All the pre-match theories that Tipperary would win easily following their big win over Cork the previous week came to fruition as Tipp raced away to win by eighteen points at Semple Stadium last Sunday.
However it was not without a worrying ten minute period midway through the second half, as fourteen man Waterford fought back in the third quarter to cut a nine point deficit down to three before a Jason Forde goal in the 55th minute gave Tipp breathing space and the fuel to pull away in the final quarter.
The win was not without controversy referee John Keenan sent Waterford defender Conor Gleeson sent to the line in the 28th minute following a second yellow card offence. Gleeson was booked along with Seamus Callanan earlier in the half after an umpire drew the attention of the referee for an off the ball incident.
The incident wasn’t serious but with Tipp well on top in terms of play, when Patrick Maher set off on a solo run and approaching the Waterford twenty metre line he was brought down by Gleeson and the Fourmilewater man received his second yellow.
Gleeson’s dismissal was a mirror image of twelve months previously in the last championship encounter at Limerick when Tipp defender Michael Cahill was sent off for a second yellow card offence and Waterford went on to dominate the game only to be caught at the finish line when Tipp came from the death to force a draw with the help of a goal that never was.
But moving forward to last Sunday where the latest win for The Premier makes them group leaders after two rounds as they turn their thoughts to the round three game against Clare in two weeks time in what will be a tough encounter in Cusack Park.
Dan McCormack replaced Niall O’Meara on the starting fifteen as Tipperary played with the breeze in the opening half and wasted no time in taking hold of the game as they raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after just four minutes. By the tenth minute they led 0-7 to 0-3 as the scores came freely thanks to points by Jason Forde (two, including a ‘65’) - who opened the scoring after 14 seconds - Michael Breen (two), John O’Dwyer (two) and John McGrath.
Tipp were razor like but Waterford had moments to savour especially from Jamie Barron who weaved his way past a number of Tipp defenders to cut the deficit to three after thirteen minutes. Two minutes later Jason Forde posted a brilliant 65 metre sideline ball from under the Kinane Stand with Tipp manager Liam Sheedy in close proximity.
Tipp secured a second point from a sideline ball when Ronan Maher steered a 75 metre drive straight between the posts on the O’Riain stand side of the field.
And while the work of the Tipp forward line had to be admired the Waterford attack at the other end fared poorly as the defensive play of Cathal Barrett and Alan Flynn was top drawer. More especially the display of Padraic Maher as sweeper was immense and when he thundered out of the pocket as part of a thirty metre run - while balancing the ball on his hurley - he won a free which Noel McGrath converted from 100 metres
As a result Tipp held a 0-10 to 0-4 lead by the twentieth minute but Waterford had cut the margin back to four when the busy Tom Ryan pointed on the left wing before Pauric Mahony directed a 65 metre free from close to the Kinane Stand over.
Further points by John McGrath, Jason Forde and Michael Breen (his third) stretched Tipp’s lead to seven before Waterford lost Conor Gleeson. The extra man told as Tipp went nine clear on 34 minutes but four minutes of added time were amazing for Waterford who hit back with three unanswered points including two in a row for a subdued Austin Gleeson with Pauric Mahony adding a free after Tipp conceded another free after having luck on their side when the butt of the upright denied Patrick Curran with Brian Hogan beaten.
At half time Tipp led 0-16 to 0-10 but the six point advantage seemed a poor return such was their dominance. There was more concern when Brendan Maher retired at the break due to a head injury and was replaced by Barry Heffernan. Heffernan made an impact straight away as points by Ronan Maher and John O’Dwyer moved Tipp seven in front.
Cathal Barrett was immense at this stage with James Barry reliable at full. However Tipperary’s weakness in conceding frees continued and their short passing game was coming apart due to a tightening of the Waterford defence which led to The Deise picking up some valuable scores with Thomas Ryan reducing the margin to four after 43 minutes.
The tempo of the game had notably increased too with The Deise more comfortable in their approach but Tipp went five in front after John McGrath scored his fourth point before two Pauric Mahoney frees reduced the margin to three - worrying times for Tipp.
Robert Byrne replaced the hard working Dan McCormack as Brian Hogan’s puckout reached Callanan on the left wing with the Tipp captain finding Noel McGrath who split the post with 53 minutes gone. Two minutes later Tipp’s worries eased when Jason Forde had the game’s opening goal. The lead up to the goal began with a Padraic Maher clearance. Patrick Maher’s sleight of wrist brought the ball down into his hand and the Lorrha man set off on a solo before linking up with Callanan. Callanan crossed to O’Dwyer. A momentary loss of possession and delightful ground flick by the Killenaule man found Forde who slammed the ball to the net from close in.
Suddenly the game changed and Tipp began to notch up the scores with more ease as Heffernan, Forde, and two Breen scores had them out of reach. Jamie Barron remained defiant and his 50 metre solo run from the O’Riain stand side brought him close to the Tipp goal but his effort for a goal simply whizzed past Brian Hogan’s goal and over the sideline at the other side of the field.
Once Tipp reached the other end John McGrath posted his fifth point while Heffernan linked up with Forde to increase his tally and make it 1-27 to 0-17. Tipp withdrew O’Dwyer and Noel McGrath as the game descended into a challenge game tempo but there was one more piece of magic in the 72nd minute when Callanan scored Tipp’s second goal after Forde crossed from the right wing.
Tipp’s two wins to date compared to a draw after two rounds in last year’s campaign had left them in a comfortable position. Twelve months can make a big difference and with a difference of plus twenty five, a place in the knockout stages looks promising as they take on Clare in two weeks time.