When Tipperary star, Lar Corbett announced his retirement last year there was genuine disappointment in hurling circles at his decision, but the general belief was that he would be back by the summer.
In his first full game since returning to the Tipperary panel he operated at wing forward against Waterford in the Munster final. Despite getting numerous opportunities to score he opted instead to pass the ball to a colleague on every occasion.
Rather strange, we thought!
Tipperary depended a lot on Lar Corbett on Sunday to prise open the Kilkenny defence, but the absolute nonsense we were treated to from the opening minute of the game from the Thurles Sarsfields player beggared belief.
We expected a bit of a dust-up at the start and I could understand Tipperary wanting Corbett to avoid having to mark Jackie Tyrell. But when Jackie and Tommy Walsh would not play ball, Corbett should have immediately moved closer to the Kilkenny goal, marked whoever was beside him and let events take their course.
Playing with 14
Not a bit of it! Corbett’s carry-on for the entire game played into Kilkenny’s hands to such an extent that they were effectively playing with 14 players. The sense of frustration at the on-field shenanigans was palpable among Tipperary supporters.
Clearly the Tipperary management has a big question to answer as to why they persisted with a tactic that was not working, but clearly impacting negatively on their side’s performance.
From an early stage it was clear that we were witnessing a very different Kilkenny side to the one that had already played three championship games this year.
The demeanour of the players was obvious from the throw-in and the reported buzz in training was spot on. The first clear sign that Tipp was in for a torrid afternoon came in the 17th minute when goalie Brendan Cummins was forced to make a great save from Coin Fennelly.
It was a short reprieve, though, as seven minutes later T.J. Reid finished to the net after superb build-up play from Henry Shefflin. Kilkenny was now in the driving seat and one expected them to push on until the concession of a goal that will disappoint ’keeper, David Herity.
Rather ironically that score was Lar Corbett’s only meaningful contribution during the game as his tackle on Herity saw the Kilkenny goalie dispossessed, allowing Pa Bourke to finish to the net.
One expected an almighty second half battle as the sides trekked off at the interval with Tipperary ahead by the narrowest of margins. How wrong we were!
Lar Corbett’s absence for part of the the first minute of the new half was comical and summed up his mental approach on the day. Right from the moment Henry Shefflin pointed a free, after which Corbett made his late entry, the game ebbed away from Tipperary.
Three Kilkenny goals emphasised the Cats total supremacy in the second half. What we witnessed was simply an awesome 35 minutes of hurling from the champions. We surely have never seen better from this squad of players!
For Tipperary, this was not just a defeat; it was pure annihilation at the hands of its greatest rival. It is true, as Brian Cody pointed out, that no trophies were handed out on Sunday, but everyone involved with his side can feel delighted that a difficult challenge was overcome with some aplomb.
Analysing the All-Ireland final is for another day, but it would be foolish to think that victory can be achieved as easily against Galway. Without doubt Kilkenny’s confidence has returned, but Galway’s style and tactics will pose very different challenges.
Sunday’s result is a massive setback for Tipperary. There will be a lot of soul-searching in the Premier County in the coming months and big questions will be asked of the team mentors and the players.
As readers know, I am generally very supportive of referees, but Cork official Cathal McAllister did not have a good game. I know there is clamour to let the game flow, but on Sunday some blatant and obvious indiscretions were left unchecked.
Players deserved better protection from the match official.