All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final - Tipp hold out against Clare
All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final
TIPPERARY 0-28 CLARE 3-16
By John Harrington at Páirc Uí Chaoimh
The curtain was drawn, and drama ensued for the first big show on the shiny, new Páirc Uí Chaoimh stage today.
After a fairly bonkers game of hurling, the reigning champions Tipperary are still standing, but they made hard work out of beating a Clare team that refused to die.
Tipp played the crisper, cleaner hurling for most of the contest, but Clare scored heavily in a couple of purple patches and in the end Tipp had to show a lot of bottle to keep them at bay.
The Banner County looked like the team with all the momentum when they scored six points in a row to close within one of Tipp by the 66th minute.
But when they needed one last kick it wasn’t there, and instead Tipperary finished stronger down the final straight, scoring five points to clinch victory.
It was a frenetic, open contest throughout, and that was always likely to be the case with both teams setting up with three-man inside forward lines.
From the very start there was plenty of space at either end of the field for forwards, but Tipperary made much better use of it in the opening quarter of the game.
They had opened up a 0-8 to 0-2 lead by the 14th minute with Noel McGrath, John McGrath, Seamus Callanan, and John O’Dwyer all scoring from play.
Clare weren’t nearly so clinical, as they repeated the crime that blighted their Munster Final performance by shooting bad wides from long-distance.
There had been some early signs that a much more profitable route to goal would be for them to deliver in ball to their inside forwards rather than shoot rashly from range.
Early on Conor McGrath had rattled the back of the net only for a free to be awarded against him for over-carrying, but the fragility of the Tipp full-back line was obvious even then.
It was confirmed when they were pulled apart twice in the space of a minute as Aaron Cunningham struck for two Clare goals that turned the game on its head.
There was nothing complicated about either goal. Conor McGrath won a long delivery for the first one to set up Cunningham for the finish.
And then Shane O’Donnell soared impressively to catch a high ball before also laying off to Cunningham who rounded Mooney and finished with aplomb again.
For the next five minutes Clare were the team on the front-foot, but once again their good work was being undone by some more poor shooting.
That gave Tipp time to catch their breath, and when Michael Breen settled their nerves with a point they once again assumed dominance of the contest.
It must be said too that Clare did themselves no favours either in the minutes before half-time when they conceded four points in a row that all came from a failure to secure possession off their own puck-out.
Tipp’s lead stood at five points at the break, and they quickly set about stretching it out further on the resumption.
The McGrath brothers John and Noel were on fire, and a brace apiece from them had helped Tipp into a 0-23 to 2-10 lead by the 55th minute.
At that point it looked like Tipp were easing to a pretty comfortable victory, and perhaps maybe the players themselves relaxed ever so slightly.
If they did, then they very nearly regretted it, because Clare suddenly found a new impetus as they reeled off those six points in a row, with substitutes Peter Duggan and Cathal McInerney playing a prominent role in the revival.
A John O’Dwyer free settled Tipp’s nerves, and then two of their key leaders – Padraic Maher and Brendan Maher – combined for what was a really decisive moment in this match.
Padraic plucked a brilliant ball out of the clouds through a thicket of Clare hurleys, and when he won a free his namesake stepped forward and drove it over the Clare cross-bar from all of 90 yards.
More Tipp points followed from John McGrath and substitutes Steven O’Brien and Jason Forde to make the game safe.
Cathal McInerney struck for a last-gasp Clare goal after a scramble in Tipp’s small square, but it was too little, too late.
And so, Tipperary march on to an All-Ireland semi-final joust against either Galway or Cork.
The quality of their attacking play means they’ll be a dangerous opponent for either, but they’ll need to shore up that full-back line if they’re to retain their crown this year.
Scorers for Tipperary: Seamus Callanan 0-7 (3f), John McGrath 0-6, Noel McGrath 0-4, John O’Dwyer 0-4 (1f), Patrick Maher 0-2, Michael Breen 0-1, Seamus Kennedy 0-1, Brendan Maher 0-1 (f), Steven O’Brien 0-1, Jason Forde 0-1.
Scorers for Clare: Tony Kelly 0-6 (4f), Aaron Cunningham 2-0, Cathal McInerney 1-1, Shane O’Donnell 0-2, Conor McGrath 0-2, David Reidy 0-2 (2f), Peter Duggan 0-1, Jamie Shanahan 0-1, Colm Galvin 0-1.
TIPPERARY: Daragh Mooney; Donagh Maher, Tomás Hamill, James Barry; Séamus Kennedy, Ronan Maher, Pádraic Maher; Brendan Maher, Michael Breen; Noel McGrath, Patrick Maher, Dan McCormack; John O’Dwyer, Séamus Callanan, John McGrath. Subs: Subs: Sean O’Brien for James Barry (45), Jason Forde for Michael Breen (60), Niall O’Meara for John O’Dwyer (68), Steven O’Brien for Callanan (71).
CLARE: Andrew Fahy; Seadna Morey, Patrick O’Connor, Cian Dillon; David Fitzgerald, Conor Cleary, Jamie Shanahan; Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly; Cathal Malone, Pádraic Collins, John Conlon; Shane O’Donnell, Aaron Cunningham, Conor McGrath. Subs: Peter Duggan for John Conlon (32), David Reidy for Podge Collins (52), Cathal McInerney for Cathal Malone (57), Jason McCarthy for Kelly (67),
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)