Michael Ryan knows where every conversation will turn ahead of a return to Croke Park. Tipp’s ongoing difficulties in the full-back line will ensure Cathal Barrett’s name crops up regularly over the coming weeks..
Tipp’s exiled corner-back —injured against Cork, but then released from the panel over a disciplinary issue — is back in club action and should have regained full fitness in time for the semi-final date.
On Saturday evening, however, Ryan preferred to underline the credentials of deputies currently in his fold.
“I think we were delighted to get Sean O’Brien on the pitch. We really wanted to get that opportunity over the last couple of games but it just didn’t fall like that. But he’s been really good in training.
“We have Mickey Cahill there as well with huge experience. We had healthy cover. We needed that. Donagh (Maher) was in trouble with an injury. We need those guys. They’ve an opportunity to stake a claim for a place the next day. The competition within the squad will be all the better for it.”
Tipp’s inner line was ransacked in the league final by Galway, and troubled again by Cork’s pacy attack in the Munster quarter-final. Aaron Cunningham’s quickfire brace of first-half goals on Saturday exposed lingering unease.
“You’ve got to credit the (Clare) forwards, the second goal in particular was a super catch by Shane O’Donnell,” Ryan pointed out.
“Does it test the full-back line? Absolutely it does. And it rattles you. There is great credit due to those defenders because you have got to pick yourself up.
“It’s not nice to be taken for a goal and to be taken for two in a half, it certainly wasn’t in our script.”
When Clare roared back into the match in the final quarter, cutting a seven-point deficit to one, Tipp’s difficulties came further out the field. Ryan hopes complacency wasn’t among their problems.
“I’d like to think not. I’ll have to review the match. Subconsciously or deliberately, we certainly don’t ever intend to take the foot off.
“But you have to credit the opposition. They were outstanding.
“It was anything bar comfortable — six points in a row to take it down to one point and all the momentum was absolutely with Clare.
“That was the tipping point of the game and thankfully it tipped back in our favour.
“The overriding feeling here is one of total relief to have got through.”
If there was a precise tipping point, maybe it came with the gap still at two. Pádraic Maher soared, fetched and was fouled. Brendan Maher took responsibility for the safe landing of a 90-yard free that punctured growing doubts.
“Those are pressure shots and it takes really good players to do that,” said Ryan.
“Brendan has been plying his trade here with us for years and I don’t think it would have surprised any of us that he would have the courage to look for that ball to hit it. But the collective Tipp effort here... I’m very proud of that bunch of players. We are arriving at the right tempo for the All-Ireland series just now.”
Tipp were the only side among the four playing at the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh this weekend not to avail of a reconnaissance session. But Ryan encountered no distraction or disadvantage in the revamped surroundings.
“It’s a fantastic stadium and it’s a credit to Cork.
“We’re delighted to be one of the two inaugural games here. It’s Croke Park-esque. It didn’t impact the guys.
“I was really impressed with the quality of the pitch. It was our first time on it for our warm-up, but it was really really good.
“I think it’ll be a fantastic stadium going forward.”
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