Tipperary legend Eoin Kelly has suggested that playing the Munster hurling final at Semple Stadium would have been worth “three or four scores” to the host county.
Instead, holders Tipp and Waterford will head to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick on Sunday, a development that Kelly claimed shows the intent of Waterford manager Derek McGrath not to give their opponents an inch.
Tipperary overcame Waterford by five points in last year’s final which was played in Thurles but this year’s decider was switched by the Munster Council to a neutral venue.
“I think Thurles for Tipp, they are hard to beat there, it’s probably worth three or four scores to them,” said two-time All-Ireland medalist Kelly.
“The neutral and everyone loves coming to Thurles for Munster final day but it just shows the intent coming from Derek and Waterford, that there is going to be no inch given.
“He just wasn’t going giving Tipp that three or four-point leeway which a home game in Thurles can be to Tipp, just travel arrangements and that stuff makes it a small bit different in Limerick and more awkward on the Tipp players.
“This is Derek’s fourth final in 12 months, two league finals and a second Munster final. Everyone says they are a young team that will be around for six or eight years but when you are in a final you want to win it.
“And you can see his (McGrath’s) intent like and they are going to make life tough for Tipp on the field. This is a different challenge, a Munster final in Limerick. You can just see the mentality, how it has changed under Derek, both on and even off the field, so to me, it’s probably good management.”
Kelly was speaking in his capacity as an ambassador for Championship sponsors Etihad Airways. He said the loss of John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer from Tipp’s attack will be considerable, particularly as he performed impressively during last year’s final win over Waterford.
“He actually moved himself from wing-forward in to number 11 last year when it was tight enough and tit-for-tat, a point or two in it,” recalled Kelly. “I can still see him getting two short passes and just in the blink of an eye putting the ball over the bar.
“So it turned it from a two-point game to a four-point game. Waterford were never going to catch Tipp then, not once they went four ahead.
“So he is a big loss and it’ll be interesting to see who’ll fill in there because you have to take in the retirement too of Lar Corbett. Shane McGrath was a midfielder that could score too. So, you know, that’s two or three lads not on the Tipp squad that would have experience of going into a big game like that from last year.
“It’s going to be interesting to see who gets that slot now. Because you need a guy who can hurl and hurl outside and take scores from 60 or 70 yards against Waterford because we all know teams don’t have much joy when they try to penetrate Waterford inside.”
Kelly believes failing to retain their Munster crown would be a big psychological setback for Tipp.
“Possibly Waterford would be able to recover a bit more from that because they could still fall back on the fact they’re a young team,” he said.
“At the same time, if they do lose it would be their third loss in a big final, league final this year and Munster final last year and now another Munster final. So that would be a lot of finals to lose and they could get that tag.
“But I think Tipp need to win this Munster final. They’re at that age where they want success and they’d be better primed going in to an All-Ireland semi-final that way.
“People talk about the five weeks after a Munster final but I don’t think the five weeks would be a factor, to be honest. There was only a puck of a ball between themselves and Galway last year. They don’t use it as an excuse. It would be a setback if they lost alright.”
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