Dublin’s Michael Carton tries to hold off Tipperary’s Shane Bourke.,
Supposedly all buoyed and brim with revelry after climbing straight out of the murky hurling backwaters of Division 1B at the first attempt and thus annexing the only tangible benefit from their spring programme were, we all reckoned, entitled to their ‘free shot’ at Tipperary in Thurles yesterday.
And nothing so dangerous as a Dublin hurling team with little or nothing expected of them, as Tipp have often found to their peril in recent seasons.
Turns out, entry into that patch of hurling land known as ‘bonus territory,’ can be as chastising an experience as it can sometimes galvanise.
Yesterday, Dublin stood and watched Tipperary beat them by 4-20 to 0-17, a 15-point margin which did nothing for the future well-being of either team … but neither did it flatter Tipp or – for that matter – insult Dublin.
Because if Dublin were being hurled to within an inch of their life in ‘bonus territory’, Tipp were occupying their very own comfort zone and as Anthony Daly’s men found out yesterday, they’ll revel in it if they’re allowed.
“We stood off in the first half and you stand off those lads, you’ll be punished,” asserted Daly when he emerged from a Dublin dressing room we can only imagine wasn’t too sunny with optimism.
“We would have done a heavy couple of weeks training but … ah, it’s hard to put your finger on it after watching that.
“If you make a mistake, that’s okay. But if you give Tipp lads three yards going out to the ball, I mean … you will be punished. And no better team than that team to punish you.”
Here’s a snapshot of how pear-shaped things went for Dublin yesterday.
After 23 minutes, they were 2-8 to 0-2 down and have Alan Nolan to thank for that goal count not rising to three.
Their full-back, Paul Schutte, had been booked (soon to be followed by corner man Ruairí Trainor) and Daly had already used two of his permitted substitutions.
And you couldn’t begin to isolate one area where improvement would have had a tangible effect on the match.
They sprang leaks early and by that point in the match, had taken on so much water any and all responses, no matter how stirring, would only amount to damage limitation.
Daly’s pre-requisite of his team: going to the ball, wasn’t being followed. And when Dublin did contest with their men, inevitably, a Tipperary man won the second ball.
Shane Bourke out-fetched Ruairi Trainor from a long Noel McGrath delivery from a free just two minutes in and withstood the Cuala man’s attentions sufficiently to tap into the Dublin net.
Three flash-fire points later, Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher seized on possession, powered through the Dublin spine, sold a delicious dummy to Schutte (who attempted to haul the Tipp raider down) before finishing himself.
Daly responded by bringing Paul Ryan and Ryan O’Dwyer on, but Tipp’s back were so dominant in the air and so cool in their distribution, it scarcely mattered.
Momentarily, the match settled and Dublin string three points together, but Shane Bourke then sped through and was hauled down by trainer in the 33rd minute and from the resultant penalty, the enormously impressive Seamus Callanan slammed home.
Half-time. Tipperary 3-11 Dublin 0-8. Lights out.
Danny Sutcliffe was one of the few Dubs to emerge with credit, scoring four points in an excellent performance from midfield, while Michael Carton also got to grips with his game after the break … but seven of Tipperary’s scores came simply from snappier readings of breaking ball, while every and all long delivery towards the Tipp goal was repelled.
Dublin managed six of the first eight points of the second half, a run which had they continued in that vein, might have mounted a ‘heroic failure’ bid, but that was put paid to by a string of five in response from Tipp.
For all Sutcliffe’s prowess in midfield, Noel McGrath rivalled him for the best middle man on the pitch.
And to put the tin hat on it, Alan Nolan was caught unawares after controlling a point effort from Brendan Maher and Mikey Heffernan flicked off his stick for the fourth goal of the game, the final score and a large, resounding punctuation mark on a day to forget for Dublin.
“We’re very pleased,” reflected Tipp manager Eamon O’Shea. “We didn’t have a good start to the league. Sometimes you get an early goal on a team, and we had a bit of a breeze, the game evolved in a certain way and they found it hard to come back at us, then.
“It happens. I know it all too well, because it happened to us down in Cork. I was just pleased the team kept on playing, kept on being competitive.”