Liam Sheedy was ebullient about his Tipperary team when talking on local radio this week.
“We feel we pushed a bit of energy back in by taking a little bit of a break in the early part after the Laois match so preparations have gone extremely well and I honestly can’t wait to get out on this pitch next Sunday.”
Sheedy wasn’t bullish but there was a campaigning tone to his words.
The Laois game has done little or nothing to convince supporters they are back on track and they are set to be outnumbered by Model fans on Sunday.
In the two previous games against Limerick, the blue and gold had also been dwarfed by their neighbours in the stands and terraces.
Tweeting earlier this week, the official Tipperary Supporters Club called on the team’s followers to attend Croke Park, claiming the numbers Wexford will bring to the game is a worry for Sheedy: “Serious concern in the Tipp camp that Wexford’s ‘16th man’ could make a big difference on Sunday. We have a big battle on our hands both on and off the pitch. We need every Tipp supporter to play their part.”
The news that Tipperary up to yesterday afternoon hadn’t sold their Hogan and Cusack Stand allocations wasn’t surprising.
The U20s’ dramatic Munster final win over Cork, sealed by a senior panellist in Jake Morris, couldn’t but be a boost ahead of Sunday’s showdown.
That result should increase the Tipperary following. Might Sheedy’s words have too?
Four straight wins
It wasn’t so much the 12-point loss to Limerick that deflated the hype around Tipperary, it was the hollowness of the performance and that the reigning All-Ireland champions could have won by more. Keen observers of Sheedy’s side appreciated things had been going better than expected and there was likely to be a bump on the road. Brendan Maher has likened it to “a blip” while Sheedy saw the positives from the “300 minutes of data” minded from the round-robin matches. He knows they simply can’t let one result derail them especially given their earlier results.
Sheedy knows that has to count for something.
arrett is back
Well, Cathal Barrett has been back in harness since the win over Laois but it’s here where he will be close to the fine form he had shown in the first three rounds of the Munster SHC. Barrett won’t mind if he is isolated with Conor McDonald and James Barry has shown comfort in playing further upfield before but then Barrett himself enjoys getting forward himself and may be better suited to detailing Rory O’Connor. The likelihood is the pair won’t be too far from one another given O’Connor and/or Paul Morris will be in close proximity to McDonald.
Although Kilkenny’s win over Cork might have been a finger in the eye for those (including this writer) who claim the Munster SHC is better than Leinster, four of the six Division 1A teams hail from Munster. That Tipperary are averaging two goals a game is a statistic you can place slightly more stock in than Wexford giving up just two in their last five Championship outings. That isn’t to say Tipperary could be held goalless and Davy Fitzgerald will know it’s curbing that goal threat which is key to a Wexford victory.
In terms of speed and physical strength, Tipperary are trailing Wexford although their major advantages are in reading the game — Noel McGrath being the best — and in terms of skill, step forward John O’Dwyer. It’s not that they aren’t too far behind Wexford in the physical stakes but Tipperary will need statements like those they produced in 2016.
Not even 13 stone, Brendan Maher isn’t the biggest player but three years ago he put Limerick’s James Ryan out of the Munster semi-final with a shoulder. He fairly squared up the bigger Kevin Moran and dumped him over the sideline in the provincial final. But there are other candidates in Pádraic and Ronan Maher, Alan Flynn and Barrett to set the tone with controlled aggression.
Fool Sheedy once...
Sheedy has only lost four games as Tipperary senior manager — in 2008 to Fitzgerald’s Waterford, the 2009 All-Ireland final to Kilkenny, 2010 to Cork and 2019 to Limerick.
He has yet to lose two Championship games in the same season.