Tipperary's senior footballers simply must find a higher gear if they are to make any impression on Cork in next Sunday's Munster semi-final at Semple Stadium.
Liam Kearns men came through against Waterford in the opening round in rather uninspiring fashion in Dungarvan. But, they did what they had to do and they did it without two key players were who carrying knocks and who were kept in reserve as a precaution - ace poacher Conor Sweeney, and classy defender Robbie Kiely. Both are expected to be named in the team for Sunday's game with The Rebels and this means that two of the players who togged out in Dungarvan have gotten vital championship game-time and will be ready for the fray when called upon on Sunday.
Tipperary's performance against Waterford was good in patches, but it must be remembered that had the home side been more clinical, they could have had two goals in the opening half - that would have put a very different slant on proceedings and the Tipp lads are only too aware that Cork will be far more economical in front of goal. In fact, from a defensive perspective, Tipperary must try to shut the door completely on Cork and limit their scoring chances as best they can. To this end, the roles assigned to the three players pictured above will be key. Peter Acheson, a real leader in the side, is expected to be redeployed to the midfield/attacking division with Robbie Kiely's return, but given the nature of the modern game, he will be required for much tracking and the offering of cover to the defensive unit as a whole.
Brian Fox, who is operating in the half forward line, gets up and down the pitch throughout the game to offer support to the defence also and his influence will be very much required on Sunday, especially in the expanses of Semple Stadium, where cutting out space will be a key to any success Tipperary might achieve.
The other key player is George Hannigan who made his full return to Tipperary duty in Dungarvan having endured a very frustrating time with injuries. Hannigan was back to his best and showed real appetite for the play, as well as a maturity and experience which was vital in so inexperienced a side.
Undoubtedly, the Shannon Rovers man will have a big challenge against Cork and with a lot more ground to be covered in Semple Stadium than in Dungarvan, Hannigan will find the going far tougher. However, he is fresh, mad for football and is very focused on making a real impression now that his injury woes have cleared up.
Tipperary will need to see far greater intensity in the play if they are to cause Cork problems. The Rebels might have been relegated from division 1 of the Allianz National Football League, but they will still be very conscious of Tipperary's potency and will be giving them the respect they deserve when they come to Thurles.
Many of the Cork lads, who got the scare of their lives two years ago in Pairch Ui Chaoimh when Tipp almost pulled off the shock of the season, are still involved and they will not want any drama on Sunday. Therefore, they will be going for the juglar from the off and Tipperary will be very much aware of the necessity to keep things tight, keep in the game up to the break and then reassess their position at half time. Allowing Cork to take the initiative early on will be fatal and will ultimately result in the game petering out. That's precisely what Tipperary do not want or need - they want to be going down the home straight neck-and-neck with Cork with the finishing line in sight. The hope then, is that home support can drive Tipperary on and who knows, perhaps achieve a famous victory. Now that would be a turn up for the books. Do get along and support the lads.
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