Tipperary add to Munster haul after crushing Déise – RTÉ
Five star! Tipperary’s goals see them storm to Munster title with 21-point win over Waterford – The42.ie
Proud Premier wallop Waterford – HoganStand.com
John McGrath the executioner as Tipperary bombard dismal Waterford – Irish Examiner
Gaelic Grounds massacre – Tipperary ease to 21 point win – Irish Times
Tipp torrents wash Deise hopes away – Irish Independent
I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Speaking to an ITK Tipperary man the Thursday before the game, he said two things: Seamus Callinan would be fit, and Tipp would be gunning for goals at the expense of everything else. Good luck with that, I thought. This was Tipp’s grand plan, attacking a defence that had conceded three goals in five Championship matches under Derek McGrath? With the addition of Shane Bennett and Patrick Curran to our attack from last year, I was now feeling very confident, confidence that was not dissipated when Curran pointed within 20 second of the start.
A lot had happened to get to this place. We had travelled to Limerick via a circuitous route involving Cahir, Mitchelstown and Ballyneety. Travelling through the latter I had to suppress invocations of Patrick Sarsfield. After all, the good guys lost the Williamite wars. It was a route that made a lot of sense as we zipped into Limerick city centre, although the arrival in Limerick city centre suggested this wasn’t going to be a remake of a Cecil B DeMille epic. Reports from earlier on in the week said the crowd would be well down on last year and I felt a rising dread as we approaching the Gaelic Grounds, a combination of the foul weather which matched all of Frank McCourt’s most feverish imaginings and the possibility that we would be severely outnumbered. I had heard stories of people who refused point blank to go to Limerick on the principle that they wouldn’t go to Limerick. Were we about to be humiliated by such nonsense?
Thankfully this didn’t look to be the case as there no visible or audible differences between the respective crowds. The feeling of dread didn’t dissipate until Curran’s score, and even then I wondered what the hell I was doing here. The last time I had been at a match in such evil conditions had been in Dungarvan when I was only an hour away from home. Once you factored in walking back tgo the city centre it would be four hours to get home from here, if we were lucky. The tens of thousands of people who had stayed away, for whatever reason, had been the sensible ones.
Eventually the feeling subsided – the dread perversely co-existed with confidence of victory – and after the first quarter everything seemed to be going smoothly, with one notable exception. Two points from sideline balls from Austin Gleeson certainly lifted the spirits and he was making a splendid nuisance of himself in the full-forward line. Tadgh de Búrca was hurling oceans of ball, as is his wont, and the scoreboard was kept ticking over thanks to a few frees, at least one of which was ridiculously soft. Keeping up a rate of a point every two minutes would do just fine, especially if the goals could be kept out. But that’s your problem right there. In the middle of all that we could see Tipp’s first foray at goal as evidence in favour of my ITK contact’s hypothesis, going straight for the jugular from which Stephen O’Keeffe pulled off a routine save. Alas, it looked a bit too routine as he spooned the ball into the air and John McGrath was on hand to put the ball in the net.
Okay, no need to panic. Waterford had a goal chance not long after but Curran (I think it was) would have needed a pooper scooper to have been able to pick the ball up while running towards goal and his attempts to bring the ball nearer the target with his feet were eventually shepherded out wide. We were soon back in front anyway, and that was as good as it got. We began to spurn some routine chances, with Gleeson in particular guilty of a rash turn-and-strike when he had time and space to adjust the radar. At some point he had moved back out the field and any threat of a goal from Waterford went with him. Tipp did hit a few poor wides in the first few minutes but were being far more economical with their chances. Not that this would be difficult as the minutes racked up without a single white flag for Waterford. There was one incredibly lucky escape when a short puck-out went straight to a Tipp man and (natch) they went for goal. O’Keeffe managed to do his bit but the defence couldn’t clear the danger and it took a couple of backs to clear it off the line, and even then we had to rely on a poor wide to ensure no damage had been done. This was looking like it was going to be a dour, low-scoring affair so it was possible it was going to be a pivotal moment.
That was the hope anyway. We play a possession game and work the ball up the field at the best of times so maybe that would work in the second half. Mahony had missed a couple of frees before finally notching one just before half-time and you clung to the notion that that had stopped the rot. During the break the Primary Games were on and a fingernail was lost looking at the Tipperary chiselers raining (pun unintended) shot after shot down on the lamentably exposed Waterford goalkeeper – although it should be noted that the goalkeeper at the other end was a ringer if ever there was one, towering over everyone else like LeBron James.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Some will look back at what unfolded and see parallels with the 2011 Munster final, and the margin of victory would certainly support that. Standing there on Sunday, what came to mind was the 1998 Munster final replay. This had none of the (ahem) poison of that day, but the manner in which Waterford set up the circumstances that led to total collapse had far more in common with the 1998 final than the 2011 edition. Having failed to make a strong wind count in vile, energy-sapping conditions, Waterford were going to have to show iron resolve. Instead they fell victim to a goal of almost comical simplicity as John McGrath was able to run through the middle and kick the ball to the net. A few minutes later a long ball was pounced upon by the same man and he had players rushing in from all sides with Michael Breen being the one to apply the finishing touch. Game over and still a good 20 minutes to go.
Man, how lonely it was to be in the Gaelic Grounds now. Literally so, as people began to stream towards the exits. It’s not nice, and we were determined to stay to the bitter end, but it was miserable enough up there without events on the pitch making it more so. It was training ground stuff for Tipp, right down to their fourth goal which came from a penalty from McGrath that had an experimental feel to it, opting for placement rather than power. It went in anyway via a valiant effort to save it from O’Keeffe, and there was no place in the world more lonely than his spot lying prostrate on the ground as the Tipp fans cheered. Or maybe it was Pauric Mahony’s spot as he sent a few more frees, whose only function was to put a slightly less grisly gloss on the scoreboard, wide of the target as the Tipp fans cheered.
Players went and substitutes came, the most consequential of them being the departure of Austin Gleeson. Saving him for the Under-21’s on Wednesday night? It would be nice to think that they were thinking that far ahead. The thoughts in the present were to avoid the result ticking over into the 20+ point territory, but the harsh truth is that Tipp could have driven well past that had they been so inclined. Even without trying they could cough up a few more goalscoring chances, one of which Callinan took to more it into that territory.
The best way of demonstrating how beat-down I was came as the game entered the final minute of normal time. All those goals produced a series of que-sera-sera shrugs but when Brian Gavin, who had been relatively generous to us, i.e. his mistakes fell more in our favour than theirs, indicated that there would be four minutes of injury time, I exploded with rage. What kind of jackass is so impervious to all manner of blunders, which every referee will make in every match no matter how good they are, yet engages in a flint-minded tapping of the watch when one team is being absolutely blown out of it? Is a referee’s assessor seriously going to say “you should have played an extra couple of minutes there, Brian”? Stronger words than ‘jackass’ came out of my mouth that would have embarrassed me if there had been anyone around to hear them.
If I’m being honest with myself, and what is the point of all this if I’m going to lie to myself, the rage was a blessed distraction from the unexpected unravelling that had just taken place. It was really unexpected. The whole point of The System was to ensure this kind of debacle did not take place. You hope that this was a perfect storm, that any team that had failed to ram home the advantage of the elements might fall apart in the manner in which we did. We’re not just any team though. We’re a Waterford team, and we’ve been here soooo many times before. The evidence of this game suggests that little has changed. We’ll give Wexford a good rattle. We’ll probably even be favourites. And if we do get past them, we’ll be gunned down for the umpteenth time by Kilkenny. I had really hoped the paradigm had changed, even unto thinking after the loss to the Limerick Minors (themselves gunned down by Tipperary earlier in the day; maybe that’s where the Primary Game ringer came from) that we just had to keep at it and we’d eventually get across that finishing line one year. This game suggests that, despite Derek McGrath’s best efforts, things have not changed apart from the initial lurch forward we made in the late 90’s. You wonder how many times we can maintain that position before we begin to go back at a rate of knots.