Lar Corbett says the level of competition for places and talent in the Tipperary forward line “can’t get any better” right now.
Jason Forde has impressively led the attack in the absence of the injured Seamus Callanan this spring and 2010 hurler of the year Corbett is excited about the options available to Michael Ryan ahead of the Munster championship.
Corbett did sound a warning bell about how optimistic Tipperary fans were this time last year before they were hockeyed by Galway in the Division 1 final, a result that haunted them for the remainder of the season.
But ahead of tomorrow’s semi-final against Limerick, he believes there is more reason to be positive this year, and he doesn’t share the theory Callanan and Forde, who have both thrived at full-forward and respond to the duties of free-taking, can’t play alongside one another.
“Looking at the last few games, Tipp are flying it and it has definitely been Jason Forde’s best campaign by far. He looks fitter, stronger and everyone from the outside can see that. You also have Michael Breen playing exceptional stuff at corner and full-forward and there is Seamie, John O’Dwyer, and Dan McCormack to come back and Noel and John McGrath have played here and there.
“When Seamie comes back, Jason will have his card marked but Callanan has the experience of the last five years when he took over the free-taking, was nominated for three hurlers of the year in a row and became the best
forward in the country in the space of 12 months.
“There’ll be a few weeks break shortly and after the club games preparations will be thick and fast and isn’t it great that Tipp now have Jason Forde there? Whoever is going to be taking frees, there’s not many other teams that have the top forwards Tipperary have. It can’t get any better for them at the moment. Not many counties have the same forward options they do.”
Corbett sees Forde following the same late inter-county development arc as Callanan. “When Seamie came in first, he was being taken off and being put on and it was frustrating for him. It would have been frustrating for Jason too but you can see he has turned a corner, the scores he’s getting, the balls he’s providing. He’s the best in the country at the minute. If he keeps that confidence up and brings it to the championship, if he has the belief he is one of the best, it will be good news for Tipperary.”
Corbett has also been enamoured by Breen’s switch from midfield to inside forward. “I thought he was exceptional in the big games I’ve seen him there. I didn’t think it would work but I’ve been 100% wrong. He is a presence, scores goals, and I like the mix that is there at the minute. If he and Jason stay there, Seamie is an excellent centre-forward as he is a full-forward.”
He can’t say enough about how Michael Ryan has cultivated a squad these past couple of months.
“Lads haven’t just been coming on but getting decent amounts of minutes. He’s building a strong panel because it’s the first year that you really need one in the championship with the way the games are (Tipp play Munster SHC four games in four weekends).”
Corbett did raise a slight concern about how the team were similarly fancied last year but knows their hunger levels are high again. “Tipp have to be careful not to get too excited. We know what happened last year. Everyone in the media, everyone in the public was raving and Tipp got into a final and never really recovered.
“Tipperary obviously aren’t at that stage yet but I would be looking past all that in terms of how they have tried out 32 or 33 players. There are a few forwards who haven’t had much time. Tipp probably have two sets of forwards fighting for six positions. Mick Ryan has been trying guys but Tipp have still been winning, which is a great thing to see.”
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