe that questions still remain, and silencing the big home support should be high on the Premier agenda.
Keeping their heads through good defensive discipline and strong purposeful play up front will be needed, but it’s the heart department that will win or lose this game.