Galway’s defeat of Tipperary in last Sundays All Ireland hurling semi-final was a result which mostly went against people’s predictions. It did however continue a trend where the Munster hurling champions lose their semi-final to a team coming through the ‘back door’.
It is something that I discussed in a blog this time last year when Cork (then Munster hurling champions) lost to Tipperary (coming through the back door). It is now the fourth year in a row that this has occurred, Tipperary (2012), Limerick (2013), Cork (2014) and Tipperary (2015) and the sixth time in the last eight years.
Many commentators have suggested that the long lay-off between the provincial final and All Ireland semi-final is to blame. I definitely think this is a contributory factor but I don’t think it provides a complete explanation. If it did, why do Kilkenny routinely win All Ireland hurling semi-finals when having the same gap between games?
My blog last year suggested another factor based on a particular pattern in these losses. The Munster hurling champions who lost in the All Ireland hurling semi-final hadn’t won a Munster championship in a number of years. Tipperary Munster championship win this year was their first in three years so their defeat seems to provide further support for my hypothesis. The fact that Tipperary (and the other Munster final winners) haven’t been in a similar position in say the previous year’s championship or the year before that is, I think, as much a factor as the long gap between games.
As previously indicated, Kilkenny are the masters at ensuring success at the semi-final stage. The contrast in their approach is perhaps best summed up by the following quote from Kilkenny forward, T.J. Reid, just after this years Leinster final win against Galway [my emphasis added in italics].
We have five weeks now to the next game and we'll train like dogs for that. There are things to improve on but for today we got the job done.”