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Munster Semi Finals for Tipperary Minors and Senior by Big John

posted by Friends of Tipperary FootballFriends of Tipperary Football on Fri May 13, 2022

Over the course of a year I get to watch a lot of Gaelic Football matches….but I don’t let it get me down.

Every now and again I come across a team that makes me fall back in love with the game. This year’s Tipperary Minor Football team are one such team. In fact I believe the ship captained by John McNamara could compare favourably with any Tipperary minor team over the past 20 years.

After winning their first three games in the round robin series, they came away from Mallow last Thursday evening with the Daryl Darcy Cup and a 1:14 to 1:04 victory in the Phase 1 Final of the Munster Minor Football Championship. However, as good as Tipperary were, this was the least impressive of their four performances to date and they will know that the margin of victory flattered them.

The old saying “backs win games and forwards just decide by how much” was never as true as on Thursday evening. Having watched the midfield and forwards blossom in the first three games, it was the turn of the Tipperary backs and goalkeeper to step up and they were not found wanting. Robbie McGrath pulled off an excellent and important penalty save just before the break while on numerous occasions, especially in the first half, the Tipperary backs had the “thou shall not pass” sign up while at the same time demonstrating that long forgotten skill called the “block down”. With the Limerick resolve broken, the midfield and forwards were then allowed to go about their business and do what they do best.

They now face the losers of Cork and Kerry in the Munster Semi Final. There can be little doubt that they will have to improve again to win that game but there is also little doubt that this bunch of players have everything that it takes to find that improvement. If courage, flair and skill is what you like to see in a Gaelic Football team, then get yourself to Thurles next Thursday evening to watch these talented youngsters play. You won’t regret it.

The Tipperary Senior Footballers have their own Munster Semi Final on Saturday evening when they take on Limerick in FBD Semple Stadium.

At the start of this year, David Power and his cabinet looked to have a rebuilding job on their hands that even the Grand Design team wouldn’t have fancied but they have gone about their business calmly and professionally and have left no pebble unturned in their search for new players. Between the McGrath Cup and the National Football League they looked at over 50 players and have unearthed a few diamonds in the rough. Against Waterford, nine players made their championship debuts and one suspects that if Mark Russell had been fit then that number would have increased to ten. I expect two or three more players to make their championship debuts by the end of the game on Saturday night.

Of course the managements job has being made easier by the personalities and character of the players in their squad. Apart from being talented footballers, this group of Tipperary players are willing to learn and take on new ideas and philosophies. For coaches Charlie McGeever, Declan Browne and Paddy Christie, these players must be a dream to work with.

Tipperary footballers and Chicago Bulls basketball legend Michael Jordan don’t often get mentioned in the same sentence but I read a quote from Jordan in an article during the week and he could easily have been taking about the current Tipperary football team when he said “The best skill that I ever had was that I was coachable. I was like a sponge, and aggressive to learn. Being ‘coachable’ means being humble and vulnerable enough to know you’re not perfect. It means being open to honest and constructive feedback, even if it is tough to take. Being ‘uncoachable’ includes behaviours such as being arrogant, negative, judgmental, cynical, or pessimistic, unable or unwilling to self-reflect or self-critique. Being unwilling to learn new things, or to take on board constructive feedback, is a fatal barrier to development and improvement. You must work to develop the ability to listen, learn and reflect.”

It appears that the Tipperary football supporters are also coachable and seem to be buying into what David Power and his cabinet are trying to achieve. While we would all love to see our seniors play with the carefree abandon that our minor team plays with, in reality to do that at senior level with such an inexperienced team would inevitably lead to certain defeat especially when you meet the more seasoned teams and Billy Lee’s Limerick side are one of those teams.

Limerick have been building slowly over Billy Lee’s six years in charge and deservedly earned promotion to Division 2 football earlier in the year. Of course they also won their first round championship game against Clare after a dramatic penalty shoot-out. They are an experienced outfit and on Saturday evening we can expect to see as many as 12 or 13 of the team that lined out against Tipperary in the 2020 Munster Semi Final take to the field in Thurles.

Centre back Iain Corbett is a top player for a long time now and his powerful runs forward have caused Tipperary problems in the past. If Tipperary are to prevail in this game, how they deal with Corbett will be vital.

The man mountain that is Josh Ryan is a big addition (excuse the pun) to Limerick this year. A talented ‘baller” for a big man he is also an accomplished free taker who will punish indiscretions. On top of this he also offers Limerick the option of the advanced mark should they find the route to goal sealed off. Corner forwards Hugh Bourke and Peter Nash make up a potentially potent full forward line

Tipperary are without Robbie Kiely and Bill Maher who are out injured but player of the league Mark Russell returns and the 25 minutes and brilliant goal that Steven O’Brien got in Waterford will have brought him on nicely after a long spell on the sidelines. Limerick have the experience but Tipperary have home advantage which I always believe is worth a few points to a team. This is a game that really is too close to call but still I have a good feeling about it and have put a reminder in my phone for 9pm on Saturday night to look up the train times to Killarney on the 28th May.

A loss for Limerick will see them enter the Sam Maguire qualifiers whereas a loss for Tipperary will see them enter the Tailteann Cup. I wrote in this paper two weeks ago that the success or failure of the Tailteann Cup will come down to how the GAA market the competition. The draw hasn’t even been made yet and already there is controversy. Instead of the open draw which I think everyone was looking forward to, the GAA are looking at splitting it into two sections, North and South to cut down on travel time for teams. You’d swear we lived in a country the size of Australia. This is not what the Division 3 and Division 4 teams signed up for when the competition was first announced. In fact it was sold to counties as a round-robin competition but that format is set to come in next season with the overhaul of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. Croke Park were given one  job to do and the somehow have managed to screw it up.

 

Classy Display by Tipperary Minors by Big John

posted by Friends of Tipperary FootballFriends of Tipperary Football on Fri May 13, 2022

If courage, flair and skill is what you like to see in a Gaelic Football team, then I suggest you get yourself along to watch this years Tipperary Minor Football team play.  They have all of the above in abundance. 

For too long now, football fans in every nook and cranny of the island have had to endure games with endless hand-passing and blanket defences. It’s rare these days to come out of a match in better form than when you went in but that was certainly the case for Tipperary fans last Thursday evening after the first round of the Munster Minor Football Championship against Limerick.

The opening paragraph of this game gave us a hint of what was to follow. Tipperary captain, Charlie King had a point on the board after 30 seconds but referee Eoin Morrissey decided he had over-carried in the build up. Limerick take a quick free kick, move the ball expertly down the field but the shot from corner forward Diarmuid Hynes drifted wide. Less than one minute gone and already both sides have had a shot at goal.

By the third minute the Treaty men led by two points with a quick brace from full forward Stephen Young. A minute later Tipperary full forward Daithí Hogan is fouled and Conal Grogan pointed the first of his eight successful frees on the night. By any measure that’s a serious return from the Galtee Rovers corner forward.

In the seventh minute, wing forward Tommy O’Connor epitomised the spirt and work-rate of this Tipperary team. If he was a jockey, Tommy would be entitled to claim the full allowance but that didn’t stop him getting stuck into two of Limerick’s biggest defenders and turning over a ball that he had no right to win. After stealing the loot, Tommy was fouled as he made his getaway  and Grogan levelled the game from the resultant free.

Tipperary have a very simple game plan. Work hard, win your own ball, move the ball quickly and if you find yourself one v one take on your man. It’s genius in its simplicity and Tipperary look to have a panel of players willing and talented enough to carry out all aspects of that plan.

A fine run from Joe Higgins at the end of the first quarter draws a foul and Grogan pops over the free. A minute later Daithí Hogan chips in with one of the scores of the game with a fine point off his left from the shadows of the new stand. The St Patrick’s man was as lively as a cricket and as sharp as a hawk in spring all evening.

Limerick were back on level terms by the 20th minute with two fine points from Bobby Smith and Michael Kelbridge but 60 seconds later Tipperary midfielder Paddy O’Keeffe is fouled as he is about to shoot and Conal Grogan does what Conal Grogan does by tapping over the free. Shortly after the hard working Paddy O’Keeffe pointed from out the country. 25 minutes gone and Tipperary lead 0:06 to 0:04.

This really was entertaining stuff from both sides and even a whistle happy referee who by the end of the game had awarded 37 frees couldn’t take from the enjoyment.

As we approached half time, Eanna Ormond, whose father Michael is not unknown to me showed that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree with a fine point from a tricky angle. Joe Higgins wins the resultant kick-out and five seconds later Ormond turns provider to set up the impressive Paddy O’Keeffe for his second point of the day. Limerick pull one back on the stroke of half-time and the teams headed for the bananas and Jaffa Cakes with Tipperary leading 0:08 to 0:05.

Half Time behind the new stand in Semple Stadium is where the experts and non-experts gather to begin the preliminary post mortem. It is usually not a place for the faint hearted but Thursday night was different. Every Tipperary supporter had a smile on their face and looked as excited as a group of monks who had got news of a second coming. All were in agreement that it was refreshing to see the game being played the way Michael Cusack intended when he codified the rules of Gaelic Football.

Tommy O’Connor extended Tipperary’s lead 5 minutes into the second half and if Paddy O’Keeffe had scored from out the country in the first half, he wasn’t even in the country when he landed his third point of the game to make it Tipperary 0:10 Limerick 0:05 after 37 minutes.

By now Tipperary fans were looking forward to a score fest but Limerick are a decent side and were not going to roll over and have their belly tickled. At corner forward Diarmuid Hynes hadn’t been given an inch by the impressive Jamie Bergin but now operating at wing forward he began to show just how good a player he was with a fine point on the run. Limerick win the resulting kick-out. Centre forward Aidan O’Shea feeds Bobby Smith and from 15 yards Smith fired a bullet to the corner of the net. 0:10 to 1:06 and it’s “game on Ger” as Cyril Farrell would say.

At the end of the third quarter a Diarmuid Hynes free had the game level and the dream appeared to be turning to a nightmare for Tipperary. Limerick now had all the momentum. But this Tipperary team is made of solid stuff. The athletic Thomas Charles gets his hands on the kick-out and the ball is worked up the field to Daithí Hogan who is fouled and Grogan points the free.

The trick is repeated 30 seconds later when Hogan is again fouled and Grogan scores the free. Ben Carey slotted over in the 49th minute to extend the lead to three points again. This was an impressive response from Tipperary and they weren’t finished yet.

No doubt if you spoke to Tipperary Manager John McNamara, he would be at pains to point out that every member of the panel is vital and on match day, football is a 20 man game. As if to emphasise that point, it was three substitutes who combined for the all-important score of the game, the Tipperary goal. Charlie English did brilliantly to turnover Limerick possession and get the ball to Darragh Landers. Landers drove at the Limerick defence before releasing to Fionn Fitzgerald who gave the keeper no chance by punching the hopping ball to the net.

Two late Conal Grogan frees sealed the deal for Tipperary and they left the field as 1:15 to 1:08 winners. They now move on to play Waterford next Thursday night in Lemybrien before heading to Miltown Malbay on the 28th April to play Clare in what could well be the deciding game to see who plays the losers of Cork and Kerry in the Munster Semi-Final.

There were heroes in every line of the field last Thursday night. Goalkeeper, Robbie McGrath was cool and confident in his distribution. He looks like a man who would be difficult to overawe. The full back line of Alex McSherry, Ciaran Byrne, Jamie Bergin would make good adverts for Super Glue. They didn’t give an inch all evening long. A strong half back line is the engine room of any team and in Eoin O’Connell, captain Charlie King and Thomas Charles, Tipperary have three players who can defend every bit as well as they can attack.

Sometimes in midfield you can see players who are only there because of their height. Joe Higgins and Paddy O’Keeffe won’t be stopped getting on any of the rides in Disneyland but more importantly than that, they are proper “ballers” who both gave an exhibition of how to play the midfield role. It’s always a good sign when you are looking forward to watching these two play again.

In the half forward line Eanna Ormond operates like a quarter back in American football and is always available to take a pass and link the play. Ben Carey and Tommy O’Connor are all action forwards any defender would hate to mark. All three half forwards scored from play and you don’t see that too often in the modern game.

I genuinely don’t know how you would go about marking Daithí Hogan at full forward. I suspect if you fed all information you have on him into the most sophisticated computer, you still wouldn’t come up with an answer. His work-rate as much as his skill is what makes him good. Of course it helps his cause that he has two fine players on either side of him. Conal Grogan and Dylan Fogarty are a joy to watch playing football.

Add to this that all substitutes used looked right at home when they came on and it’s not too difficult to see why Tipperary Football supporters are excited by this team.

John McNamara and his cabinet can be very happy with their evenings work but they will also know that bigger challenges lie ahead.

Euro Millions Plus Syndicate

posted by Friends of Tipperary FootballFriends of Tipperary Football on Fri May 13, 2022

Our Euro Millions Syndicate came to an end on the 29th April. As you might have guessed, unfortunately we didn’t hit the jackpot. Over the year we won a total of €752.

The Friends of TIpperary Football committee have agreed to top up the winnings to €2,000 and in accordance with the terms and conditions all members will now be entered in a draw to distribute the winnings.

We will hold twenty €100 draws on Thursday 19th May and will publish the winners on our website and across our social media platforms.

We would like to thank everyone who joined the syndicate for their support

Hang Up Your Brightest Colours by Big John

posted by Friends of Tipperary FootballFriends of Tipperary Football on Fri Mar 04, 2022

“Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here” is, according to Dante’s Inferno, the inscription on the gates of Hell. If some so-called Tipperary GAA supporters had their way they would put the same inscription on the entrance to FBD SempleStadium when the Tipperary footballers are playing.

 

There is little doubt that Tipperary Football is as low as a snakes belly at the moment and for David Power and his cabinet it must feel like the sun will never rise again. However, the negativity in various online platforms from some so-called “gaa people” is more disappointing to me than the results of a relatively inexperienced Tipperary team. I’m pretty certain I do not have to have to explain the meaning of the word “supporter” to the readers of this paper, as pretty much everyone will know what the word means. But unfortunately, it appears some ”supporters” have forgotten the important role they can play for their county and its players. A number of the comments I’ve seen on-line about management and players have been really over the top. Nobody minds robust debate on team selections, game plans or styles of play but when it descends into personal abuse then it has gone too far. 

 

As a result it may will be that in the next few games a player will be trying so hard not to miss a shot or a pass for fear of further criticism that, instead of taking the second or two that he gets on a ball to concentrate on executing the pass or shot properly, he may have that short time span filled with self-doubt which will lead to another mistake. If Tipperary Gaapeople want to see Tipperary Football thriving, then they need to drop their keyboards, pick up their car keys and get themselves to Thurles for the next few home games. If ever a team needed a 16th man then it’s this new batch of Tipperary footballers.

 

Of course people are going to be disappointed and frustrated with the results so far. A draw with Waterford and a six point defeat to Leitrim must surely rank as one of the worst start to the National Football League that Tipperary has ever had. The style of football we played in those two games was hard to watch. The defensive set up, which if taken in isolation, could be deemed to be working but it also means we are inviting teams onto us and giving perceived lesser opposition a chance. We might be trying to keep four players up front at all times but with everyone else in defence we are left with no choice but to hand pass the ball forward and even the little man from Mars knows that the more passes there are in a movement, the more vulnerable it is to an interception and when confidence is low the unforced errors will happen just as they did against Leitrim. 

 

Football is really a simple game. You can split the field into three sections. Inside your own 45m line, between the two 45m lines and finally inside the opposition 45m line. You keep the ball inside your own 4 line, moving it fast and wide. Ideally you get in and out of the middle third  in 3 touches or less (older readers will recall a skill called a kick pass) and finally inside the opposition 45m line you are working it to the scoring zone.

 

As I see it, all our problems are coming in the middle third. Our transition from defence to attack is too slow. First up, when we do gain possession in the middle third we are leaving the ball receiver completely isolated. It is not unusual to see a Tipperary player receive the ball in the middle third of the field and have no Tipperary player within 30 yards of him. Because the support is so slow arriving, it inevitably arrives with a tracking opposition player in close proximity. So now, every move we make is going to be under pressure and instead of three touches to get it out of the middle third, we are taking nine or ten and going from side to side like a drunk coming home from the pub. By this time, our inside forwards have lost the will to live and their movement has stopped. We then rinse and repeat for 70 minutes. 

 

Of course there are mitigating circumstances. I have lost count of the number of times over the past couple weeks that I heard people mention the number of players we have lost in the past year. Since the Munster Final win in November 2020, we can no longer call on the services of Philip Austin, Brian Fox, Colin O’Riordan, Liam Casey, Michael Quinlivan, Alan Campbell, Emmet Moloney, Padraic Looram and Liam Boland. There is no doubt that most teams would struggle to replace players of that quality and leadership. However, bitching and moaning about lads that aren’t available cuts no mustard with me. You might as well say Kerry are missing Jack O’Shea.  You play with the players you have and you get on with it while at the same time accepting that there will be a period of transition.

 

The good news is that the players we have are still of a high standard. All they are lacking is experience and a small bit of that potent drug called confidence. In my spare time I sometimes swing into Dr Morris Park to watch this team training and these boys are working as hard as any Tipperary team that went before them. The old Gary Player saying “the harder I practice the luckier I get” springs to mind and if this Tipperary football team continue to work like they are at the moment then if won’t be long before Lady Luck comes along to take them by the hand and wrap her shawl around them. Once she does that, then the confidence will return, the rain will stop, the air will soften, the sun will come out, our speed of thought will increase, players will no longer left isolated when they receive a ball, passes will go to Tipperary hands instead of opposition hands and we will be back winning games again. These Tipperary players are just too good for that not to happen. 

 

Also in our favour is we have a management team that are not out and out daws. David Power is Tipperary’s most successful manager and with a front bench consisting of people of the character and integrity of Charlie McGeever, Declan Browne, Paddy Christie, Elaine Harte and Tommy Toomey, then we have the right people in charge to steer this ship through choppy waters. The problems I have pointed out above will not be news to management and no doubt the problems we currently have in the middle third of the field will be improved when the likes of Jack Kennedy and Steven O’Brien return from the repair shop. 

 

I started this piece with a quote from Dante’s Inferno. There is no hope for the souls that are sent to hell. But Tipperary Football is not going to hell. We may have to spend this year in purgatory but the good thing about purgatory is that it’s only a temporary punishment. If it doesn’t arrive this year, salvation in the form of Division 3 football will arrive in 2023. Of that I am absolutely certain and by then the inscription on the gates of FBD Semple Stadium will be a line from George Bernard Shaw’s letter to Michael Collin’s sister Hannie when he urged her shortly after Collin’s death to “tear up your mourning and hang up your brightest colours!

Euromillions Draw

posted by Friends of Tipperary FootballFriends of Tipperary Football on Fri Mar 04, 2022

After 8 months Euromillion Syndicate draw our winnings so far stand at €473.  With just shy of 3 months of draws left before the current syndicate comes to a close at the end of April, we still have a bit of time to scoop the jackpot so fingers crossed. If at the end of April everyone’s total winnings are under €100 each then we will hold a number of €100 draws to divide the winnings (e,g.If the winnings stand at €1000 we will have 10 draws for €100)

Loughmore Pull Through Again by Big John

posted by Friends of Tipperary FootballFriends of Tipperary Football on Sun Nov 07, 2021

Moyle Rovers supporters shuffled away from the field in Golden yesterday afternoon in almost total silence. They were heart broken and mind broken. This was sport at its most cruel. Between now and Christmas in the pubs around Monroe, the last 20 minutes of this amazing game will be an analyzed whenever Moyle Rovers people meet.  Some will blame the referee, the non-experts will blame management like they always do, some will blame missed chances and some will blame the row.

But the bottom line is, Loughmore-Castleiney won this game because of work-rate and decision making. The turnover stats are often a reflection of work-rate and gives you a good indication of who will win a game. In fact the team that wins the turnover count wins the game 82% of the time. Loughmore-Castleiney turned Moyle Rovers over 21 times while Moyle Rovers only turned Loughmore-Castleiney over 15 times. Rovers relied on tactical fouling to try halt the Loughmore-Castleiney attacks and while it’s not a tactic I would be totally against, it can’t be your only tactic. Sometimes you have to roll your sleeves up and get the tackles in.

With Brain McGrath in the repair shop and Loughmore-Castleiney playing for the 16th weekend in succession, many had wondered if this would be a step too far for the Mid Tipperary men. They looked heavy legged in the opening scenes as Moyle Rovers dominated possession and points from Shane Foley and Stephen Quirke had them two up inside the first 3 minutes. The drizzling rain seemed irrelevant as Rovers moved the ball around confidently but some poor shot selection meant that after 10 minutes and approximately 80% possession, there was still only two points in it.

A Conor Ryan free in the 11th minute was immediately followed by a Liam McGrath point and in the blink of an eye Loughmore-Castleiney were level.  One wondered how this had happened. Compared to Moyle Rovers poetry, Loughmore-Castleiney’s play had been in prose but I suppose when football is played in November prose has its own virtues.  A Rian Quigley point ensured Rovers went to the first water break winning 3 points to 2 and 5 wides to 1.

The second quarter of this game hovered between moderate and dull as both teams cancelled each other out. A Conor Ryan free and a trademark Liam Treacy beauty from out in the country had Loughmore-Casleiney briefly ahead before a Liam Boland free and a Rian Quigley mark saw Rovers head for the jaffa cakes leading 5 points to 4.

Despite the colourless texture of the 2nd quarter, you couldn’t help but get the feeling that this game had not yet begun.

 A transformation took place during the half-time break. The rain stopped, the air softened, the wind which had being breathing into the Moyle Rovers backs dropped. And taking it’s been hue from the weather, the two teams re-entered the arena with renewed purpose.

Four minutes later, John McGrath, who seems to have mastered the phenomenon of bi-location every bit as good as Padre Pio, had the sides level.

Moyle Rovers win the resultant kick-out and 6 seconds later Stephen Quirke claims an advanced mark and slots over.

Over the next t 10 minutes both sides  mix moments of genius with moments of madness. Moyle Rovers probably had the edge in this period but squandered a couple of chances before Peter Acheson puts them 2 clear heading into the second water break.

Substitute Evan Sweeney gets it back to a one point game with 10 minutes of normal time to go. Once again Moyle Rovers win the resultant kick out and 25 seconds later, Rian Quigley is galloping like inflation at the Loughmore-Castleiney defence. The ball is transferred to Stephen Quirke and he rattles the front of the net for what many thought was the turning goal in the game.

But this is Halloween season and this is Loughmore-Castleiney. If I didn’t know them better I would have suspected black magic was at play. A silly incident on the side-line seemed to be the spark that lit the fuse and from here to the finish Loughmore-Castleiney met fire with fire and brimstone with brimstone.

A Conor Ryan free reduced the lead to 3 points and when the same player dropped his next free short, John McGrath reacted first to blast to the net and unbelievably the sides were level. Our Lord didn’t rise from the dead until the 3rd day. It had taken Loughmore-Castleiney just 4 minutes.

Both sides are now going at it like two heavyweights slugging it out in the 10th round and the supporters of both parishes are loving it. Peter Acheson, Diarmuid Foley and Luke Boland squandered great chances that you suspect they would have popped over if this was the first round of the championship. John McGrath, Noel McGrath and Conor Ryan return the compliment by missing 3 good chances of their own.

Loughmore-Castleiney don’t want extra time. It appears that referree Seanie Peters doesn’t want it either. On the field it’s end to end stuff. Off the field the excitement is more that a human heart should have to take.

Finally with the clock on the scoreboard heading towards the 37th minute, Lorcan Egan pirouetted his way through a couple of Moyle Rovers tackles and fisted over the bar from a tight angle.

There is no time for Moyle Rovers to recover. From the kick-out, referree Seanie Peters signals full stop. Loughmore-Castleiney win 1-08 to 1-07. 

And so the battleship Loughmore-Castleiney sails on with it’s first port of call the County Senior Hurling Final next Sunday before dropping anchor the County Football Final in two weeks time!

As we say in Tipperary “that’s fair going”