A semi-final place has been the aim since we started the league.
The obvious lack of goals aside (especially when compared to the extraordinary game in Nowlan Park), this was as complete a performance as anyone could reasonably expect from any team at this time of year.
Tipperary pounded Waterford into submission in sunny Semple Stadium yesterday and in the process got their 2012 Allianz Hurling League challenge very much back on course.
Right from the off, the Tipperary attack clicked into gear and were six points to one ahead by the 10th minute — Pa Bourke and John O’Neill with two apiece, Noel McGrath and Shane Bourke chipping in with one each. By the 27th minute that lead had been extended to eight points (0-14 to 0-6), as Brian O’Meara, Johnny Ryan and bang-in-form Brendan Maher joined the scoring party, meaning all six forwards had scored, as had a midfielder (Maher).
In reply, Waterford were relying on the accuracy of young full-forward Martin O’Neill from placed balls to keep them in touch, though Maurice Shanahan and Shane O’Sullivan did come in with a point each. When midfielder Stephen Molumphy got on the end of a well-struck Gavin O’Brien sideline for a 29th minute goal, it gave Waterford some hope, and an exchange of points between O’Brien himself and the magnificent Noel McGrath meant there were only five points between the teams at the break, (0-15 to 1-7).
With the breeze behind Waterford in the second half, the expectation was that this might yet be a real contest. Didn’t pan out like that. Lapses of concentration up front caught Waterford napping on several occasions, Tipperary worked the short puckout at their leisure (Darren Gleeson very accurate in that respect), and, boy, did they capitalise.
A series of points for the first 20 minutes of the second half, a parade of scorers also with Noel McGrath orchestrating things from centre-forward, and Tipperary were 10 in front in the 55th minute, 0-24 to 1-10. Waterford did then hit the briefest of purple patches, Maurice Shanahan (on the ball a lot more when shifted to the wing) with 1-1 from a penalty and a free, to bring them within six. That was as near as they’d get, however with Tipperary once again hitting the gas in the final ten minutes and coasting home the most comfortable of winners.
“We’re delighted with the points we scored today,” admitted manager Declan Ryan; “There was a lot of skill shown by the lads and we are happy enough with the way they closed out the game. They were very good in possession, used the ball very well and I think it was a step up from the Galway performance in that regard. 31 points is decent shooting.”
The result puts Ryan’s side back in the mix for one of the three league semi-final places on offer in this division and Premier fans will hope for more of the same against Dublin in Croke Park on Saturday. Ryan continued: “We’re looking to get to a league semi-final and that has been the aim since we started the league. We obviously didn’t get off to a great start but our performances have picked up considerably, we’re going in the right direction. Dublin blew us off the pitch last year in the league; they started off poorly this year but their performances are also on the way up. They need the points, so do we; it will be a massive battle, a huge physical battle.”
For Declan’s namesake and Waterford counterpart, Michael Ryan, there was no hiding from the truth — this was a trimming. “We’re still short five or six players but that’s not an excuse. Regardless of who we’re short the team is not performing as well as it should be performing. To gain good experience you have to be playing reasonably good as a team, otherwise players go away with bad memories and down and out. Everybody is ‘down’ in the dressing room and we have a lot of lifting to do. We have to start performing and performing fast. I’m not that bothered about results but what I AM bothered about is the level of performance that — it’s simply not good enough. We’ll have to look at our fitness, game-plan, attitude and focus. We’re just not up to the pace of the game. We don’t look sharp, we don’t look fit and we don’t look mentally focused. There are other problems and everybody has to step up to the plate, players and management.”
Scorers for Tipperary: N McGrath 0-7 (0-1f); P Bourke 0-7 (0-4f); B O’Meara 0-3; P Maher 0-2; B Maher 0-2; J Woodlock 0-2; J O’Neill 0-2; S Bourke 0-2; S McGrath 0-2; J Ryan, T Stapleton, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Waterford: M Shanahan 1-4 (1-0p, 0-1f); M O’Neill 0-4 (4f); S Molumphy 1-0; S O’Sullivan 0-2; G O’Brien, S Walsh, J Nagle, K Moran, E McGrath, 0-1 each.
Subs for Tipperary: S Maher (O’Keeffe 35); J O’Brien (O’Neill 55); S Curran (Ryan 60); T Stapleton (P Maher 64); S McGrath (Woodlock 67).
Subs for Waterford: J Dillon (O’Neill 48); E McGrath (P O’Brien 55); T Ryan (S Walsh 68).
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).
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