Tipp have as much hurling talent as anyone but flatter to deceive

Tipp have as much hurling talent as anyone but flatter to deceive
Kilkenny's Paddy Deegan and John Donnelly with Willie Connors of Tipperary. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

AFTER coughing up a two-goal lead in the Manchester derby last Saturday evening, there was a piece on the Sky Sports site which suggested Manchester City had ‘a glass jaw’.

As Kilkenny were beginning to turn the screw on Tipp last Sunday in Nowlan Park, I couldn’t help but think there was an element of that thought-process regarding the Premier League side that could be applicable to the Premier.

Last week it was hard to not be positive about Michael Ryan’s outfit. They were progressing sweetly and seemed to be primed for a title-winning assault on the summer fare.

In truth, they probably still are. 

However, their propensity to lose matches when the heat is as intense as it was in the Marble city is an issue they must address. And fast.

Tipp have all the talent in the world. And yet they managed to underperform again in a contest in which they were expected to rubberstamp their authority on the league campaign.

Now, there is no need for Premier folk to panic. After all, there is plenty of scope for hitting the right notes at the right time in the coming months.

But Tipp need to be more aggressive in situations such as the one they found themselves in last Sunday. When you watch Tipp you always think there is another gear or two that they can go to if so required.

However, when it is really put up to them they very rarely find much off the bridle. Though it was obvious winning in Nowlan Park was never going to be easy - it never is, when opportunities like that arise they have to be taken by a team attempting to prove their questioned steeliness.

From the inspirational Paddy Deegan all the way out the field to the wizard that is TJ Reid, Kilkenny simply wanted to win more. Given the manner in which Tipp succumbed to Galway in the league final last year, this was a real shock. 

Kilkenny's Conor Fogarty celebrates scoring their second goal. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Kilkenny's Conor Fogarty celebrates scoring their second goal. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

If they had played to their potential with a roaring display and lost, few could argue with that. But they never performed anywhere near their optimum, did they? Or are we overrating Tipp? I reckon it is definitely a case of them underperforming rather than Ryan’s unit being overestimated.

However, more performances that underwhelm in the summer and we can basically say I might indeed be overrating Tipp.

Separately, Eoin Larkin has understandably heaped praise on the continually sensational TJ Reid, however. Larkin foresaw the potential in Reid a long way out, though, obviously, was not the only individual so close to the scene that appreciated the Ballyhale man’s prowess.

"Absolutely I did, he can make the ball talk in fairness to him," Larkin explained. "He has a great pair of hands and physically he is after maturing very well, he has all the attributes. 

"As we have seen in the last few games, he is really the leader of the team now but I am sure that Brian Cody will be looking for others to step up too when he doesn't have a good day, and that day will come as well.

"The form TJ is in at the moment, there's not many systems or players that are going to stop him. I think you just have to do your best on him and accept that he's going to score a few points and move on."

In 2017, Larkin put out a ruthlessly honest tweet which questioned the application of the Kilkenny players and their approach to their campaign.

On reflection, Larkin said it was probably ‘harsh’ yet, does not believe he was the only one with that opinion. And he is likely correct.

"I'm not sure it had a positive impact or not but that is the way I was feeling at the time. It probably was a bit harsh on my part but coming from what I was coming from, watching that was somewhat disheartening.

"They took it on board and I'm sure I wasn't the only one saying it to them. I'm sure Brian and the lads were saying it to them behind closed doors too."

However, and especially given the unavailability of household names such as Richie Hogan, Larkin admitted he did not expect the Cats to win in Nowlan Park last Sunday.

"To be honest, I didn't expect them to win the league final," he stressed. "I thought if they could come out of it with a respectable scoreline, then they could take it on the chin and move on and try to improve a bit for the championship."

And his attitude probably reflects that of most Kilkenny people.

Yet, here they are, league champions again. And who would be brave enough to suggest an All-Ireland title will not follow later in the year?

I still believe there is more to come from Tipp, primarily because Seámus Callanan’s return will make a significant difference to them offensively.

Nevertheless, the shot in the arm this will have given Cody and his players is difficult to quantify. People were naïve to write them off earlier this year. They were being underestimated, for sure.

Now, though, all of a sudden everybody appreciates again that they are contenders.

And that is even more so because of the fact this year the race for the All-Ireland title is probably more open than it has been for many, many years.

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