It’s not just Tipperary fans who tend to get ahead of themselves.
True, Nicky English came across plenty of Premier supporters for whom the prospect of a second successive All-Ireland hurling title was deemed probable rather than possible when he took in Munster’s Champions Cup semi-final loss to Saracens in Dublin last month.
But if that was in keeping with the county’s famed ability to lose their heads at the first sighting of Liam MacCarthy then it should be noted the vast majority of folk he met from elsewhere in the province that day at the Aviva Stadium felt pretty much the same.
A day later, and Michael Ryan’s men were reeling from a 16-point league final loss to Galway in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds and English couldn’t help but wonder how those self-same rugby enthusiasts felt about the race for hurling’s big prize in the wake of it.
He’s seen Tipp fall from this height before. Five times they’ve failed to retain the All-Ireland since the last back-to-back, in 1965, and he was involved in three of them: twice as a player and again in 2002 as a manager. The hope is that the Galway trimming has divested people like those following the rugby of any complacency.
“I have no doubt the day after they were all a little concerned about what they saw. Because this was a fair hiding. It wasn’t just a one-point or two-point defeat. This was serious in terms of the magnitude of the defeat. Certainly any Tipperary person watching would not be as expectant as before.”
The magnitude of the loss may have surprised but the downward spiral in Tipp’s fortunes was in keeping with a spring that begun at pace before faltering and grinding to a halt: three wins from their first three league games, a draw with Kilkenny, a loss to Cork and then … that.
It makes this weekend’s date with Cork all the more intriguing. Tipp had nine points to spare when the counties crossed timber this time last year but English isn’t alone in believing Cork look better now. Kieran Kingston has had more time to fine-tune the approach and faith has been placed in some youth.
What hasn’t changed is the fear the Tipperary forwards match up a little too well against that Cork back line and if Seamus Callanan is back at full pelt after missing the Galway no-show then the All-Ireland champions will be hard to stop. I actually think the match will nearly be more about Tipperary really and how they’re going to play. If they play as they did in the league final well, then that’s probably not capable of beating Cork. Tipp had a few players left off but they didn’t beat Cork in the league either.
“You would have some worries about the Cork backs but Mark Coleman is probably an addition. That’s their difficulty, I think, but typically games between Tipp and Cork, it’s the players that you expect to play well are the fellas that don’t, and vice versa.
“The Tipp-Cork match can go any way really over the years.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved