In 2011, the dynamic of Tipp and Kilkenny’s modern relationship shifted, maybe inexorably.
Before that All-Ireland final, Henry Shefflin disagreed with Brian Cody about how they should go about business.
He’d never challenge Cody, but in Shefflin’s autobiography he admits to sharing reservations with other senior players. For the first time, Kilkenny were watching a lot of videos of the opposition. Were they too focused on Tipp’s strengths rather than their own?
The priority was bald; stop Tipp scoring goals, in particular Lar Corbett. Lar had three of Tipp’s four the year before, and four of Tipp’s seven in that year’s Munster final.
Shefflin boiled down the scheme: Cut off the supply from Paudie Maher and hold Lar.
“Whoever was on Maher had to curb his influence, to stop him bursting out of defence and delivering those killer diagonal balls.” Part B: Jackie Tyrrell was to follow Lar everywhere.
In his book, Corbett explains how Kilkenny had the back broke on winning the game within a quarter of an hour.
“I looked up the field, where Paudie was being put under insane pressure by their forwards. Their plan was simple: Cut off our best defender.
“With Paudie not being able to supply us up front, it took us 16 minutes to get our first score.” Maher, for his part, was looking back, equally concerned, as he explained to Lar at the loser’s banquet that night.
“I looked over at you during half-time and I knew we were beat. The fight just wasn’t in you. There was no fire in your eyes.”
Lar had not been able to shake Jackie, wherever he roamed. “When he sauntered out to the middle beside me, I knew for sure he was in it for the long haul.”
Lar’s opinion of the fine details of that long haul — valid or not — feed into some of the concerns we’ve heard aired this week about Brian Gavin taking the whistle again on Sunday.
“He pulled out of me, dragged me and used every trick in book to keep me scoreless.” This Tipp team look more fixed on colouring in those grey areas themselves, rather than dally on official adjudication.
But whose strengths will occupy Cody more?
With Kilkenny’s own reliable goal supply slowed to a trickle, denying Tipp goals should once more figure high enough on a to-do list.
Part A of any plan, The Savage Hunger, is in evidence every day and notably so again in the 2014 replay, when Kilkenny drowned Tipp’s half-back line in sweat.
In 2012, the very prospect of those attentions scrambled Tipp’s minds and they got fingers burnt trying to cook up a masterplan.
How will these Tipp forwards cope if the supply is not exactly stamped and addressed?
Chatting about the 1991 final (page 11), former Tipp sharpshooter Michael Cleary admitted concern about this one: “A few skeletons came out of Tipp’s cupboard in the Galway match that appeared to have been gone earlier in the year.”
He didn’t elaborate. Ahead of these finals, nobody wants their words appearing in someone else’s book, down the track.
But another Tipp All-Ireland winner, Tommy Dunne, noted since how thoroughly Seamus Callanan was nullified by Daithí Burke and how four of Tipp’s starting forwards didn’t score from play.
Donal O’Grady would restore Callanan’s goal threat by bringing him out around centre-forward, from where he can turn and rampage.
Wherever he goes, he’ll hardly lack company.
Against Galway, it wasn’t until John O’Dwyer arrived to join Callanan and John McGrath close to goal that Tipp’s instincts found a kill.
Stealing a tight one shook one monkey off their backs.
A gorilla waits.
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