Thoughts about Tipperary

Photo: Irish Times (Laszlo Geczo/Inpho)

We’re a week out now from the All-Ireland semi-final so I guess it’s time to start thinking about Tipperary, focusing on how they’ve been getting on of late, our meetings with them and all that.

While the wider world may, in the context of the Premier County’s fairytale Munster title success last weekend, view our meeting with them next Sunday as a novel fixture, this isn’t of course the case at all. It’s only four years, after all, since we last played them at this stage in the Championship and, of course, our paths crossed in the qualifiers since then as well, when we met on a broiling hot afternoon in Thurles in the middle of the long, hot summer of 2018.

I’ll come back to those two clashes in a bit but first let’s have a quick review of who Tipperary have been playing over the last while and how they’ve been getting on. In doing so, it’s as well to take as our starting point the aftermath of that qualifier meeting in 2018.

After we’d halted their gallop in that year’s Championship, Tipperary started life the following spring in Division Two of the National League. An unhappy start to 2019 it proved to be for them too as, after just one win, combined with a draw and five losses, Tipp finished bottom of the division and, along with Cork, they dropped to Division Three.

Things then went from bad to worse for them in the Championship last summer. Heavily favoured to beat Limerick in the quarter-final of the Munster Championship, instead they slumped to 3-11 to 1-10 loss to a team that subsequently went out and got walloped 3-18 to 0-6 by Cork in the semi-final. The Rebels then lost the final to Kerry.

That certainly wasn’t the kind of form that hinted a breakthrough provincial success might be on the cards any time soon for the Premier lads. It was the same in the qualifiers, as they exited, at the first time of asking, away to Down in Round 1 where they lost by 1-13 to 1-10. So, after just two outings, an utterly forgettable Championship year was over for them.

Now in Division Three, this spring gave little hint of Tipperary’s coming renaissance either. The League campaign – which, of course, only concluded last month – was a disappointment for them, as they ended up in fifth place on seven points.

Their slate of matches started back at the end of January in Clonmel, where they had a reunion with Down, who’d knocked them out of the Championship last summer. This time the honours were even, the match ending in a ten points apiece draw.

The following weekend, Tipp travelled to Drogheda from where they came away with an 0-11 to 0-7 win over Louth. That win, though, was followed by three defeats on the trot before the action was brought to a halt by the pandemic.

The first loss was away to Derry, where they were beaten by 0-10 to 0-5, and then they were unlucky to lose out in a high-scoring tussle with Cork at Thurles, that one ending 3-13 to 0-21. Another game with plenty of scores followed, this time at Pearse Park in Longford, where the home team emerged the winners by 3-12 to 3-7.

Tipp were now staring down the barrel of potential relegation to the basement division and, no more than ourselves, were probably hoping during the long Covid-induced interregnum that this year’s National League would be scrubbed from the record. Unlike us, though, once the action resumed they secured their divisional status, beating Offaly by 1-16 to 0-16 in Thurles before grabbing a nervy 2-11 to 0-15 win over Leitrim at Carrick-on-Shannon in the final round.

So, even as recently as a few weeks ago, there was precious little evidence that might help to foresee the seismic events that were set to unfold in Munster this month. To be honest, once the provincial Championship got going down south Tipp were still slow enough to show their hand.

They opened their Munster campaign over Hallowe’en. Clare, operating out of Division Two in the League, were fancied to beat them but goals early in each half of this encounter at Semple Stadium – the first from captain Conor Sweeney and the second from wing-back Bill Maher – proved decisive for the home team. They won by 2-11 to 1-11 at the finish.

Limerick were up next for Tipp and this one almost proved fatal. It would have done but for Conor Sweeney’s wonder strike from a free out near the sideline late in injury time, which pushed this tie at the Gaelic Grounds into extra-time. Tipp finally emerged from this absorbing contest with a 1-15 to 2-11 victory.

Photo: Irish Independent (Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile)

With Cork, though, having sensationally dumped out Kerry in the other semi-final, the Rebels were huge favourites to win the Munster title last Sunday. On a day of high emotion at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, however, with the Tipp lads looking the absolute business in their commemorative Bloody Sunday centenary jerseys, it was the Premier County who prevailed by 0-17 to 0-14.

The win secured Tipp their tenth Munster title and their first since 1935. Their title victory last Sunday, coupled with Cavan’s shock victory over Donegal the same day, also ensures that the 2020 Championship has an eerie historical parallel with the one in 1920, featuring as it does the same four All-Ireland semi-finalists.

Tipperary won that Championship, in which the final wasn’t played until the summer of 1922, but we’re the favourites to prevail over the Premier a century on. The recent encounters between us have gone our way but in both games Tipp have given us a decent rattle.

Photo: RTÉ

We never, in truth, looked like we were going to lose the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final but Tipperary would have had some regrets about how that game went for them. Robbie Kiely was black carded early on for the kind of offence that refs seem to overlook every time the likes of Dublin or Kerry commit them and his loss was a huge blow to them. By the time Bill Maher was sent off late on for a striking offence the tie was already beyond them.

Tipp gave us another bellyful when we met them in Thurles in the qualifiers two years later. We were definitely ripe for the taking then – Kildare duly took us at Newbridge a week later – and the Premier lads proved a real handful for us on a stone hard pitch at Semple Stadium that June day.

Our cause wasn’t helped by the loss of Colm Boyle to a black card before half-time and we were further hobbled when Seamus O’Shea limped from the field early in the second half with a season-ending dislocation injury. With Tom Parsons having suffered his horror knee injury earlier that summer, this meant we had to see out the game without either of our first-choice midfielders.

It has been claimed by some here that it the flukey goal scored by James Durcan saved our bacon that day. That’s not wholly accurate, however, even if the Castlebar man’s effort was most likely an undercooked attempt at a point that dipped into the net. What that particular narrative ignores is the fact that we blew Tipp away with 1-8 without reply in the final quarter that day. We were fully deserving winners by eight points in that game, even if the lads had made us all sweat a bit before they got motoring properly.

But that’s all history now. And, as the teams head to HQ for Sunday’s behind-closed-doors meeting, it’s Tipperary who have the hand of history with them, even if they’ve opted to revert back to their usual blue and gold kit for the game.

While Tipp can look to the past for inspiration, we’ll go into Sunday’s match using our recent track record in All-Ireland semi-finals as our guide. This is our ninth semi-final appearance in the last ten years and while we’ve made it through to the decider four times, losing out four times as well, it’s worth recalling that only Kerry and Dublin have lowered our banners and on two occasions they only managed to do so after replays.

We’ve also beaten both of them at this stage in the Championship over the past decade – Kerry in that memorable replay win in 2017 – and, as well as Tipperary, we’ve also got the better of Tyrone in the penultimate round of the Championship over the past decade.

You have to go back a long way to find the most recent time that, in a year we won Connacht, we were knocked out of the Championship by anyone other than Dublin or Kerry. That year was 2009 when we punched well below our weight to lose out to a no better than mediocre Meath team at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage.

But that truly was ancient history. It was certainly before the consistently competitive era that James Horan ushered in for us in the years since then. We can, for sure, expect to be competitive once more next Sunday but will we be victorious? I’ll leave that one for you to vote on.

Will we beat Tipp?

  • Yes (84%, 1,059 Votes)
  • No (16%, 204 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,263

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49 thoughts on “Thoughts about Tipperary

  1. Thanks wj…arís. I’ve voted for our lads to win… actually everyone has so far. However I really do expect a real battle. I’m excited though and looking forward to seeing our lads on the hallowed turf of Croke Park. Let’s hope we are focused and click on the day. Maigheo go deo.

  2. Team for Tipp and Dubs (should we make final).

    All the best ball winners in the middle 3rd.




    K Mcloughlin




  3. Because there isnt a strong alternative, Keegan is needed out the field (and is not a corner back) and Higgins is highly experienced in croke park
    Centrefield why do u feel Higgins should make the team ?

  4. Higgins is no corner back either. No where near where he was. Liability at this stage. Great servant but he has had his day.

  5. I given up trying to second guess what 15 players will start, never mind the 26 on the program…7 or 8 are probably nailed on if everyone is fit and healthy. Not being able to go to matchs or discuss it with knowledgeable folk, in the Pubs, half the fun is gone… and there dosent seem to be any information leaking from James Horan’s Cabinet, and that’s the way to have it…Pure speculation here I wonder if any of the Tipperary hurling panel, now that they are out of the Hurling Championship be available for selection for the footballers, personally I doubt it, double edged sword that, Colin O’Riordain being available is a big plus for Tipperary but so, someone else who’s been available for the hard yards all year misses out… The time’s we played Tipperary I taught they were marvelous footballers playing a very pure traditional game, but in comparison to Mayo, or most of our regular opponents very naive..I’m not expecting anything naive next Sunday

  6. No disrespect to Keith Higgins but he’s been struggling for pace in one-on-ones in the corner for 5 years now. Still a quality player and still may have something to offer. But likely coming off bench to strengthen middle third.

  7. The team is fairly settled since the return from lockdown and so id expect to see the same line-up as v Galway. The only position where i can see any change is at 11 where its a toss up between ROD, Mark Moran or possibly Bryan Walsh though i think James will stick with ROD

  8. Id like to see Diarmuid moved to MF with Ruane, Loftus to centre forward, and one of Flynn/Walsh on to the wing. ROD has great potential, needs more development in a few aspects of his game.

  9. Keith Higgins has been a great servant. No less a man than the Gooch said he was the toughest defender he ever played against I’d say James O’Donoghue would say the same thing. I would have thought Eoin O’Donoghue was the heir apparent to Keith Higgins he’s made from the same granite as Chris Barrett.

  10. I’d expect Horan to stick with his trusty lineup. Might see a swap for ROD and Mark Moran but nobody can call it really

  11. MAYO will win on sunday .our leader is building a team of footballers for croke park and i have no doubt they will get over the TIPP. challenge. WITH regard to TILE STYLE thread I READ liam woffatt’s article and i despaired about no mention of extending the pitch when they are relaying the pitch.maybe i am missing something. MCHALE park just has to be made the same size as croke park ie. 145 m long x 88m wide as against current size of 137 m long x 82 m wide CROKE PARK is 1526 square metres bigger than mchale park.IT is imperative this is done NOW when the pitch is being re-layed.Instead of putting up tiles on a wall nonsense we supporters could sponser 1 square meter of additional pitch area.i would urge club members to canvass your county board delegate to extend the pitch.the bigger pitch would really help all MAYO teams for preparing for the business end of championships and i think our teams deserve the best oppurtunity possible.

  12. Yep. EOD looked a cert to slot in. Tough tenacious and has good skills. Not sure what story is there.

    I’d love to see James Carr start or feature strongly off the bench.

  13. Agree with Jimbo regards to the pitch size. Been thinking that for years.
    Good to see David is the ref for our game WJ , but does that rule him out for the final. Probably stuck with Deegan if we get there.

  14. Spot on Jimbo. This topic came up a few weeks ago on the blog. It wouldn’t cost that much extra either, im not an engineer, but would think if u lengthend the pitch at the Albany end, and widened it on the MacHale road side it wouldn’t be too much hassle?. Croke park is the aim every year for this team. Our best football is always played there, would be silly not to at least consider changing dimesions if the surface is going to be relayed!

  15. I would certainly be in agreement that increasing the dimensions of the pitch would be a great help but I do think it would be quite costly and I don’t think you can just add 8 meters to the length of it one end without impacting the view from the stand. You would have to do so at both ends give or take a meter or 2 from one side to the other.
    If you’re go go the whole hog and widen it 6 meters, too, you’re basically taking the front tiers from the walkway out of it altogether on the 3 open sides which would reduce the capacity quite significantly. I appreciate it’s a rare day that you’d have Mchale park full – Galway in 2018 and Donegal last year are the most recent occasions I recall, but I can’t see the County board ever going to that length.
    I’ll caveat this with confirming that I’m no engineer either but I expect all of that would be very costly indeed.

  16. I think we’d all like the pitch to be made a bit bigger.However it would involve a lot of work and would be prohibitively expensive.
    My suggestion would be to make it as big as possible without having to do any engineering,construction or demolition work.Perhaps they are at this limit already.

  17. Jimbo/MayoDunphy, I agree. With my engineer hat on, I estimate that the work involved would take out at least 8/10 rows of seating on both the Albany and MacHale Road sides. This would reduce the capacity considerably but a further project could increase the amount of seating at the back of the Albany end. If it was combined with a new pitch drainage system, it would be worth considering. No construction work is cheap if done well, but at the very least, a cost/benefit analysis would be worth doing.

  18. Have to say, gough is a proper referee, no messin when he’s around and if I’m correct, he brings his brothers, father and uncles as his linesmen and umpires. Has he ever reffed a final?

  19. The team I would put out the next day:
    Barrett Coen O Hora
    Durcan Keegan McLoughlin
    Mullen Ruane
    McLoughlin Diarmuid (ROD or Loftus)
    Conroy O Shea Cillian

    I think we need to strengthen our midfield. With Mullen and Ruane in the middle you have two young powerful, athletic players capable of going at full tilt all day. I know placing Mullen here wouldn’t be everyone’s choice but I regard him very highly as a ball player. He has good hands, is very comfortable on the ball and has lightning pace and is a very intelligent player. I don’t think he lacks confidence either and he is well able to compete in the physical stuff.
    I don’t think Aidan is able for the running that’s involved in MF any longer. Certainly, if we get past Tipp, Dublin would run the legs off him as they did before. At FF he is a massive threat even if he doesn’t actually get much ball himself. He and Cillian have to stay near the Tipp goals.

  20. Dave he reffed the drawn final last year, and sent off Cooper in the first half after warning him when he gave him his first Yellow card to cut out his usual antics.
    He is indeed the best of the available pool of refs, rarely makes a bad call.

  21. Lads, this this discussion pops up every now and again, McHale park dimensions are what they are, its not going to increase, we had no problems with the pitch dimensions 2011 to 2017, we were well able to play in Croke Park those years. Replacing the pitch surface will need to be done at some stage, Dr Hyde Park pitch cost in the region of 600,000 euro which was good value and that’s the standard we would be looking for. Extending the pitch would cost serious money, the amount of excavated material alone would be significant and would cost 10s of thousands to remove. Removing rows on a terrace would result is a large drop which would need edge protection (fencing), the list goes on. People thinking this would be a cheap job are completely wrong.

  22. Thank you Fbd. Can a ref that does a semi also be in the mix for a final? On Mchale park, if it was my choice I would leave the pitch size as it is and put that money into the more important things. What does changing the pitch size do to improve Mayo teams?

  23. Sean, maybe it is, personally i dont think so but thats decisions to be made by Mayo GAA. Im really just pointing out that this is a major project with a cost well north of 1m euro, some people are of the impression that this is a straight forward cheap job, its not and with the year we have had it isnt something the county board can afford any time soon.

  24. I see Gary Boylan has signed for Galway united he was an excellent minor. I hope we can hold on to Oisin Mullen

  25. Barry Cassidy from Derry is top of the list for this years All Ireland final. A little birdie tells me so.

  26. Reading WJs stats on Tipp would  suggest we have nothing to worry about against Tipperary. Well deserved their win over Cork whom you have to say scraped through beating Kerry on an awful day. I cannot see Tipperary beating us, though I do expect them to give us a good hard game. I see we are looking at cold conditions  returning on  Sunday with possible snow. Certainly unusual  playing a semi final this time of the year. That being said our boys have been consistent since the  re-commencement of games. Mayo by 6 points. Who know maybe its Waterford and Mayo’s year??

  27. Excellent piece Willie Joe.

    Some further thoughts on Tipp:

    * Bloody Sunday part 2 will be next Sunday. Tipp will run on to the field and the first thing they will see is that great big banner on the Hill. It’s quite evocative, just a couple of weeks after the centenary, with everything still fresh in the mind. They will latch on to it, and we shouldn’t ignore the effect; we should be ready to deal with it.

    * They are still ‘hurting’ after 2016. Henry Shefflin said yesterday that hurt in gaelic games is a great motivator. Again, we should be ready for that. No, I don’t think they were hard done by in that game, but they do; perception is all.

    * They don’t really rate us deep down. Tipp may the poor relations in football, but the county is not called the premier for nothing. They trade on confidence and arrogance in those parts. That will rub off on the footballers, and as we well know they are underage winners in any case, with a number of those players still going strong.

    * Apart from Bloody Sunday, the 1920 final win (albeit actually won in 1922) is a further motivator for them, as well as the ‘history is on our side’ theme that I have heard a few of them articulate. Hurt, and belief – quite a combination.

    Maybe we need to bring some hurt out there on Sunday. Revenge for 1920/22 anyone?

  28. Mayo shouldn’t be short on hurt.

    Try 89 96 96 97 04 06 12 13 16 16 17. Have I missed any?

    Run that list by Tipp and see if they can “see us and raise us” with a better hand.

    I doubt they can. It’s time to stand aside now Tipp. We are having another crack at this in 2 weeks. Clear a path. We are coming through and will take out anything that stands in our way.

  29. Catcol..What about a book called ” House of Pain” based on years of hurt.And that’s not even including the past few All Ireland’s!!Nah, Tipp can’t hold a candle to us in that area..
    Must say as abysmal as the set up is without supporters, have the lads ever had clearer heads heading into a semi final? Not a scrap of hype..

  30. That’s an absolutely incredible run of finals lost by any team in any sport. How can it even be possible that a county gets to that many and doesn’t win 1/3 of them? You’d have to get serious odds on it. Lots of hurt for sure and if ever the run of losses is broken I think a weight will be lifted off the shoulders of the players in the future.
    Do Mayo travel to Dublin. The night before or travel there the day of the game?

  31. I expect Tipp to put up a good score given some of their forward talent but ultimately i expect us to win relatively comfortably, our bench and our running power will overwhelm them and we will run out 6 or 7 point winners.

    Im not going to do any poormouthing, we will be strongly fancied here for a reason. We have been operating at a much higher level than tipp for years now, they needed a miraculous sweeney score and extra time to get over limerick, They required a narrow last day victory to survive in division 3 against leitrim. Those are just facts.

    They have obvious talent in quinlivan and sweeney who would grace most teams, they are also strrong in midfield.

    If we lost this one it would be nothing less than a disaster tbh. Its a great opportunity this year with so many big guns (Donegal, Kerry, Tyrone etc)dispatched already

  32. @justonemoreyear
    I hope you are joking about barry cassidy getting the final, his display in the cavan donegal match was the worst ive seen in a while, Cavan won in spite of his best efforts

  33. …as regards lineup for sunday
    I expect it to be mostly the same as what got us thru connacht, 13 of the spots are set in stone i reckon.

    The 2 bolters i would expect to start on the day are Jordan Flynn and James Carr.

    Its clear we need another pyshical presence out around the middle of the park and Horan seems keen on Flynn so would expect to see him get in there to mix it up with o’riordan etc
    As for James carr, i think he is made for croker, has performed well there in the past and really should be ready to step up now
    Otherwise its as you were i reckon

  34. In a normal year it would be Kerry who would be Munster Champions and playing Mayo on Sunday ,its not normal and don’t expect a normal game, anything can happen this year. Mayo never do normal in Croke Park either.

  35. Our game is based on athletes executing skills at the highest level on a field called Croke Park. We have come up short in the last decade because we have not been able to practice on a pitch of similar demsions and quality and our opposition have. So we need a field that is of a similar size and quality to compete at the highest level and put the fear of god in anyone that comes to play ball in our county. Do something right or don’t do it at all. I would prefer we spend no money in machale park if the dimension (or very close to) of Croke Park can not be achieved. Complete waist of time if we resurface the existing dimensions.. complete madness

  36. In terms of changes to the team, I’ll make the same suggsuggestion I made before the Connacht final. Start Fionn McDonagh at 10 and move McLoughlin to 11. Fionn would give us another good kickout option along with the pace and athleticism you need in Croke Park.

    Can’t see James Carr starting as the full forward line is set in stone.

  37. Clarke
    Mullen Ba?ret O Hora
    Durkan Coen Mcloughlin
    Ruane Keegan
    Mcloughlin D.O.C. Loftus
    Conroy Aidan. Cillian
    This team should do the job, let the young fellows lose,, and they should run Tipp. off the pitch, keep a few defenders back to mind the house, no soft goals conceded.
    See how it goes and prepare for Cavan or Dublin.

  38. In fairness Dublin have hammered us numerous time on our own field. They’re not that bothered about dimensions.

  39. I do not understand where people are coming out with Swanny starting on Sunday. He has not featured for Mayo in the previous three games,cannot see him being thrown in to Croker in an All ireland Semi final.
    Lets talk straight if we have ambitions of beating the Dubs we will need to express ourselves and put these lads to sword the next day.
    They are a division 3 team at the end of the day. Well organised, strong around the middle with two marquee forwards but its an All Ireland Semi final. On paper Galway and Roscommon were tougher assignments. We have had 3 weeks off so no excuses from our side this time around. Despite the three new lads we have plenty of experience to call on in the side also. If players like Boyle/Vaughan/SOS dont get game time the next day they wont be seen in the final (presuming we get there).
    With the hope that Dublin go in untested to the final this could be a great chance for us.

  40. Predicted 15 for Sunday:
    Mullin Barrett Keegan
    Durcan Coen E.Mcloughlin
    Ruane Parsons
    Walsh ROD DOC
    COC AIDO Tommy goals

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