Shell-shocked would be an apt description to describe Tipperary’s post-match behaviour on Sunday. Michael Ryan delivered a dressing room speech only to realise afterwards that John McGrath was still on the field, for which the manager apologised.
After a meal with Tommy Dunne’s similarly-confused minor group who had earlier lost a 12-point second-half lead to Waterford, the seniors shot the breeze on the field in an empty Gaelic Grounds. If indignance defined their reaction to the comeback draw against Cork, what marked their response to this phoenix-from-the-flames recovery was indigestion.
Official man of the match Brendan Maher tried to make some sense of it. “With 10 minutes to go, you would have taken a draw maybe just to get some sort of result but a poor performance overall, I suppose. We’re depending on other results, which is not a nice way to be, but we just have to focus on winning next weekend. That’s a big one for us now and that’s as much as we can do.”
For a team criticised for their second-half shows against Kilkenny and Limerick in which they managed 1-7 and 1-4 respectively, Tipperary have now disappeared an aggregate 20-point second-half deficit these last two games, scoring 0-17 on Cork and 2-10 on Waterford in those periods.
Maher wasn’t aware they were down by 11 points on Sunday.
I thought it went as far out as eight or nine (points). When you go that far down, you try and not look at the scoreboard. Look, we stayed going and we said at half-time that we needed to stay going until the end. After last week, we knew it was in us. It was a poor performance, there’s no point in dressing up any other way.
There was great heart shown, Maher acknowledged, but not great hurling. “That’s (character) been questioned over the years but we’ve answered that. But that’s not the position we want to be in, to be honest. We’re disappointed with the overall performance.”
Why is it that Tipperary have found themselves behind the eight-ball these last three matches? Maher theorises: “I suppose the confidence is down and as a group maybe we’re over-trying and we’re just so conscious that we haven’t got a win yet that we’re maybe over-exerting ourselves and we’re not comfortable and that’s probably reflected in some of the decisions made today by lads, myself included. I think the stage we’re at now we need to get a win next weekend and that’s all we’re thinking about.”
As Tipp faced a third game in 14 days, Ryan noticed signs of fatigue among his group in the warm-up, though Maher didn’t. “I wouldn’t like to use it as an excuse because myself I had only half a game played in the first game and I think with the performance being so flat against Limerick it wouldn’t have taken a lot out of us.
I thought we were fresh coming in. The weather was warm and ultimately it was poor decision-making; it wasn’t a physical thing that was the poor part of our game. It was bad decision-making and a couple of fumbles here and there and that’s not physical. That’s a mental thing and we need to get that right for next Sunday.
Both teams had small support in Limerick, a point both Ryan and Maher noticed. “I think the pity is more people didn’t travel to support their two teams because I thought the lads gave absolutely everything,” remarked Ryan, “and I know that’s what happens with television and games week-on-week-on-week and it’s a Bank Holiday weekend.” Maher added: “What was here was very vocal and we appreciate that and hopefully we’ll get a good turnout next Sunday. We’re going to need every bit of support we can get. It’s a huge game for us.”
The writing is on the wall for both Tipperary and Clare in Thurles in five days’ time. “Nothing less than a win,” said Maher. “It just keeps us someway alive and we’re still dependent on the last round of games. It’s going to take us a bit of time to analyse what went on (v Waterford) and ultimately it was a poor performance, whether we were down to 14 men or not.”
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