The Rock O'Sullivan: It's time for Eamon O'Shea to Tipp the balance
When all is said and done in this year’s All-Ireland Hurling Championship on the first Sunday of September, I predict that Tipperary will have turned around the events of 2014 and beaten Kilkenny narrowly in the decider.
I choose Tipp for one single reason — it is death or glory for the Premier this year, nothing matters but winning the All-Ireland.
The management team is going at the end of the summer and, I suspect, several players will go with them – win or lose.
To that end, manager Eamon O’Shea has been ruthless about culling big players from the panel who he feels can no longer contribute.
Nothing must stand in the way of Tipp winning this year, no sentiment, no anything, it is about the Liam McCarthy Cup being paraded on a Monday evening in Thurles in four months’ time and nothing else.
Noel McGrath is a shocking loss, and his illness puts hurling into perspective, but I feel Tipperary still have enough power, enough hunger and, after last year, enough drive, to go forward and take the crown from the Cats.
Kilkenny will be there to meet them. JJ Delaney is a massive loss, would Kilkenny have won last year but for his brilliant hook on Seamus Callinan in the replay? Perhaps not, for a Tipperary goal then would have put them clear on the scoreboard.
But Brian Cody’s men will be there on the big day. To get to the Leinster Final they will surely only have to beat a Wexford side who have gone backwards this year.
Maybe they are saving everything for a real rattle at the championship, but they’ve known since last October that, once they beat the qualifier survivor in the first game, they would be off to play at Nowlan Park against the hosts.
With that in mind, I’m amazed they didn’t give the league the sort of go that Waterford did. Perhaps the answer is that they weren’t able to.
On the other side of the Leinster draw, my initial instinct was that Galway would beat Dublin and contest the Leinster Final after beating Offaly in the semi-final.
The thinking was that, just like Tipp, there is no going back for the Galway hurling management and players after this year.
Then two things changed my mind. First I saw that they play the Dubs in Croke Park on May 31, before the footballers are in action. That means that with 10 minutes gone in the second half of the hurling tie, there will be 30,000 Dubs there to support their team and an awful lot less Galway people.
And then there was the manner of Dublin’s defeat to Cork in the National League semi-final, a match they should have won.
I know Ger Cunningham for years, he simply won’t let that happen again. He’ll coach Dublin in how to win games like that, so it’s the Dubs for me, but again they will come up short on Leinster’s big day against Kilkenny.
Though I’m with Tipp for the All-Ireland, I feel it will be won by coming through the back door and I’m backing Clare to beat Limerick, Tipperary and, most likely, Waterford to win the Munster title.
These Banner boys will be hurting after last year and the way they made a poor enough fist of defending their All-Ireland title. They will also be hurting after all the fuss over players leaving the panel.
Yet nothing much has been said about the loss, to a US student visa, of Colm Galvin, the one player they may not be able to do without later in the year. I expect Clare to surge through Munster on a wave of passion, but maybe slip up at the semi-final stage.
In the Munster Final I take Clare to beat Waterford, for I cannot see how my native county of Cork can turn around the beating they got two weeks ago in the League Final in the space of just a few weeks.
Cork were so far off the pace that day in Thurles that it just astonished me. Maybe they were playing ‘rope-a-dope’ with Waterford, it is the one explanation left for all Rebel supporters that gives us any hope.Yet I doubt it, Cork could have done with winning that game just as much as Waterford did, but the effort was only coming from one side.
I just cannot see it being a big summer for Cork. I fervently hope I’m wrong, but the evidence of my eyes is all I have to go on.