The Round 2 draw has been made, we’ve been paired with the Premier County in it, a tie that’s been fixed for Semple Stadium in Thurles on Saturday week, where ref Maurice Deegan will throw the ball in at 5pm. Let’s have a little look at the opposition to see what might be in store for us in this one.
The last time we met them, of course, was in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2016. They were the fairytale story of that summer, beating Cork for the first time since the Forties before rather hilariously bursting Galway’s over-inflated bubble in the All-Ireland quarter-final. They put it up to us for long spells in that semi as well but we never really looked in any serious danger of losing it, in the end coming out five-point victors, on a scoreline of 2-13 to 0-14.
Ahead of that semi-final – which I missed, as we were away on holliers so I had to watch it on an iPad Mini using a dodgy WiFi connection – I did a piece on our record against Tipp up until then so there’s no need to reprise all that again. If you’re interested, that piece is here.
In terms of Saturday week what’s of more relevance is how the Stone Throwers have done since we last tangled with them so let’s take up the story from then.
Tipp followed up that hugely positive 2016 championship with promotion from Division Three the following spring. It was a decent League campaign for them, featuring five wins and two losses as they finished in second place behind Louth. They then went on to beat the Wee County at Croke Park in the Division Three decider.
Having got to the Munster final the previous year, Tipp got a bye into the Munster semi-final last summer. There they came up against a Cork team that had only narrowly managed to avoid the mortification of a first round loss to Waterford and so Liam Kearns’ charges were widely expected to rack up a second successive Munster victory over the Rebels.
That didn’t happen, though – Cork were worse than wretched in the first half of that game, scoring just one point to Tipp’s four, and they looked goosed when Conor Sweeney goaled for the Premier lads with a minute to go. The Rebels held their heads, however, and a Luke Connolly goal in injury time saw them sneak out of Páirc Uí Rinn with a rather undeserved one-point win.
That meant that Tipp, like us, were tipped into Round 2 of the qualifiers. They pulled a mare of a draw too – Cavan up in Breffni Park, but they got their summer campaign back on track in that one, coming from six points down to defeat the home side in a high-scoring 2-15 to 0-18 encounter in early July.
Round 3 saw them paired with Ulster opposition again, this time against Armagh. Having ousted a team that had played Division One football that spring (and were a tad unlucky to find themselves relegated), Tipp were now at home against a team they’d pipped for promotion from Division Three. This should have been a routine win for them.
Only it wasn’t. And Tipp had only themselves to blame for letting slip a match that they had in their grasp when Michael Quinlivan’s goal after the break put them four up. Instead of closing the result out, Tipp instead let the Orchard lads back into it and they were made to pay late on when Jamie Clarke struck for the killer blow a minute before the end of normal time. Armagh won by two points, 1-17 to 1-15, and that was the end of Tipperary’s 2017 championship.
Photo: The 42
This spring saw them operating in Division Two and they did alright there as well. At the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh they bossed Cork by 3-16 to 1-16 in the opening round but then a week later fell by two points in Semple Stadium to Roscommon, losing that one by 1-17 to 3-9.
A draw, eleven points apiece, against Clare at Cusack Park and two big wins over Leinster opposition at Semple – 2-15 to 1-10 over Meath and 2-17 to 0-9 over Louth – opened up an outside chance of promotion with two rounds left to play. However, defeat to Cavan at Breffni Park, where they lost by a solitary point (0-17 to 2-10) put paid to those hopes. A week later they lost again, in what was a refixed Round 6 match away to Down. The Mourne County came off best by 2-11 to 1-11 in that game at Páirc Esler but, despite this win, they were still relegated to Division Three.
Tipperary began their Munster campaign this year at the quarter-final stage. There they had no trouble getting the better of Waterford at Semple Stadium last month, winning a scoreline of 0-20 to 0-9 (brief highlights here). Liam McGrath was their leading scorer in that one with a haul of nine points.
There was a fair bit of controversy over the Munster Council’s decision to fix Tipperary’s provincial semi-final against Cork for just a week after that Waterford match. Liam Kearns, with no little justification, claimed that neither Kerry nor Cork would have been made to play provincial ties on successive weekends and said the fixture planners “threw us under the bus.”
Sure enough, Tipp were no match for Cork in that semi-final the following weekend, the Rebels hosing them at Thurles by 1-17 to 0-9 (brief highlights here). Was the short turnaround a factor in such a one-sided outcome? Possibly, though it’s hard to tell for definite. Was Cork’s big win, though, evidence that Kerry may not have it all their own way in the Munster final? Maybe, just maybe.
Incidentally, there was an attendance of just over 3,000 at Semple Stadium for that game. We’re likely to pitch up at Thurles with three or perhaps four times that crowd the next day.
Photo: The 42
It’s a game we’re heading into as strong favourites – Paddy Power price us at 2/9 to win it, with the home team on offer at 4/1 and the handicap set at five points. As usual, though, let’s finish with a poll to test the temperature on this one – what do you reckon, how will the trip to Tipp go for us?