Our experts give their views on the state of the hurling nation and the destination for Liam MacCarthy

In recent years, we’ve held our championship chat at the outset of summer. But having heard often enough that the championship really begins now at the quarter-final stage, this year we waited. So with just five chapters left to turn, our experts Anthony Daly, John Considine, Eoghan Cormican, John Fogarty and Enda McEvoy broke bread and considered the state of the hurling nation. Larry Ryan threw it in.

Larry Ryan:

Again this year, the championship hasn’t exactly caught fire, but has there been anything in particular that excited you or surprised you so far?

Anthony Daly:

I don’t know about excited, but the surprise was the manner of Waterford’s defeat to Tipperary. I didn’t see that coming. I think they will bounce back because there is a great spirit in the camp, I just couldn’t see a 21-point defeat for them because Derek hasn’t really tinkered with the system bedded down last year. I tipped them to win the match and Tipperary to be better later on in the year and maybe win the All-Ireland with Bubbles back. That was the shock for me, but there has been nothing too exciting, to be honest.

John Fogarty:

It was a surprise. You look back on it and you think what were the reasons for it; Tipp winning a third competitive game in the wet. As much as teams train in the wet, winning a competitive game in those conditions is a huge thing. Bubbles will get in the next day but there is huge competition there now.

I thought Jason Forde would have been taken in. O’Meara did okay. Even without that second-half wind, Tipperary would have won that match. Now, they probably wouldn’t have won it by 21 points, but they still would have won it.

I fully expect Waterford to bounce back this weekend. But you would be concerned about the structure of this side against the big two. Stephen Bennett was going well in training up until the Munster final, you would wonder why he wasn’t used. You saw what he did in the U21 game last week. I expect to see himself, Curran and Shanahan up front the next day. The structure does have its drawbacks, but that system, if you want to call it a system, will beat everyone bar the big two.

Eoghan Cormican:

Was it not more defensive errors than an out-and-out systems failure that caught them? The first three goals all came from defensive errors. One was a goalkeeping error and the other two were avoidable.

AD:

I didn’t think it was a systems failure either. They hit an awful flat day. You look at the five that were taken off. If someone said going into the game that these are the five lads Waterford are going to take off, you’d have said they are going to be well beaten here.

John Considine:

Waterford teams have, on occasion, tended to crash and burn. You go back to the Kilkenny game (2008 final), Tipp caught them in a Munster final. It was the same as the last day; long ball, lads coming in from the side, breaking ball and the sliotar in the net. De La Salle, too, blew up in an All-Ireland club final. You wonder did it leave a scar? I think this team is different. I think this team is made of sterner stuff.

AD:

Their U21s gave a fair bounce back against Clare.

Enda McEvoy:

It was inexplicable what happened. In 2008, Kilkenny were at their peak and Waterford had the whole Justin/Dan thing during the Clare game. In 2011, when Tipperary got seven goals against them, a lot of that Waterford team were on their last legs. While you can rationalise those defeats, I still can’t come up with a reason for last Sunday week. It was genuinely inexplicable. Hopefully, they’ll be able to write it off as a one-off that will never happen again during their lives.

SWEEPING STATEMENTS: ‘I didn’t like a young team being pilloried’

LR:

A consensus seems to have emerged that a defensive system will only take you so far, but maybe not beat the very best teams. Are we reading too much into a couple of games?

JF:

There’s a case for stopping teams and Waterford last year learned to stop teams. Going into the Munster final last year they were fully expected to stop Tipperary for a large period and eventually it was John O’Dwyer coming out the field that won the game for Tipperary. But from 25 minutes out in the semi-final, you knew Kilkenny were going to win as no-one bar Dunford was taking it to Kilkenny.

People expected them to be a little more developed this year. Austin Gleeson is the outlier. His position is what Waterford seem to be doing differently. The core of what Derek is doing is remarkable and he has the players to do it. It does have its limitations, however.

What I didn’t like last week is that such a young team were being pilloried and being seen as everything that is wrong with hurling. They are not. They are an incredible group. We’ve seen Eoin Larkin and Taggy Fogarty going back and making tackles in the past and yet with them it is called ‘work-rate’. With Waterford, we call it a system. Waterford didn’t work as hard as Tipperary last week. For that reason, they fell flat.

AD:

I agree with John. If you look at where they have come from in a short space of time... I can remember my last year with Dublin and Dublin relegating them. They drew with Cork and then a no-show in the replay. This project looked as it if it was going to be a long and painful one. It is desperate harsh to judge them on one real hard day.

I think Tipperary are better equipped to break them down than Kilkenny. Tipperary have forwards that can run at you at real pace. You look at Kilkenny and you see Larkin and Colin Fennelly taken off the last day. Jonjo Farrell is the new boy wonder all of a shot, but we know he is not the boy wonder. I think Waterford might be better equipped going the route they are now going.

JF:

People are going on about imitation and Eddie O’Connor blaming Waterford for the season we had. We haven’t had a good championship in years. The triumvirate and the Cork-Clare games covered a lot of cracks. I see Shefflin going on about imitation last week. Tipperary are imitating Kilkenny at the moment. Look at their midfield; Brendan Maher going side to side a la Conor Fogarty and Michael Breen going forward like Fennelly. We can talk about imitation and poor reflections of Waterford, but Tipperary have taken a lot from Kilkenny.

JC:

You would have said traditionally that the big full-forward would like the ball in high, but Callanan nearly is the man who prefers it in the space. John McGrath, who probably isn’t fully developed, is pulling them out of the sky.

But I’d say a lot of Waterford lads aren’t getting to play ball in a different way because of the system. At the back, they are nearly leaving the ball at this stage. They are giving their man a nudge and letting the ball go. I think that is something they may need to address. Tipperary could attack them in a way other teams couldn’t, maybe Kilkenny, but there are not too many more.

EM:

Are you saying that because Waterford have a spare man therefore they are not all marking one-on-one and don’t have to go for all kinds of balls the whole time?

JC:

Yes. If you look at their defenders and the way they use the ball, they’ll knock it down, they’ll shovel down a handpass. They have that man in front of them, they leave that ball run through. They can use the extra man quite well and Tadhg de Búrca can then fling it. I’d say during the Munster final that Tadhg de Búrca hit less ball than he did any other day. Not alone is he then removed as a defensive pillar, it also means that he is not spraying the ball up the field and making sure the pressure is on the opposition defence.

They also looked like a team last Sunday week that was convinced they were going to win. When things started to go wrong, they were getting upset.

AD:

The dynamic can change, can’t it? All of a sudden, everyone was making Waterford favourites. That’s a big change especially when you’re underdogs, underdogs, underdogs. When we started out with Clare, we were never given a chance. Then, you start becoming favourites. Going into the ‘98 Munster final aginst Waterford, we were the hottest of favourites because we had blown Cork away and then Waterford nearly catch us with a Paul Flynn free. A team that is not used to be being favourites, that can affect you.

EM:

I thought it noticeable in the first-half, particularly in that short period when they had two wides and a third effort came back off the upright. Obviously Waterford are a side that need to be converting chances, the air went of out their balloon and that was it.

JF:

It was the wides more than the Tipp goal that rocked them.

EM:

I think so too.

AD:

It’s so hard to know how things it will go. John McGrath was sick, puking in the dressing room and went out and scored three goals.

EM:

Basically what you are saying is that it is good to have something to worry about on the day of a match to keep your mind off things.

JC:

Michael O’Neill said before the European Championships that everything was going well and he was worried. They were pretty poor in their first game. A team that thinks that this is going to be their day and are looking ahead and things start going wrong, it is curtains.

DEATH OF THE PROVINCES: ‘Tipp have to get like Kilkenny. Put it in the boot of the car nearly and go home.’

Our experts give their views on the state of the hurling nation and the destination for Liam MacCarthy

LR:

It’s been known for Tipp to fall flat after a big win. Was that hammering a terrible miscalculation?

AD:

I’d have less respect for a team that wouldn’t hockey you, that would throw the ball over the bar when another goal was on.

JF:

There was something different about Tipperary the last day in the Gaelic Grounds after winning it. There were all these celebrations, as you’d expect, but there was also the sense that they were keen to park it very quickly. They have been here so many times before. Plus as well, the Munster championship is on the line here.

Attendances have been bad and the actual integrity of the provincial championship and how much it means going forward is at stake. Because we’re going back to Cork in 2005 for a team to successfully bridge that five-week gap. We saw Galway last year. But for Callanan, they would have been streets ahead.

Tipperary are doing it for themselves, but they’re also doing it for Munster.

JC:

I don’t know. Take the Waterford team of the last decade, they’d have nothing to show if they didn’t have those Munster medals. We bring in other competitions so that people can win stuff, so, I think, if we had just the one competition we’d be devising another.

Looking at Cork, if you looked at the successes under Jimmy I thought it was building nicely. Had they beat Waterford in the league final you could have gone ‘ah look, All-Ireland final and Munster final defeats, Munster title the following year, National title now’. Collecting silverware keeps teams involved in a way they wouldn’t be otherwise.

AD:

It probably only applies to four counties in both codes, Kerry and Dublin in football and Tipp and Kilkenny in hurling. Look at Tyrone and Galway, in football, like you saw what it meant to both those dressing rooms.

We haven’t won it since ‘98 in Clare, and if we won it the Square in Ennis would be packed that night. And feck five weeks’ time, we’ll worry about it Thursday.

It depends where you’re coming from. Let’s say when the Páirc opens and Cork beat Kerry in the first Munster final, you’ll see a fair pitch invasion that day.

What did it mean to Limerick in 2013? What did it mean to Cork the following year, the last day in the Páirc? It’s fresh in my mind.

What did it mean to the Dublin hurling people? That Sunday night and Monday; Jesus it was magic in Dublin. Go back to ‘95 is the only time I could compare that to real magic.

But Tipp have to get like Kilkenny. Put it in the boot of the car nearly and go home.

And they are there to be fair to them and they have kept producing the players and there is a quality squad and there’s been a consistency in management as well.

TIPP’S CREDENTIALS: ‘There definitely has been massive buy-in.’

LR:

As John says, a trophy is a trophy, Tipp were happy enough to win something for Eamon O’Shea last year before he finished up.

JF:

The huge thing for Tipp is they have beaten teams that, you could argue, have wanted the Munster title more, that’s a huge boost for them. This five-week gap, Brendan Maher was talking about it afterwards that they overloaded on training straight after the Munster final last year and eased up.

But now they’re thinking of tapering it a bit. They’re all playing clubs this weekend and they played last weekend.

They’re going to rise to it as opposed to whittling down towards the semi-final.

EM:

I often think that we obsess over structures in the GAA, in hurling especially. The problem isn’t structure, it’s that not enough teams are at the required standard. I think that structures are adequate or more than adequate. This year, you have two teams a few lengths ahead of the field. We know what Galway did last year and every so often. We all thought that Waterford were closer to Kilkenny and Tipp than they turned out to be. We shouldn’t write it off yet but it was disappointing for me and I think for everyone. It looked like a three-horse race but now it’s looking like a two-horse race.

EC:

Wasn’t it Dan Shanahan who said last year that all five teams are capable of winning a Munster final, that’s absolutely not the case.

AD:

It doesn’t look like it at the minute, but if I said it to you the night of the replayed league final, you’d say three. Limerick are not having a good season, per se. But at the start of the year, Limerick were U21 All-Ireland champions. Would the seniors bounce back from a poor ‘15? TJ had a poor ‘15 after a very good ‘14. But were they gonna bounce now? If I said it to you that night, would you say this is a one horse race?

JF:

You’d probably say four or five, cause Limerick were capable of beating Tipp.

AD:

The gas part is, you hear about Callanan being injured and Bubbles is out, it was lean

ing that way. If Waterford had won, you’re talking them, Tipp, Cork, Limerick all winning in the last couple of years. And Clare an All-Ireland. A great spread of champions.

And this year, we didn’t know the Michael Ryan dynamic, bringing in John Madden, bringing in Conor Stakelum, Declan Fanning staying as coach. You’re wondering what’s the buy-in going be like here? Will the players be saying ‘we’ve been listening to a guy we’ve had since the start of Liam Sheedy’s time’?

Earlier in the year, when they didn’t bother entering the Munster League, it was all ‘why aren’t we, we need games, we need to find a few new lads.’ This was the talk in January. We’re great to forget like.

But there definitely has been massive buy-in, that’s the one thing you can say looking at it. I watched them play against Clare down in Ennis, I was at the last three games Clare played and I thought Tipp were the best team they played. How Tipp didn’t come out of Ennis that day winning, young Shanagher running from an awful distance and batting in a goal. The wides Tipp had that day were just incredible.

EC:

In hindsight, did that defeat suit them. Another one-point defeat and we were all talking ‘here we go again’.

JF:

It’s still hanging over their heads. More than likely they will be eyeball to eyeball with someone in the last five minutes. We’ve seen Galway, we’ve seen Waterford do it to them, we’ve seen Clare do it to them. The jury is still out on Tipp.

AD:

I think they will face Clare in the semi in Croker, which Clare love going to in their heads. They have themselves convinced, it’s in Clare people’s psyche ‘Croker, Croker if we could get there at all, that’s where our lads play.

PRESSURE POINTS: ‘I just thought Micheál could have just maybe said a bit more.’

Our experts give their views on the state of the hurling nation and the destination for Liam MacCarthy

LR:

Will we move it onto the Clare-Galway game.

AD:

It’s a gas dynamic. While they are neighbours, and there wouldn’t be any great love north of the border, there’s no real tradition of meeting really. A couple of times in the 90s, the 2013 quarter final, the 2002 quarter-final before playing Waterford.

EC:

The 2007 group stage when Ger was there.

AD:

It’s a funny dynamic. If it was a Clare-Limerick quarter-final, there’d be fierce talk around Clare but there hasn’t been that much talk. I suppose the footballers deflected it a bit at the weekend. Out and about yesterday, I didn’t hear anything, no lads texting ‘oh what do you think?’ Clare have nearly had the better of it most of time when it counts. I think Clare will put in a shift but they weren’t great against Limerick. Talk is that McGrath will feature, not for the 70 but he’ll feature. He came through a few minutes of a training game last Sunday so he would be a huge addition. I thought Clare, if they nailed just a third of their wides against Limerick, that’s five more points, that’s a cosy win and a different dynamic. And there’s a fear factor everytime Clare and Limerick go out. I don’t think that’ll be there against Galway.

EC:

That’s on either side, I don’t think Galway will have any fear either.

AD:

No and who’s under more pressure? Both of them are! It’s a pressure game.

JF:

It’s management under pressure from a Clare perspective, for Galway it’s players under pressure.

EC:

After the Leinster final, I don’t know about ye, but I thought people were quick to use what happened last year as a stick to beat them with.

JF:

Same as Mayo when they lost to Galway.

EC:

But I didn’t think it was as over the top when Mayo lost.

JF:

You’re talking about Ger (Loughnane).

EC:

Yeah, I know his one man but…

AD:

Ah, we all had a bit of a dig.

EC:

Yeah, everyone was happy to jump on the bandwagon and throw it in their face.

JF:

But you look at Galway interviews they use the word ‘pressure’. ‘We are under pressure’. That’s not good. The more you talk about something, the more it becomes engrained in you. That’s the one concern I’d have from a Galway perspective.

AD:

Micheál Donoghue will not let Patrick Kelly or Fahy puck the ball 45 yards to a free Cian Dillon. Let him puck it to a corner-back and defend from there where he’s tied into a corner. What corner-back wants to get the puckout? I certainly didn’t anyway! Against Limerick, they were allowed to puck it from 50 yards at times and Dillon has this explosive burst of pace and he’s making 20 more yards on the run. The runners are coming and if theres a shooting day on for Kelly or Podge they’ll do damage.

EC:

He’s the most comfortable collecting those puckouts so the most obvious tactic would be to stand on top of him.

AD:

Fitzy will be texting me as soon as this appears.

JF:

Cyril (Farrell) did it last week on The Sunday Game, highlighting exactly what their puckout strategy is like.

JC:

If you give it to the smaller Clare players, I mean some of those Galway forwards are big units. I wouldn’t like to be carrying it out past them.

And the last number of Galway’s championship outings — ok, they’ve had bad patches — but they put it up to Kilkenny in both games, beat Tipp, destroyed Cork. That’s four championship games where they look like they can do something.

AD:

But you touched on it ,John. The players are constantly mentioning this pressure thing. I’d have liked to hear a bit more from Micheál and deflect it from the players. Not being critical of him. He’s only starting out.

LR:

He’s probably trying to keep things a little bit low-key, in fairness.

AD:

I know, but I just think that…

JF:

He’s in a win-win situation.

AD:

I think he could have said, ‘Look, someone has to be over the Galway team, I’m a Galway man, I trained my club to win an All-Ireland club, I’ve been involved with Tipp with Eamon O’Shea.’

It’s a learning curve for Micheál too at this level.

JC:

Derek McGrath was good that way after the Munster final, saying ‘maybe we trained them too much’.

AD:

I just thought Micheál could have just maybe said a bit more. They were very low-key all year, probably the draw in Leinster led to that.

EM:

Can we agree that they’ll have to do something next Sunday that they didn’t do in the Leinster final — go for goal?

AD:

There’s no doubt, it’s what separates Kilkenny and Tipp [from the rest] in an awful lot of ways, when the sniff is on, they’ll go. Fellas see the space in front of them and say: ‘This is on here’.

EC:

Cathal Mannion, I think, is the most notable in that department, having the half-chance. It’s not a slight on him, because he’s got four or five points in the last couple of championship games…

AD:

No, he has been superb.

EC: …

but to take the extra risk and just have a go.

AD:

Compare him to John McGrath. Going back to that day in Ennis, the five points he got, every time he tried to take on his man first and then back out and the skill then to pop one.

JC:

If you always look for goal first, or for someone else who can score, you can always go back and take another option. It’s a different mentality. The Tipp guys are great for sending it out to someone who’s on the shoulder or who’s coming through, they see that they’re heading for goal. They’re nearly the same as Kilkenny.

AD:

And ‘Bonner’s back to his best, that’s a big factor.

JF:

The man with the greatest work-ethic on the team, you could argue.

CHANGING CLARE: ‘What would you expect different as a result of Dónal Óg?’

Our experts give their views on the state of the hurling nation and the destination for Liam MacCarthy

LR:

Have we seen Dónal Óg’s stamp on Clare as much as you would have expected?

AD:

There hasn’t been a huge change from the ’13 style of play, I would say. But in Clare there has been an awful lot of internal pressure, not even from the local press but just the people on the ground, Clare people aren’t used to winning three U21 All-Irelands in a row! People are saying: ‘There’s a flood of talent, why aren’t we making the most of it?’ There was a set way of playing in ’13, but people didn’t expect it after the first-round defeat and the run came, the momentum came, the drama of the whole thing, the last-minute point and the brilliance of the replay.

It’s hard then to recalibrate yourself with a young team, a bit like Tipp stopping the five in a row and then the following Saturday night in Thurles seeing them annihilate Galway in the U21. Walking out, you were hearing: ‘This is the start of another five in a row, lads!’ Where has it been since? It hasn’t, and I think that Clare have suffered a bit that way too. The Dónal Óg stamp on it? I don’t know.

JC:

What would you expect different as a result of Dónal Óg? We don’t know, because, okay, he was with Cloyne, but what would be different?

AD:

All we can take really from it is the analysis on The Sunday Game, where does that come into showing it on the field? All I can say from ground-level, the feedback would be that he is very popular with the players, very good with guys on a one-to-one basis, talking to them about where they’re going wrong and where they’re going right, where they can get better.

I hear that he’s great around the place.

LR:

Have you noticed anything different about them, Enda?

EM:

I’d agree with what the two boys were saying. The thing about Sunday, does the year automatically become a success if they win?

AD:

Relatively, yeah.

EM:

They won the league for the first time since ’78 and they’re back in Croke Park for an All-Ireland semi-final, surely that’s a good year and it justifies Dónal Óg.

AD:

Last year, when there was a bit of disruption, talk and all this about reviews and stuff like that, people were saying: ‘Well, minimum All-Ireland semi-final next year’, and the league has been bagged. I’d say they’d love a crack off Tipp, but you have to negotiate Sunday first, which could be very tricky.

EM:

If they do win, they’ll be going into an All-Ireland semi-final having won three games in a row. Big momentum there.

AD:

Back to Croker. There’s this stupid thing since ’95, they have kind of performed in Croker, whereas they have been desperate in Thurles or Limerick. There has been no dramatic bad day in Croker, even in my bloody time and I had disasters in Thurles and Limerick. If you look back over the thing, the people in Clare will bloody say, ‘Oh, going to Croker now, the boys love playing in Croker — Kelly, Collins, Shane O’Donnell — they might have only played there once!

There is that oul’ thing down there, it’d be an awful lot handier to go into Limerick to play Tipp, but ‘No, we’ll go into Croke Park.

JF:

You’re spot-on, because I know if Tipp had lost and were in the quarter-final [playing Clare], Davy wasn’t looking for the Gaelic Grounds, he wanted Croke Park.

JC:

After winning the league, you’re looking at Clare guys who have U21 medals, an All-Ireland and a league title. I know you [Anthony’s team] won two All-Irelands, but if you look at the spread of success, this is a serious generation.

AD:

It is, but you don’t always get an awful pile of seniors — you should out of three teams, I agree — and a team that won in ’09 as well, John Conlon and Darach Honan’s team.

EM:

Yeah, two different generations there.

JC:

The Croke Park thing — the U21s won there in 2009, then the minor in 2010, these guys must like Croke Park.

WEXFORD RISING: ‘To be fair, it’s some turnaround. Hurling is fickle.’

LR:

How do you rate Wexford’s chances this weekend?

AD:

A bit of a chance, depending on the hangover with Waterford, if there is one, or how they’ve regrouped. It’s a short time, the two weeks. I’ve seen it with the Limerick minors, trying to get their heads back on it. It can be a tricky assignment after a slaughtering.

Since Chin came back, Wexford are transformed. It’s amazing what one El Sid can do for a team. That day against Offaly, he was like a beacon. Head and shoulders above anyone on the field. And Conor McDonald, who had been struggling for form, once Chin started, McDonald came to live, McGovern came to life and Diarmuid O’Keeffe came to life. Even the younger fellas. Jack O’Connor. Foley centre-back. The corner-back Eoin Moore. They just started to lift around him.

JF:

They’re a real streaky team. David Dunne….

EC:

He didn’t get enough credit for the Cork game.

JF:

Lovely hurler, but he draws a free. He’s benefitting from the surprise element. Credit to Liam Dunne, they’ve lost Andrew Shore, they’ve lost Doran. They lost Redmond, Jack Guiney is the elephant in the room. Credit to Dunne, his guts were for garters coming up to that Waterford game in the league.

AD:

The Dubs beating them by 13 points points, the project was going down, rapid. To be fair, it’s some turnaround. Hurling is fickle. Even against Offaly, they went five ahead. Tomás Mulcahy and Eddie Brennan, the analysts, both went for Offaly.

JC:

Nobody gives them a chance of making an All-Ireland final, but they could catch fire.

AD:

But they don’t need a hockeying.

JF:

Waterford are favourites, in this position they don’t like. There’s nothing on Wexford.

AD:

They will be out in force. The minors there as well.

JF:

If Dunne wins I think he’s untouchable again for another year.

AD:

He has found himself rebuilding in the middle of year four and a half. A quare way to be doing things.

JF:

Still, there is a pressure. Semi-final is progress. Quarter-final? You’ve been here before, haven’t you?

AD:

Quarter-final with a big show though.

EC:

You could feel his relief after beating Cork. “We just needed a break” — he must have said that 10 times.

AD:

I was just delighted for him. He is a decent guy. Even being on the sideline with Dublin against him. We had it over them for a few years. We could beat them, league and championship.

Even in 2014, they really fancied they could beat us that day. We went down and won by five or six points. I remember he came up, shaking hands saying: “I’m getting a bit fed up of shaking hands with you and saying ‘well, done Dalo’”. We’d know each other from the 90s and being on a few trips together.

JC:

In a general scheme of things, hurling needs Wexford and Limerick because they’ll bring the numbers if they can get any success.

LYING IN WAIT: ‘Maybe it’s another aspect of the brilliance of Cody’

Our experts give their views on the state of the hurling nation and the destination for Liam MacCarthy

LR:

I suppose there’s an argument we should mention Kilkenny at some stage. Is all of this just an audition to be beaten by them again?

EM:

I thought it was interesting what you were saying about Waterford having a job done on them by Tipperary. Kilkenny, I think we all agree, don’t do ‘jobs’ like that on teams any more. They’re happy just to grind them down. They don’t have the goalscorers. I don’t think Kilkenny will beat a team out the gate anymore in the way that Tipperary, who have shooters now, have. But that doesn’t mean Kilkenny won’t win the All-Ireland.

AD:

Maybe it’s another aspect of the brilliance of Cody. When he had the team who could shoot the lights out — against Waterford, Limerick in those finals — they went for the jugular and went early. Now, he can choke teams. It’s the brilliance of him, But could there be a Rory Jacob moment in there? They’re two points ahead, couple of minutes to go. Maurice strikes. Or a human mistake. How close was the Limerick game a couple of years ago? A wet day.

JC:

Go back to Cha’s speech when they got the third of the four in a row and how that was the first time they’d done three in a row. They’ve always had trouble getting that. So this current group would be able to etch out another bit of history by getting the three in a row.

AD:

Cody v Micko, how do they stand now on All-Irelands?

JF:

Cody is well ahead.

AD:

Just making the comparison of the failure to do the elusive five-in-a-row and Kerry came back and then did the three-in-a-row.

JF:

The Kilkenny full-back-line is still questionable, isn’t it? I’m not just talking about against Clare in the league and the miscommunication that day. Holden and Eoin Murphy had a bad day that day, let’s be honest. But Cathal Mannion had a good game first half against Paul Murphy. Paul Murphy is usually the man. Kilkenny want high ball into that full-back line. But good low ball…?

We’ve probably seen the best of Jackie Tyrrell. It probably is the way to get to them.

And if there are injuries... We have seen some remarkable recoveries and Mick Dempsey deserves a lot of credit for the condition he has them in. But can they keep taking these injuries when they do not have a bench? That’s the one concern.

EC:

They didn’t need a bench last year.

AD:

Can you imagine marking Larkin and Fennelly now for the next three weeks in training?

EM:

He only brought on Richie Power and Ger Aylward last year.

JF:

Richie Power was brought out of nowhere for an All-Ireland final. And he was a distraction when he came on.

EC:

Jonjo Farrell is going some distance to filling Aylward’s boots.

AD:

After the Dublin game, it’s hard to believe that Galway let Paul Murphy sit where he sat. Why not play Jason Flynn and say ‘get out to the corner flag, Jason’. Top of the left. If Murphy doesn’t go out with him, someone has to. Because you can’t leave Jason Flynn on his own. But they brought an extra player to the middle of the field and Murphy comes out then right alongside or in front of Joyce. And he reminded me of Lohan or the Rock getting the ball.

EM:

Murphy is now almost playing as the full-back, the receiver, coming out to the ball.

AD:

But then make him the full-back. Drag Joey Holden out to the corner and leave Murphy in the middle with a speedster on him. But at the moment he’s inside in the cluster play where he is king at. You don’t beat him in there.

JF:

The one thing that was obvious last year was Cody wanted to make sure that Prendergast was minded. Buckley and Walsh are outstanding wing-backs and they compensated a lot for what goes on behind them. But you’d have to be a bit worried about that left corner.

JC:

Some of that is visual. Sometimes you wonder if two of the Kilkenny full-back line would get a game in other traditional counties. Purely on the way they look. But they’re effective. If you’re backing up and forcing a team to go long and high, these guys are doing the job. I agree you’re wondering if they will be caught. But Kilkenny have always had fellas like that..

We look back and say how great John Henderson was, but when John Henderson was full-back there were times when you were wondering if he was going to survive, but they just get the job done.

Some guys stand out, the Seanie Macs, Dalo putting those frees over the bar. But some of those Kilkenny fellas just do the job. Even Walter Walsh… (mimes an unwieldy grip)

AD:

Walter. I said at half-time last year, live on RTÉ, how is he still on the field. Any other manager would have had him taken off at this stage. That second half, the shift he put in, And all this year during the league.

EM:

He has been good this year. Real battering ram stuff.

AD:

He has been a trojan.

JF:

He’s started every game as well. Started every game last year.

AD:

The willingness to run that line, to go back and allow Buckley to sit that bit deep. He’s just so effective for them. This year when they’ve needed lads, Larkin hasn’t worked so far, Watch that space. Colin taken off again the last day at half-time. Any other manager would be leaving them on saying they’d click, but he whips them off.

And then you see the value of Walter. When they’re not clicking. Going up against Galway and you said Larkin would be off by half-time and Fennelly off, and Galway leading by three, you’d say they’ll do it this time.

But lads like Joyce too, by God. Down in Portlaoise, Joyce was like a savage. Anything coming down the middle was not coming down the middle. Come down the middle at your peril.

JF:

The third quarters have to be spoken about. It’s become too much of a trend to be coincidental. Their ability to recalibrate. They start a second half like it’s a first half. They’re remarkable. The time to get them is in the first half.

AD:

Everything from the county board, they’re no football. Every young fella aspires. It’s almost gone All Blackesque. Like a Haka now. Here’s the Stripey Men down the tunnel. The normal warmup over the in corner, No cones, no fuss. And teams are nearly five and six points down before it starts. Up here.

EM:

That third-quarter thing is almost becoming a self-perpetuating thing. They believe it themselves and so do the opposition.

AD:

It’s added to the whole thing. It’s gone into team’s heads.

JC:

If you’re in a dressing room now and you’re giving a team a message, do managers give a negative message? ‘We need to hold them for the next quarter.’ And if you say that, you’ve already told them you think they’re in trouble. Whereas if you tell them, you think you’re as good, go out and take the game to them….

AD:

The sports psychologist willl ate you..

JC:

I think it makes a difference to the opposition. These guys have won trophy after trophy.

AD:

I still think Tipp can beat them in the final.

CALLING IT: You go for Brave Inca on the day because you know you’re going to get the maximum

LR:

We might as well get to the predictions.

AD:

I’ve gone for Tipp all along and I’m sticking with them.

EM:

A stopped clock. Having gone for Tipp for…

LR:

... as long as anyone can remember

EM:

… a couple of years. I’m going to stick with Tipp. On the basis that everything Tipperary have done in this championship is bulletproof.

AD:

They still need a few things to fall into place. Galway to turn over Clare this weekend. Set up revenge for last year. Clare in Croker would be a different dynamic.

JC:

I still think Galway are physical and can run at them the way Waterford couldn’t.

JF:

Tipp want Galway.

AD:

If Mick Ryan had his choice, he’d pick Galway.

EM:

Physically Galway maybe, but that suits this new hard-edged Tipp. Clare might give them a few more intellectual problems.

LR:

Who are you going for, John?

JC:

Kilkenny, just on the basis that they’re proven winners. The fact that they keep doing it. Whereas that question mark is there over Tipp. Even in 2010, Shefflin was gone off, Tennyson was playing on half a leg.

AD:

It’s like the Champion Hurdle John. You go for Brave Inca on the day because you know you’re going to get the maximum out of him right up the hill in Cheltenham. Or do you go for a Harchibald, someone new?

JC:

Kilkenny with the field closing in fast.

EC:

Likewise. They did it with 18 last year. I know you’re saying it’s very tough to do it twice. But so far this year, the pattern has been very similar so I just don’t see them being stopped, though Tipp are closest and that field is closing in.

JF:

Galway would be the perfect set-up for Tipp, but I feel Clare will win so that changes the dynamic. I don’t think Galway would stand a chance against Tipp. I still believe it will be a Tipp-Kilkenny final but I’m going with Kilkenny.

ABSENT FRIENDS: ‘Limerick still haven’t recovered from 1994.’

Our experts give their views on the state of the hurling nation and the destination for Liam MacCarthy

LR:

Before we wrap up, what can Limerick and Cork do to avoid missing the party again next year?

JF:

There’s so much potential in Limerick with the young lads coming through. There’s going to have to be a bit of a sweeping of the decks. There’s a few guys who have been found out. It’s a transition.

AD:

How many managers have been there in 10 years. It’s incredible.

EM:

But it comes from 43 years of famine. Winning an All-Ireland solves so many problems. The fact they haven’t won one means they’re still groping around.

JF:

There hasn’t been enough continuity.

AD:

There hasn’t been enough patience. The underage structure. I’m there two years. There’s no doubt the quality of fellas it’s producing. I see the improvements. The structure that’s there. I haven’t had a thing to do with the U14s. You can’t be everywhere. But there’s five or six coaches with 60 or 70 of them and it’s really well done.

Then the 15s. They’ve quality. The graph is going that way. They are producing the Barry Nashes, Tom Morrisseys, Cian Lynchs. There was a bit of tiredness there this year.

EC:

The Limerick imprint was all over the Fitzgibbon final. The best players were all Limerick. But no patience. The doom and gloom in Thurles after the U21 defeat. It was bad, but...

AD:

Well if I’m 55 and I was brought by the hand as a youngster by my father. Patience? And how big were those opportunities in the 90s? Fluffed.

EC:

Winning an All-Ireland changes everything. Donal Fitzgibbon, who used to be the county chairman, said it to me a couple of years ago, we still haven’t recovered from 1994. That’s a fair comment.

JC:

You know the book The Winner Effect. There’s a stat in it that Oscar winners live, on average, four years longer than people who were just nominated. The fact that you won gives you something. A worth to yourself. You’re not as stressed out. It stacks up in other areas. Good players are a serious help too.

JF:

As regards Cork, Harnedy was injured the last couple of games, but he was brilliant earlier in the year. You have to look at building an attack around him for starters.

But nobody knows what the Cork style is. We saw the Egan thing against Tipp and while you might say there were no goals conceded...

Sully is on the record saying he doesn’t agree with the sweeper so clearly not all the management team are agreed. From next season, they need a structure they stick to, whether it’s holding the ball Newtownshandrum style or whatever.

JC:

Bernie O’Connor said, with Newtown he played that way because of the players he had. If he had a big horse of a full-forward he’d have played a different way.

The amount of undue criticism Jimmy got for playing a style which I thought suited the Cork players...

One of the best games Cork played in the last decade was the win over Dublin in 2013. Cork played so well that day. They played the game so fast that Ryan O’Dwyer got sent off. The ball was gone just a fraction.

But because Jimmy was a bit older, people thought it was old-fashioned. If Cody wasn’t winning, he’d be told he didn’t have enough cones. Or how is he picking some of those players.

That some fellas can’t even hold a hurley. But because you’re winning, you become a genius.

They’ll have to sit down and look where are we going. I’m guessing the changes in the panel suggest more than a one-year plan.


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