Tipperary manager Michael Ryan pointed to the mature response of his players following John O’Dwyer’s red card as the pivotal factor in the county’s latest Munster championship win over Limerick.
The winners refused to allow yesterday’s fixture be defined by O’Dwyer’s 13th-minute dismissal and Ryan drew immense satisfaction from the self-assured display of his side when reduced to 14 men. Aside from a brief spell in the minutes following the red card, Tipperary never looked in danger of being frustrated by the changed terms of warfare.
“It was a curveball, without a doubt, but it didn’t derail them. It probably reflects the maturity of the group,” said Ryan of Tipperary’s performance.
“We knew what we had to do straightaway. There were those few minutes when their sweeper was mopping up every ball that seemed to break, but we got on top of that by using one of our inside guys. I felt sorry for Seamus [Callanan], he was like a lone striker up there. It’s not a nice job but he faced it and did admirably.
“These guys are mature. We all acknowledge that. The core have been there since 2009-10, playing for Tipp. They’ve a lot of experience, and a lot of hard experience. Our value on the ball was immense.”
And the incident itself. Did Ryan see O’Dwyer swing back at Richie English?
“I don’t want to sound like a soccer guy, but I didn’t see it. Did ye see it? A jab? Fair enough.
“Ye know the rules, that’s a match? Fair enough. We’ll plan without Bubbles, but at least we’ll be back to 15. I can name at least 11 in there who’ll be delighted as one of them will get on the team.”
He added: “I’m thrilled for all the lads. They showed great composure and character out there, which you’d need to show regardless, for a win over Limerick in a Munster semi-final. Whether it was 14 or 15, we’d have had to show exactly what we showed. I’m very proud of the lads.
“We placed huge value on the prize here today, to go and compete in a Munster final. That’s worth a lot as far as Tipperary are concerned.”
Crucial to Tipperary negating their opponents’ numerical advantage was their workrate and application when not in possession. Time and time again Limerick players were robbed of possession; Padraic Maher’s second-half point typifying the savage intensity tabled by the Premier County – the Tipperary wing-back tore in between two Limerick players to intercept a Nickie Quaid clearance and split the posts.
“I’d acknowledge the workrate and attitude were super, and we were all the time waiting for bodies to tire, but they found more in themselves. They were outstanding.
“Credit Limerick too, some of the exchanges were fantastic. There were rucks with two players from each side and a guy would come out with the minimum of space, milliseconds of time, and do something with the ball, something positive.
“The quality on view from both sides was quite high. We knew the forecast, that there’d be rain but it would ease off after half-time, and I thought we had a good quality game.”
Limerick were rocked by the concession of three first-half goals, the opening two arriving inside the first eight minutes. Ryan acknowledges that goals will be harder to come by against Waterford on July 10.
“They’ve a fantastic defensive unit and they’ll take us the full of our time in terms of planning and organising ourselves. We’ll take the challenge.
“Today, in a way [was good practice for Waterford], but we can’t talk about practice. This was real, Munster semi-final hurling, one for the history books in terms of Tipp and Limerick fighting each other tooth and nail for a chance to go forward. We’re delighted with it.
“In three weeks’ time, we’ve to play a Munster final against a team, as far as I’m concerned, who are the most serious opponents in Munster, if not Ireland. They’re up there.
“We’ll enjoy it for today but it’s a semi-final. The prize is to go forward to the final, and we’re delighted to achieve that. And the manner - it was special, because it was difficult, but they’re always difficult.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved