TIPPERARY survived a late rally from Limerick Institute of Technology in what had looked like being a one-sided affair at half-time in Dolla to reach their second Waterford Crystal Cup final in a row.
At the break, Tipp lead by 0-13 to 0-3 and it looked like nothing short of a miracle would get a poor LIT side back into the match. But whether it was whatever manager Davy Fitzgerald said to the students or whether Tipp became complacent, the county players were lucky to hang on for their win. Two goals from Gary Guilfoyle, the second a sublime back flick from 18 yards, who also scored six points, saw them get within two points of Tipp with just three minutes remaining. However, a late goal from sub Mikey Heffernan saw Tipperary across the line.
The game had started evenly enough with Tipperary playing with the breeze. Both sides traded points in the opening 10 minutes to leave the scores level at 0-2 apiece, but then Tipp got into their stride, firing over 11 points to no reply.
LIT’s chief tormentor was John O’Dywer, who had an excellent game throughout, chasing and harrying and getting his name on the board with seven points, five of them in the first half. He was ably abetted by John O’Neill, who also hit two points in that opening half, the sweetest one after 16 minutes when O’Dwyer had the vision to see McLoughney unmarked back in his own half. The Toomevara man gathered the pass and sent a long, perfectly judged ball to O’Neill on the left for the Clonoulty / Rossmore man to knock over.
At that stage, Tipperary were stringing together some great passing movements and spraying the sliothar around, never giving LIT a chance to settle, forcing them to cover every inch of the park. With Tipp’s defence snuffing out any chance LIT might have, it was all one-way traffic as the students battled not just a confident Tipp but also the driving rain and a breeze that had turned into a wind.
LIT did have their chance on the half-hour when all three forwards were let through on goal but Jamie Fitzgibbon pulled the ball wide.
The second-half started much the same as the first, with the sides swapping wides and two points. Incredibly, LIT didn’t get their first point from play until the 39th minute when John Guilfoyle slotted over.
Gary Guilfoyle hit the second from play shortly afterwards and then gave his side a lifeline with a penalty on 45 minutes after goalie Darren Gleeson had fouled in the area.
Tipp had now gone 10 minutes without a score, but rallied with points from O’Dwyer, Shane McGrath and McLoughney.
LIT’s woes were summed when the ball again slipped through Tipp’s centre defence and landed with Colin Madden on the 53rd minute. But the Bruff man fluffed his lines and hammered the sliothar wide with only Gleeson to beat.
Then came Guilfoyle’s second goal and a nailbiting finish until Heffernan eased the strain with seconds left on the clock.
It is hard to know what manager Eamon O’Shea and his team learned from this encounter as he prepares to meet Clare in the final. LIT were poor and Tipperary should have been out of sight long before the end.
Tipperary: Darren Gleeson; Christy Coughlan, Thomas Stapleton, Tom Treacy; Joey McLoughney, Ronan Sherlock, Orrie Quirke, Shane McGrath, Conor O’Brien; John O’Dwyer, James Woodlock, Jason Forde; John O’Neill, Cian Hogan, John O’Brien.
Subs: Donagh Maher for Thomas Stapleton; Noel McGrath for Conor O’Brien; Shane Bourke for John O’Brien; Mikey Heffernan for Cian Hogan; Brian O’Meara for John O’Neill.
Scorers: John O’Dwyer (0-7); Jason Forde, (0-3); John O’Neill (0-3); Shane McGrath, (0-2); Joey McLoughney (0-2); Christy Coughlan (0-1); John O’Brien (0-1); Shane Bourke (0-1); Mikey Heffernan (1-0).
LIT: Aaron Murphy; Alan Dempsey, Pat Begley, Cathal Barrett; Paudie Ahern, John O’Keefe, Paul Flaherty; John Guilfoyle, Eoin O’Sullivan; Jamie Fitzgibbon, Sean Collins, Gary Guilfoyle; Padraig Greene, Paudie O’Brien, Padraig Hickey.
Scorers: Gary Guilfoyle (2-10); John Guilfoyle (0-1); Sean Collins (0-1).
Subs: Colin Maddden for John Fitzgibbon; Paddy Dalton for Padraig Hickey; Colin Nelson for Eoin O’Sullivan, Sean O’Connor for Alan Dempsey.
Referee: Pat Casey (Waterford).