Inside Track with John McIntyre
You couldn’t quite label it a revolution afternoon for hurling given that one of the triumphant teams were the reigning All-Ireland champions, but when two of the sport’s oligarchs fall in provincial finals within hours of each other, it still has a seminal feel about it.
Any season when either Tipperary, Cork or Kilkenny don’t win the All-Ireland title is a landmark one and with Galway and Limerick capturing the last two McCarthy Cups, hurling is on the brink of repeating the shake-up of the traditional order which defined the nineties. For five successive years, it was Offaly, Clare and Wexford players who were climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand in September.
Up to last Sunday, the anticipation was that hurling’s latest mini-revolution would be quelled in 2019 with Tipperary looking the best equipped of the long-established powerhouses. I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me over the past few weeks: “Your home county won’t be beaten this year.”
Well the Premier men’s bubble was burst in spectacular fashion at a packed Gaelic Grounds last Sunday. Not alone were Tipperary dismantled, but their 12-point drubbing represented the county’s heaviest loss in a Munster final since being wiped out by Cork in 1942 (4-15 to 4-1). Liam Sheedy’s charges had been the form team of the campaign so far, with their forwards racking up some impressive tallies.
There was also a renewed bite to their hurling, but Tipperary’s win over Limerick in the final round of qualifiers had come at a cost. Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher, such a destructive presence up front, suffered a season-ending cruciate injury, while Cathal Barrett sustained a hamstring tear which ruled him out of the Munster final.
The absence of these two players alone doesn’t account for Tipperary’s second-half collapse against Limerick, but it was a mitigating factor. Yet, there was no escaping the conclusion that pre-championship worries about Tipp’s overall pace was borne out on Sunday. After 44 minutes, the teams were level but from there to the finish the All-Ireland champions ran their opponents ragged.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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