Does the 26th title bring the Munster championship into question?

For all Tipperary people their 26th senior hurling title will always be one that will live in memory for a number of reasons. The primary reason being the way Tipp hurled in the final, they really stepped up to the plate in every sense. Every thing that was asked of them, they answered with an eagerness which was enriching. To beat Kilkenny, touted as being the best hurling team ever, added further to Tipp’s victory.

Briefly looking back at last years final, it evidently came down to missed chances from a Tipperary perspective and taken ones from Kilkennys side. One can argue about the penalty but at the end of the day Tipp had their chances to win the game. This was one of the main differences in 2010, we converted all our goal chances and only clocked up 5 wides in total. This in itself is very significant as these kind of stats were the ones being produced by Kilkenny over the last four years, the rate of conversion from chances to scores was way higher than any other team. The second main point is Tipperary’s suffocation of the opposition. They closed down the man in possession so well and this is a very difficult task as Killkenny in particular are masters at the hand pass to a supporting player. Tipp hunted in packs and didn’t allow Kilkenny ‘offload’, to use a rugby term. This again was massively significant to the outcome. Of course there are lots of other aspects which contributed to the win, we could mention: Lars finishing, Noel McGraths vision, Gearoid Ryan’s deliveries from deep, Paul Curran’s strength and stubbornness in the best meaning of the word. Yes Tipp ‘got it right on the day’, there is no doubting that!

There is a more overarching question; did they just get it right on the day or was it all planned that they would peak for early September? When did Cork peak? Not a difficult question if you were in Pairc Ui Caoimh in late May! Did Tipp go down to Cork in the first round to loose? No not a chance they went to win alright, its Tipp Cork in championship for God’s sake! But were they primed for May 28th, was their hurling at its sharpest was their fitness so finely tuned that they bounced onto the field like they did two weeks ago? I remember Noel McGrath that day in Cork mishitting a ball which dribbled wide into the Blackrock end and the groans from the Tipperary following.  I’m sure Liam Sheedy and co are not going to tell us as to what the overall plan was but one thing is for certain, Tipperary played their best game in the All Ireland final both this year and last year. Can a team reach their peak on numerous occasions in a playing year, its very difficult. An analogy; you hear the national athletes saying that its madness to have their qualifying times for a big European or World games too early before the games. Their reasoning is that it forces them to try to peak twice in the year which coming from the professionals is extremely difficult. So what is the main point to take from this ‘speculation’ – you are sacrificing you chances of winning the Munster championship if you want to be at your best in late August early September!

For those who have grown up with Munster championship, this author being one, not giving everything to win it is unheard of. The Munster championship is so important to so many people and rightly so; my first final was ’84 what a way to start, I had the pleasure of the ’87 ’91 ’04 classics to name but a few. But since the back door came in the environment has changed. To state the obvious; the main difference is that to win an All Ireland you don’t have to win Munster. So it comes down to what is your goal at the start of the year, if you are a main contender then probably you will target reaching your peak early Autumn but if you are rebuilding and trying to develop a team then you may focus on peaking much earlier and possibly getting you hands on that coveted Munster Cup.

It may be coming close to the decoupling of the provincial and All Ireland championship. Run them earlier in the year and have them before the All Ireland championship commences. Then you could have a 2 group All Ireland championship. If something like this were to be put in place it would go on to balance the books overall in that all teams from both Munster and Leinster would be in the exact same playing field, they all would have the exact same number of games and at the same time of the year! But this discussion is possibly for another day, the reason we got hear was that with the help of hindsight the 2010 All Ireland champions focused on reaching their peak on one day even to the detriment of that sacred Munster Cup.

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