Tipperary became the first side to defeat the ‘Waterford system’ in 2015 with their Munster final win over the Déise in Thurles on Sunday.
Eamon O’Shea and his backroom team had a well-thought out game-plan and to a large extent it worked against a Waterford team that are far from finished in this year’s championship.
Tipperary replicated their high-octane performance against Limerick in the semi-final and this was crucial. Waterford, just like Clare on Saturday evening, had more possession but Tipperary crucially had the greater work rate and scoring conversion ratios.
Both sides created 32 scoring chances apiece but Waterford’s return of just 50% was the main reason why they lost.
Tipperary had a conversion ratio of 66% and that tipped the balance in their favour.
Waterford’s clearly-defined policy to shoot from distance has worked up to now. Derek McGrath’s men are not afraid to let the ball go dead because they generally win the following puck-out but on this occasion Tipperary also managed to nearly break even from puck-outs.
The Tipperary forward line also produced a greater spread of scores with seven of their forwards all contributing.
Waterford, on the other hand, were over reliant on Maurice Shanahan, with Kevin Moran and Colin Dunford their only other starting forwards on target.
Tipperary matched fire with fire and both sides set-ups were very similar with both teams using a sweeper. It is interesting to look at the individual stats of three players to illustrate the way tactics are now playing an even bigger part in the game of hurling.
Seamus Callanan, Tipperary’s go-to man in their full-forward line, was starved of possession, and when he did receive the ball, he was invariably surrounded by three or four Waterford defenders.
In the first half alone, Callanan had just three possessions with two turnovers against.
In total he had seven possessions in the game, with four turnovers against. It is little wonder then that this was only the third time in 40 years that a Munster SHC final finished goalless.
At the other end of the field, Padraic Maher was Tipperary’s sweeper and accordingly had more possessions than any other colleague.
Maher, who is normally very assured in possession, also had a nightmare in the first half as Waterford and ‘Brick’ Walsh, in particular, applied their pressure game.
Maher had 13 possessions in the opening 35 minutes with four turnovers against and four misplaced passes. The centre-back only managed to deliver a pass to a team-mate with five of his 13 first-half possessions.
The third player that we highlight is Colin Dunford. The corner-forward, who normally plays as a third midfielder, has been crucial to the Waterford strategy. Dunford’s pace has been used to rip through the opposition’s open spaces created by Waterford’s counter attacking pressure game.
On this occasion, Dunford missed all four second-half scoring chances, including a goalscoring opportunity which was saved by Darren Gleeson.
In the first half, Shane Bennett also missed his goalscoring opportunity. These are the tight margins that decide matches in the modern game of hurling.
Both Tipperary and Waterford have the potential to make the improvements that could very well see the Munster rivals meeting once more in the All-Ireland final in Croke Park.
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