Tipperary taught a harsh lesson by cynical and clinical Kerry
Champions march on with little fuss
Everyone expected Tipperary to give Kerry a test and at least front up to the Munster and All-Ireland champions for the cliché of 50-55 minutes, but then fall away in Sunday's Munster semi final
Well the pundits were right in that Tipperary did fall away, but it was closer to 15 minutes than the expected three-quarter mark.
If the Premier were to really test Kerry they needed a quick start to put the pressure on a county that traditionally begins the championship slowly.
On a scorching day in Semple Stadium they got the first bit right, but then faster than a melting choc-ice in a sweaty Kerryman's hands they collapsed into bad habits, and failed to implement a game plan of any sort to combat one of the most lethal forward lines in the country.
Instead, the Kingdom were allowed the freedom of Thurles with Colm Cooper enjoying a care-free return to championship football, 0-3 in total, and two of that from play.
Tipperary's encouraging start was all down to direct running, something that the Kerry defence, especially their left flank and central areas, struggled with badly throughout the early stages.
Peter Crowley, Mark Griffin and Killian Young all were caught for a lack of muscle in the hamstrings in the opening moments as Tipperary raced into a 1-1 to no score lead after four minutes.
Crowley's slip left Colin O'Riordan in for the first score, while Mark Griffin could not live with the pace of Michael Quinlivan for the opening goal as Conor Sweeney waited until the full-forward made the run into space for the easiest of passes.
Pace and quick movement were also crucial to their next goal as Kerry struggled to get men back in time just seconds after grabbing their second through Paul Geaney.
The Kingdom's entire half-back line, as well as corner back Shane Enright on the near side, have been sucked into midfield, and Tipperary do a 'Donegal' on it as they slice through with a devastating counter-attack
Steven O'Brien gets the ball and goes straight for the exposed gap to Killian Young's left, where runner Philip Austin burns off two defenders before popping a lovely pass to Quinlivan.
He has three options after yet another direct run caused Kerry's defence huge problems:
However Eamon Fitzmaurice did not guide Kerry to an All-Ireland title last year without clever in-game management, and by the 10th minute they had decided that playing a counter-attacking style was the best way to negate Tipperary, while also getting Colm Cooper into the game.
This picture was taken exactly 11 minutes into the game and the only Kerry forward within 60 metres of Tipperary's goal is Barry John Keane.
That crowding of the defence by Kerry meant they were now able to slow down the Tipperary attacks and stop the overloads that had opened them up in the early minutes.
Clever fouling helped too, as Kerry stopped Tipperary illegally 22 times in total, 11 in each half, while Tipperary coughed up four fouls in the first half and 12 after the break
Contrast the space that Tipperary could run into in the first half with the two-man tackles and harassment of Peter Creedon's side by men in green and gold in the second period.
Marc Ó Sé and Jonathan Lyne doubled up on Conor Sweeney to choke up any chance of a quick break or an offload to a colleague through the middle.
Look also how Kerry have that central channel covered now to make sure no further goals are scored:
This strong defensive shape meant Tipperary were forced into long-range shooting, and they coughed up eight second-half wides out of their total of 13.
While Kerry scored five unanswered points upon the restart, by the 51st minute Tipperary had shot five wides in response.
It was like firing blanks when your enemy has a machine gun - you're making all the right sounds but ultimately you're the one left bleeding on the floor.
The wides tally is something that will, and rightly should, haunt the Premier County for the next two weeks at least.
Kerry kicked only fives wides in the whole game, while Tipperary shot four of their first-half tally of five by the 11th minute.
Colm Cooper didn't touch the ball until the 11th minute - and that was a handpass - but once he did get into the game he kicked, and handpassed, his way around through and over the Tipperary defence.
Everyone was glad to see the Kerry forward back in the championship but Tipperary rolling out a green and gold carpet for him was probably taking it a step too far.
Cork won't be giving the former number 13 this type of space so it's a mystery why Tipperary did so.
Cooper will always get on the ball, but allowing him turn and get his head up to spray balls around like a Killarney version of Xavi was the most infuriating aspect of the day from the home supporters' point of view.
Fouling him may not have worked considering the form Bryan Sheehan was in, but at least stopping him by doubling up may have been worth more than having him dictate the play with no pressure on any of his kicks.
This is at the very start of the second half and yet Cooper's man is yards off him, which gives him the option of three passes, the dotted lines, and the actual pass he went with, the straight line.
Tipperary barely laid a glove on Kerry's backs when coming out with the ball from defence.
If they were going to play 15 v 15 then a little bit of cynical fouling and smart play wouldn't have gone astray.
Once Tipperary's direct path to goal was blocked they failed to make any headway and rolled to a dead stop with 15 minutes to go despite some late scores in garbage time when Kerry were in neutral gear.
A little more refinement in their attack, and a bit more grit in defence may see Tipperary go a long way in the qualifiers but they need to learn from the masters in the south west that combining the cynical and clinical can yield a potent mix.