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Monday 24 September 2018

Tipperary finding their best form at just the right time

All-Ireland SHC quarter-final Tipperary v Clare Today, Live RTÉ 2 (3.0)

Tipperary scoring machine Seamus Callanan was right back to his most prolific against Dublin last time out. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary scoring machine Seamus Callanan was right back to his most prolific against Dublin last time out. Photo: Sportsfile

Mick Ryan did a good job of suppressing his satisfaction in the tunnel in Thurles a couple of weeks ago.

A win, he said, was the only thing Tipperary wanted out of their clash with Dublin but he got more than that.

The margin of victory, he maintained also, was unimportant.

But so too was it inspired by some of Tipperary's most underperforming players in what has been an oddly flat summer so far.

Seamus Callanan's 3-11 was an obvious place to start being pleased, particularly given he was withdrawn against Westmeath and his starting spot was considered to be under threat.

Clare need Tony Kelly firing on all cyclinders. Photo: Sportsfile
Clare need Tony Kelly firing on all cyclinders. Photo: Sportsfile

But it was only pertinent to the quality service he got.

His link play with John McGrath was sublime, albeit every analysis of Tipp's well-being that day came with the asterisk of Dublin's under-performance attached and highlighted.

Destructively

John O'Dwyer was sublime in periods too, although those periods were slightly too far apart.

But it was 'Bonner' Maher's display that must have encouraged Ryan most.

Maher missed the majority of Tipp's league due to a hamstring injury and hasn't moved as freely or as destructively since until that day in Thurles.

At one stage, he emptied Shane Barrett with a shoulder, a blow that would later force the Dublin defender off.

But Maher scrapped and fought for balls both on the deck and in the air he logically only had a 30/70 chance of winning and claimed them, regardless of the fact that his team had long since won the fight on the scoreboard.

He forages better than anyone in hurling at the moment and with McGrath, Callanan and O'Dwyer stumbling towards their best form, he is the piece of the attacking alignment Tipperary cannot do without.

"What really was at stake was to go forward into the last six," said Ryan.

"The performance didn't really matter."

"What the qualifiers have given us … we're building that momentum bit by bit."

"These guys are very potent," he admitted.

"We just wanted to get these guys into the groove again."

Disappointment

For Clare, the Munster final was a huge disappointment, partly due to the result and partly because they never gave a proper account of themselves.

Clare never really performed and yet they still had chances to win the game.

They missed four goal chances whereas Cork got one and stuck it but for the most part, the Rebels looked like they were going to be able to handle anything Clare threw at them.

Clare's plan for dealing with Anthony Nash's puck-outs prevented them from allowing Cork win possession inside their scoring zone but routinely, one of their defenders - usually Damian Cahalane - took the short ball and made 40 yards before picking out a man.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Clare haven't yet discovered how best to use their match-winners, Tony Kelly, Podge Collins and Shane O'Donnell.

Tipperary have more of them. And they're just finding form at precisely the right time.

ODDS: Tipperary 1/4, Draw 12/1, Clare 7/2

VERDICT: Tipperary

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