Michael Breen would have started for Tipperary against Cork yesterday but for a freak injury which will rule him out for at least four weeks.
Breen was doing sprints with fitness coach Gary Ryan at training last Thursday when he went over on his ankle.
While Tipperary await a full diagnosis, at a minimum he’ll miss their remaining Munster round-robin games.
“We’re waiting on a proper diagnosis. He got a very unfortunate injury. He was actually picked to play on Thursday night,” said Ryan.
“It wasn’t in contact. It was as innocuous as you’ve ever seen. It was just sprinting, doing the stuff with Gary.
“He’s hurt an ankle ligament and we just have to wait to see the extent of it.
“We certainly won’t see him for four weeks. He’s very unlucky.”
Ryan hopes Cathal Barrett will be fit enough to make the matchday panel next week against Waterford, while Niall O’Meara is also back in contention.
Getting gametime into Seamus Callanan and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher was some welcome good news.
“To get Seamie Callanan almost a whole match was a really big thing for us. We didn’t think we would.
“We thought we might get to minute 40 or 45, but he was really trying right to the end and that’ll bring him on a ton.”
It was sheer bloody-mindedness that saved Tipperary from a third consecutive defeat, Ryan agreed, after a disastrous first half saw them trail by nine points at the break.
“It was a horrible first half for us. Cork were all over us. We were literally chasing shadows all over Semple Stadium.
“We didn’t get to express ourselves or take control of any part of that first half.
“It was just Cork, Cork, Cork. We were in dire straits. They had answers for questions we hadn’t even asked.
“We weren’t in the least happy.
“The bucket was holed everywhere at half-time but only the collective could’ve turned that around. We saw that in spades.
“There were loads of mistakes made but the positives outweighed it to pull back that kind of a lead. We’re the ones that salvaged a draw and it feels like a win almost, but it’s not. It’s a draw.
“We have to be very real about this too. There’s a lot of hurling left to be played but we’re still alive.
“We are certainly enthused with the result and we will certainly go with a little bit more of a pep in our step into next Sunday.
“We need to play at that level and above. That’s the thing that’s been elusive for us.”
Facing into a crucial meeting of the bottom pair in the Munster league table, Ryan knows that Tipperary need to improve further.
“Things need to turn for Tipp. We’ve had a tough time. Results haven’t gone our way lately.
“We deliberately got those two young fellas (Jake Morris and Ger Browne) onto the pitch today because you could not buy the experience of playing out there.
“The fellas who played against Limerick and we didn’t see out there today (Alan Flynn, Donagh Maher, Barry Heffernan, Willie Connors, and Sean Curran), they haven’t gone away. They’re still fighting and that’s what we need.
“We have a really good fighting chance in this championship yet.”
For John McGrath, who scored five second-half points and knocked Sean O’Donoghue off the ball to set up Morris’s leveller, that 35-minute performance was the confidence-booster Tipperary needed.
“We showed everything that’s good about Tipp hurling in that second half,” said the Loughmore man.
“We put in a massive effort and we’re a little bit disappointed with the draw. We’ve a big second half to work with and give us confidence going forward.”
He added that their first-half failures were matters that were solved with simple tweaks.
“I don’t think it was anything major. We just needed to tweak things. Cork were really clever with the ball and we just needed to shove up a little bit.
“Mark Ellis was a real out-ball for them in the backs and we tightened up on that in the second half.
“We added that bit of pressure, backed ourselves to go man-for-man and trusted ourselves.
“That showed out there in the second half.”
Three things we learned
HawkEye shouldn’t have been the final act
We’ll leave aside the fact that Jake Morris’ equaliser split the posts clear as day, making one wonder why HawkEye was required at all. No harm in double-checking and all that. But that shouldn’t have been the final play. HawkEye was signalled for with 40 seconds remaining on the clock.
Had HawkEye not been called for, we’d have had an extra play. Tipperary deserved their chance to push for a comeback-completing winner. Cork deserved their right to re-establish a lead once more. Such an enthralling encounter should’ve been allowed to play out its finale, win, lose or draw. We’ll never know how it could’ve ended.
Time for Tipperary’s class of 2016 to step up
It’s been two years since Tipperary last showed their full scope in championship fare. That 2016 All-Ireland final win over Kilkenny has not been built upon to its potential, but perhaps the minors who also lit up Croke Park that day could be the answer. They were endlessly impressive in a year which included the seven-goal rout of Galway.
Yesterday, we saw the first flash from that team at senior level to end an impressive, if belated, backlash. Jake Morris, who was only recently called into the panel, has the potential to be the real deal. So do fellow panellists Ger Browne, Mark Kehoe and a few others.
Cork’s collapse won’t damage their All-Ireland ambitions
Having been in position to complete back-to-back victories in Thurles, a second-half deficit of 0-8 to 1-14 fell far below Cork’s standards. They had their chances to kill off Tipperary and send them into crisis but didn’t do so. A fair share of wrong options and needless turnovers contributed to that but Tipp forced them into mistakes too. What happens most recently remains in the mind longer, however, it’s not just about how Cork lost their lead, but how they rebuilt a three-point cushion before Tipp’s final charge.
It shouldn’t just be about Sean O’Donoghue fumbling with the ball late on but his two second-half block-downs. It shouldn’t just be about the goals conceded but Anthony Nash’s mind-bogging reaction save, nor the scores conceded but Shane Kingston’s 1-5.
They withstood a Tipperary storm and emerged in good nick. If they can make a few fixes, there’s so much to work with.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved