HE IS living in Portugal now but Joe Hayes has watched all the games, and is planning a return for the business end of the championship season, when he expects Tipperary to be still involved.
Hayes wore the blue and gold with distinction and is a veteran of many Tipp-Galway clashes, as the counties built up an enthralling rivalry towards the end of the 80s and start of the 90s.
A hard-working midfielder and forward, Hayes pocketed two All-Ireland medals and though he maintains that Kilkenny are a cut above everybody else right now, the former Clonoulty-Rossmore clubman is confident that the current crop of Tipp players can progress to the final for the second successive season.
“Galway and Tipp have had setbacks in their campaign but whoever wins this match will be kick-started again and will mount a serious challenge.
“Tipp’s defeat to Cork was so disappointing but I’m hoping they will pick it up. Maybe they have been looking at last year’s final too much and how close they got to winning it. They need to look forward. They need to get to Kilkenny’s level.
“There has to be question marks about the training that took place before the Cork game. They were very sluggish and looked dead on their feet.
“I think (former county secretary) Tommy Barrett hit the nail on the head when he said they were over-trained. They might also have underestimated Cork.
“Players and management would have to accept that mistakes were made but hopefully they will be rectified now.”
An over-reliance on Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett in attack is a long-standing problem for the Premier County, Hayes argues, although he is pleased with Gerard Ryan’s contribution since his inclusion.
“We need to sort out centre-forward,’’ he said. “The ideal is to have a Declan Ryan but that will never be found again. He was fantastic, a big, strong man who also had hurling ability. With all the brilliant hurlers we had when I played, if we hadn’t had Declan, we wouldn’t have won anything.
“You have to have a man at centre-forward who can break the ball and spread it around. If you don’t have it, you’re in trouble.”
He was surprised by Galway’s insipid display in the Leinster final.
“I suspect that Galway still don’t know what their best 15 is.
“If Galway play the ball into Joe Canning, which they’re not doing at the moment, they’re dangerous. On his day, he can beat you on his own. But I think our backs are very good particularly at half-back, where we are very strong.
“I’d expect Tipp to get through though and that would set up a game with Waterford which I would be confident we’d win.”
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