Updated at 20.00
TIPPERARY SURVIVED A stern test from Clare to book their place in the All-Ireland SHC semi-finals, but question marks continue to hang over their defence.
Michael Ryan’s side conceded 3-10 from play on Saturday evening, while the Banner had a Conor McGrath goal disallowed early on and shot 18 wides in total.
Cathal Barrett, who was dropped from the squad for disciplinary issues in May, is the highest-profile absentee and there have been calls for Ryan to recall the All-Star defender.
“Will Cathal Barrett be back? I don’t know, it’s very late in the year,” former Premier midfielder Shane McGrath said when he popped into The42 today for a chat about Tipperary and the rest of the weekend’s hurling talking points.
“It’d be a massive call. I know Cathal played a club match and did fine in it. He’s probably a bit off the pace of inter-county and an All-Ireland semi-final is a big game to be coming back into after being away for so long.
“If you bring back in you’re probably not going to start him, but at least the guys on the pitch know, ‘I’m going to have to go well or he’s going to come on.’
“I’d see it as a positive but it’s up to the management to decide. At this stage of the year who knows what it’s going to be. I think a call will have to be made today or tomorrow, realistically.”
James Barry, generally seen as a full-back, was operating in the corner before his withdrawal on 44 minutes for Sean O’Brien, a relative newcomer to the squad. McGrath would prefer to see Barry relocated to the edge of the square along with the return of Michael Cahill who has struggled with injuries this season.
“As a player, I would have seen James Barry not being comfortable at 4, and he’s been outstanding for us at 3,” he said. “He’s done it on the big days in Croke Park. I think Donagh Maher was excellent at corner-back, the question is who goes in the other corner now?
“If Mickey (Cahill) goes well in training I’d like to see him getting a go there. He has the experience on the big day.”
By the end of the win over Clare, Tipperary had a full-back line of Donagh Maher, Tomas Hamill and Sean O’Brien, none of whom started last year’s All-Ireland final win over Kilkenny.
It represents a significant change on the last line of the Tippeary defence in a short space of time. The reigning All-Ireland champions are staring down the barrel of Galway’s in-form attack in the semi-final and the Premier backs will need to be on top form.
“(Sean O’Brien) only got brought into the panel four or five weeks ago. I’ve heard he has been going very well in training, marking the likes of Seamie (Callanan), Bubbles (John O’Dwyer) and the lads. That’s great experience for him.
“Tossy (Tomas Hamill) plays his best hurling in the half-back line and you’re asking him to play a completely different position at corner-back where you’re marking the trickiest guys on the field. It’s a very particular position.
“Tossy is doing fine but Croke Park just plays different and Galway are going to exploit that to the last. Cathal Mannion will more than likely be back. The speed of this guy, you really see it in Croke Park when they exploit the space.
“Joe (Canning) seems to be happy with his job, he’ll pick off his few scores from play and the Cooneys (Joseph and Conor) are in unbelievable form.
“We do need to be well set-up at the back or else we’re going to get pulled and dragged everywhere.”
Watch to the full chat with Shane McGrath below:
The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!
‘I’ll take a bit of time, but I couldn’t speak highly enough of them’ – Davy to reflect on Wexford future
Here are fixture details for the All-Ireland hurling semi-finals and the football quarter-finals