Game changer: Premier's midfield masterclass strangled all hope of a Waterford comeback 5 years ago

Game changer: Premier's midfield masterclass strangled all hope of a Waterford comeback

It's hard to pinpoint a game-changing moment in this tie considering Tipperary never looked like letting Waterford back into the game from minute one.

If you were to put your finger on an element that dictated the result, it would have taken place in the Tipp dressing room before the game.

Peter Creedon's tactical decision to let everything flow through Steven O'Brien and George Hannigan looked a masterstroke from the get-go and proved that the Premier County very much subscribe to the theory that one ought to start as they mean to go on.

O'Brien, a product from the Under-21s, showed a combination of the fearlessness of youth and patience beyond his years as he dictated play with the panache of a seasoned veteran.

He fulfilled something of a Xavi role, if you'll permit us that magnification, whereby he could drop deep to collect short ball from his half-backs, turn and find a defence-splitting forward pass while, at the same time, possessing the ability to hold up play on the 20m line and offload short hand-passes into onrushing team-mates like this.



The fact that he did often drop deep allowed the Tipp defenders the freedom to overlap him and left the Waterford markers with a dilemma. Should they follow the forward run of the new man in their zone or should they press O'Brien and midfield partner Hannigan?

To their detriment, the majority of the time the Déise defenders chose the former option, affording the Tipp midfield the time and space to find a free man or to set up a strike at the posts with all the pressure of a flat tire.


Here you see the build-up to just one of O'Brien's six points when a supporting teammate pulled the Waterford midfielders away from the 20-year-old.



Often, you find that the energy levels of an entire side is established through the thrust of the midfield, which is exactly what happened in Thurles.

When O'Brien and Hannigan felt the impetus to launch another charge on the Waterford goal, that drive trickled through to their team-mates who attacked at will.

Similarly, when the pair felt like resting and absorbing the Tipp pressure, the other 12 outfielders matched the attitude and did just that.

O'Brien epitomised the Tipperary philosophy as he maintained almost a boxer-like rhythm throughout the 70 minutes.

Tipp would pepper Waterford with shots before striking when Tom McGlinchey's men were lulled into a false sense of security.


It was a bit of a rover-like performance from O'Brien also because, to add to the Xavi comparison, he would often adopt wider positions to give the Tipp attack a different dynamic.

After laying off a number of attempts for team-mates, his last score came when he was the recipient of an overlapping run and, despite the move deserving a goal, he racked up another point for his side.

Here you see him display amazing fitness by busting a gut to support Michael Quinlivan.




The midfield's defensive work was organised to the point where there are almost no examples because every Waterford spark was defused before it could even worry the Tipp defenders.

The fact that McGlinchey's men accrued just five points, with just one from a free, shows the regimented discipline of the Premier County.

Indeed, the game was changed before the referee's whistle was even blown and the midfield enacted the strategy to absolute perfection as Tipperary sealed a Munster SFC semi-final with Kerry in two weeks' time.