We’re in an all too familiar but happy sight as we set up for our sixth consecutive All-Ireland semi-final game in Croke Park. You would think that we couldn’t have asked for easier opposition to have in the final four but they frighten the hell out of me even more than if we were meeting Kerry or Dublin.
On top of that we have been beaten TWICE by Tipperary in All-Ireland semi-finals before this. Fair enough, neither myself nor my father nor just about my grandfather was born when this feat was achieved by the Munster outfit but, still, facts are facts people!
As Darragh Ó Sé so rightfully pointed out in his column in the Irish Times earlier this week, this is not a time for Tipperary fairytales. He claimed that his uncle Páidí Ó Sé reckoned that “Kerry had the beaten of Tipperary over the phone” in the lead-up to their games.
However, this is not a game that we can guarantee an instant success in, despite our red-hot favourites tag. We need to go out and play ball from the start, with no sluggish start like against Fermanagh where we know we can come back and win.
This won’t happen against Tipperary, as Galway well know, they will capitalise on the slow starts and punish us if we are lazy off the mark. We need the likes of Aidan O’Shea, Barry Moran and, with the help of God, a fully fit Tom Parsons in the middle of the park, fielding kickouts and collecting any breaking ball.
This is a part of Tipp’s game which is strong. Win the battle in midfield and you disconnect Tipp’s production line into their forwards. The short kickout is not an option the next day. Like ourselves, Tipp play a very high pressing line on opposition’s kickouts. We have to be confident in our midfielders like we have been in years gone by.
If the midfield line is cut off, their next port of call will be balls into the forward line with the likes of Quinlivan, Sweeney and Austin all brewing up a storm for Tipp in the last few games. This is McLoughlin’s time to shine, he will be asked to produce any knowledge gained about his sweeper role on Sunday and use it to full effect. If the midfield production line is cut off and the forward line are swept away by the backs and McLoughlin, it leaves us free to play quick, counter attacking football.
Tipperary have the quality, it has been visible at minor and U21 level but it cannot be repeated enough how blessed we are with talented individual players who, on their day, like against Tyrone, can gel vastly and put on a real show. Our bench will play a huge part the next day, we have experienced and talents substitutes who themselves can turn a game on its head. It is much stronger than the Tipp one and impact subs must be implanted regardless of the games situation, if we are barely holding on, fresh legs are needed, if we are making them walk the plank, the subs will push them overboard.
As Darragh Ó Sé said, this is no time to gift anyone any fairytales or be Mr. Nice Guy. We need to finish them off and if the chance comes, we tear them apart.
As Billy Joe Padden points out in his column for the Mayo News this week, we don’t want a repeat of Fermanagh in 2004. Then we were dragged, somehow, to a replay and barely scraped by. Two games that cost us dearly in the run-up to the final against the Kingdom a few weeks later.
We want to be coming out of Croke Park on Sunday not having peaked but having done enough to say, this is our year, whether we face Dublin or Kerry. And with no discredit to Tipperary, I feel we can do enough to put them out, without peaking a game too soon.