herald

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Dubs can't be hot and cold in the cauldron

ALL-IRELAND SHC Q-FINALTipperary v DublinSemple Stadium,Tomorrow, 4.0Live on RTÉ2

BACK in March, after a rollicking Saturday night in Parnell Park, Danny Sutcliffe spoke to a press gang keen for his immediate thoughts on his latest 1-5 tour de force against Kilkenny.

Over four months later, his words still resonate. "The big thing with us is we're hot and cold," the All Star surmised. "That inconsistency is not going to do us any favours."

The great irony now is that Anthony Daly needs Dublin to maintain their infuriatingly incorrigible habits - to oscillate wildly from toothless to ruthless - for 70 more minutes.

And on that proviso, surely the ultimate backlash beckons and Tipperary's recently soaring tide will be swallowed by a raging Sky Blue torrent in front of their own faithful.

Could it happen? Potentially, yes. Is inconsistency on such a scale the stuff that All-Ireland winning campaigns are made of? Certainly not.

Speaking to The Herald this week, Anthony Daly was in typically candid mood as he reflected on how it all went wrong against Kilkenny. He didn't sound any the wiser as to why it happened, other than to surmise that this tendency for sudden form dips can happen with a team "trying to force their way to create a tradition".

They can't afford one tomorrow, given how Tipp have relocated their confidence and scoring touch during the qualifiers, amassing 3-25 against Galway and 5-25 against Offaly.

HOSTILE

Seamus Callanan's running total for those two matches is 5-18 - just one point shy of Dublin's combined tally for their last two games, 1-31.

In fairness, 0-22 against Wexford was a decent tally posted in hostile terrain - but 1-9 in a Leinster final simply doesn't cut it.

Tactically it wasn't Daly's finest hour, the ploy of withdrawing an inside forward blowing up in Dublin faces as hopeful deliveries dropped into the lap of Jackie Tyrrell & Co. But that alone cannot explain why so many players from midfield up failed to bring their 'A' game to Croker.

Sutcliffe, just back from injury, clearly lacked his usual energy or sharpness whereas Conal Keaney - so magnificent against Wexford - endured one of those hard-to-fathom days where his touch went AWOL.

These are just two forwards - albeit Dublin's most important - keen to deliver inspirational rebuttals in Thurles. If they can set the standard, the rest might follow.

It's at the other end, though, that the really big questions will be asked. Dublin's ability to stay in the race will be predicated on their success in stifling the dynamic surges of Patrick 'Bonner' Maher and the deadly finishing of Tipp's inside forwards.

Callanan has always been a scoring machine prone to peripheral detours - but he's firmly back in the zone. Lar Corbett is also getting there (two exquisite points during the Galway comeback, 2-2 against Offaly) while Noel McGrath's ability to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee is another reason for Dublin to worry.

Dublin's defensive defiance was about the only positive against Kilkenny. Tomorrow Liam Rushe must dominate from centre-back and negate the pivotal 'Bonner' while All Star full-back Peter Kelly must emerge from his recent form trough or else Callanan could go to town.

In summary, we shouldn't forget that with 20 minutes left against Galway, Tipp were on the cusp of losing a fifth consecutive championship match, and fourth under Eamon O'Shea. They have yet to vanquish a team playing with the vim of Dublin circa 2013. But unless Dublin find that form in a hurry, they'll be gone.

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Tipperary 4/11, Draw 10/1, Dublin 5/2

VERDICT: Tipperary

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