Tipperry County GAA Secretary Tim Floyd in his report to County Convention next Monday remarks that what’s said at half time in a dressing room normally stays secret but he is making an exception in the case of Tipperary’s controversial defeat to Kilkenny in last year’s All Ireland senior hurling semi-final
“Much has been speculated about what happened in the Tipp dressing room at half time and as one who was there, I can confirm that the atmosphere was upbeat with absolutely no negative vibe from any area. Lar Corbett was encouraging all the players and warned the subs to be ready to come on and finish the battle. Tommy Dunne spoke about breaking down the second half minute by minute and controlling each moment as it arrives. Declan Ryan asked Declan Fanning to address the players on winning the aerial ball which Fanning did by asking players to spread themselves and control and win their own area. Finally Conor O’Mahony spoke about the pain of losing last year to Kilkenny and asked every player to make sure it does not happen again.
Whilst it’s not normal to reveal such details from our team’s half time dressing room I feel I must dispel all the unhelpful speculation which has no foundation whatsoever. Regarding Lar’s late arrival for the 2nd half, when I realised he was not on the field, I returned to the dressing room to find him changing his boots. He spent most of the half time break rousing the other players and obviously left it late to attend to his footwear. Croke Park stewards place a lot of pressure on teams to get back out on the field once the 15 minutes are up and it’s often chaotic when the exit time arrives, so I’m not surprised a player can be left behind.
I think a less high profile player would not have been missed during those 35 seconds. I have since watched the first 15 minutes of the second half a few times to try and analyse how things went so wrong. The early minutes followed a similar pattern to the first half with Kilkenny scoring three points and Pa Bourke and John O‘Brien drawing us back level at 40 minutes. Michael Cahill came to the rescue preventing a certain goal attempt by Fennelly with his foot.
On the 43rd minute Kilkenny led by two points but one minute later Aidan Fogarty split the Tipp rearguard and goaled. On the 51st minute Eoin Larkin rounded Paul Curran for Kilkenny’s third goal and put the game out of reach of Tipp with a nine point lead. During that 16 minutes Tipp had two shots off the posts but we also resorted to some totally unnecessary fouling and dropped soft balls into the Kilkenny keeper. Kilkenny forwards stifled our backs forcing the fouls and also restricting them from setting up any type of planned delivery to our forwards. Our clearances were unproductive and usually ended up in the hands of welcoming Kilkenny backs. Kilkenny forwards were happy to foul the Tipp backs far out, rather than allow them up field to set up attacks. The frustration of this tactic almost earned Padraic Maher a red card for retaliation.
The Kilkenny dominance continued right to the end and our 18 point defeat was Tipp’s worst in over a century. Much has been said since this defeat with blame apportioned on players, team management and County Board. The value of two Munster titles in a row fades into oblivion as we try to come to terms with this defeat.
We are all man enough to accept criticism and we have little choice but to move on and regroup. The 2012 management team have stepped down and the supreme effort they put in over two years will unfortunately be clouded by the manner of this heavy defeat. The long hours and wet nights spent in Dr. Morris Park and Semple Stadium, the sacrifices made with their families and the endless periods of planning and thought put in to bring success. These men volunteered to do a job over two years when very few were prepared to put up their hand and they were praised during the Munster Championship this year for inspirational substitutions that won games for Tipperary.
No one was more hurt than they were after this year’s All Ireland semi-final for this was not how they planned it. They wanted to win an All Ireland as much as any of us. On behalf of all genuine Tipperary supporters I want to thank them for their whole hearted genuine contribution and I hope they will continue to stay involved in the GAA and get enjoyment again from club and County successes.
The players have learned how cruel sport can be having enjoyed the heights of success in 2010 to suffering the humiliation of a heavy defeat in 2012. They have also made sacrifices and put in long hours of preparation. At different stages they all came to the fore during the year and stood out as heroes. On this day they came up against a better team who did not allow then display their many talents and in the space of a few minutes this game went from them as the score went from being level to nine points down in ten minutes.
Most of these players have sufficient character to rise again and I have no doubt they will. They must remember they have a duty to carry the blue and gold jersey on their back even when off the field. They are the privileged ones and the envy of many but the must wear that privilege with dignity and respect.