LAR CORBETT has described criticism of Tipperary's half-forward line as "unfair" ahead of Sunday's eagerly anticipated Munster SHC clash with Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, joining attacking colleague Seamus Callanan in denouncing the argument that the Premier county are a good half-forward line away from All-Ireland glory.
Centre-forward Callanan last week hit out at criticism of the unit and Corbett -- who himself is a current All Star in the right-half forward spot -- has steadfastly backed up Callanan's stance.
"The way I look at it is -- it's about the six forwards as a whole. It's unfair to blame a half-forward line," Corbett told the Evening Herald. "There's a full-forward line there as well. If there's a team-mate in trouble or there's a line in trouble, you help out. The way the forwards have been changing over the past few years, there's no real positions. A centre-forward could end up full-forward or vice versa.
"That's my own opinion on it. It's very unfair to pick lines or to pick individuals. The forwards as culpable as a whole -- I wouldn't look at it like that. That's unfair, coming from the media."
Yet the fact remains that Corbett is Tipp's first half-forward All Star since Mark O'Leary picked up the right-wing gong in the All-Ireland winning season of 2001, while Pat Kerwick, a strong contender to start across the '40' on Sunday, is likely to miss out with a groin injury,
The Thurles Sarsfields man sees no significance in such stats, though he accepts that any weakness in that division on Sunday with be cruelly exposed by the most revered half-back line in hurling.
"If you're trying to pick the top names in Ireland over the past seven or eight years, you have John Gardiner, Ronan Curran and Seán óg ó hAilpín," Corbett said. "You're not going to get a better half-back line than that in the country. No matter who is on them, they are going to dominate in games."
Whatever Tipp's deficiencies, they came so close to beating Kilkenny last year, both in the league final and the All-Ireland decider that many have wondered over the winter months whether the appetite or the ability to raise themselves to such a high hurling plane would be possible this season.
"You have to drive on," counters Corbett. "We know now we can get up to a certain standard. On any given day, we know that we can mix it with the best.
"But I don't look back at 2009 and say 'that's us, we're finished'. We don't know what 2010 is going to hold. But we do know that our preparation is going well, that our training is going well. There's a good panel, and what Liam Sheedy is bringing in there is a good atmosphere. We want to fight for each other."
Given their failure to qualify for a second successive NHL Division 1 final, many have put forward the theory that Tipperary are playing to a completely different schedule this year, and that Sheedy has timed the arrival of his team at the highest point in their arc of performance for August and September.
It has also been argued that a third successive Munster title is far down the list of priorities, and a defeat on Sunday would not, in fact, constitute the end of the world. Corbett, though, is having none of it.
"You show me someone that doesn't want a Munster title," he said. "That's what we strive for and that's why the Munster matches are so competitive."
Sheedy is due to name his team on Thursday night but he will have to make do without the injured quintet of Kerwick, Benny Dunne (wrist), Paul Kelly (leg), James Woodlock (leg) and John O'Neill (knee).