Monday afternoon’s All-Ireland minor quarter-final reached a critical juncture in the 62nd minute. Monaghan led 0-10 to 0-8 before Stephen Quirke created room for a shot which was blocked. Gerry Cronin gathered the rebound only to see his effort at a three-pointer blocked before Quirke grabbed the ball once more. The Moyle Rovers man went for goal and this time the crossbar denied Quirke and Monaghan cleared their lines. Indeed, the slim margin which decided this quarter-final was not lost on Tipperary manager Charlie McGeever.
“Small margins win these matches, but in fairness to Monaghan today they kicked (points) better than we did and they deserved it. That has been our Achilles heel. We have not been racking up enough of scores,” Charlie McGeever told the Tipperary Star.
“We needed a green flag. We did our work in terms of not conceding goals to Monaghan who had scored ten up to now. We kept them out, but we needed a green flag. I suppose it was the width of a crossbar in it in the end, but in a tight match Monaghan took their chances better. Today we just left a couple of chances behind us.”
Charlie McGeever was joined on the management team by coach Kevin Mulryan and selectors Paddy O’Flaherty and Shane Stapleton.
“Monaghan just had a better scoring set than we had,” a disappointed Charlie McGeever explained.
“We have been built on defence all year. We conceded very little, but we just can’t seem to rack up them scores. I think at the end of the day that is ultimately going to come against you when you go further in the competition. We had a good run. Ultimately our aim was to make the semi-finals. We played four of the six matches that you can play in this championship so we only missed out on a semi-final. We are in the middle of a building process. We have a very young group of players coming in so we are hoping that we will be able to kick on from here.”
Playing with a stiff breeze in the opening half Tipperary raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead inside the opening ten minutes. Tipp, however, failed to push on from there. Indeed, a spurned free just before the break enabled the Ulster champions to close the gap to just a single point at the interval when the Premier, reasonably, could have carried a 0-6 to 0-3 advantage into the second half.
“Yeah, I think the last point that Monaghan got before half-time was crucial,” Charlie McGeever admitted.
“We broke and should have gone three ahead, but they came back and got one which brought it back to one. That wasn’t enough. I thought three points of a lead would have got us over the line. In fairness they did kick well and kicked a couple of long-range scores late on.
“You look at it and you see that they had their homework done. Colin O’Riordan probably wasn’t allowed to play today, but no complaints about today. To be fair to Monaghan I think they deserved it and hopefully they will go on now. They are like ourselves; they are one of the lesser counties and you would hope that at minor level they would kick on and represent us well.”
Early in the second half Monaghan landed three points without reply to lead 0-7 to 0-5 with 20 minutes to play. Tipperary responded manfully with two points of their own, but a clash of heads between Willie Connors and Monaghan’s Dónal Meegan delayed the game for five minutes and sucked the wind out of the Premier sails.
“Ultimately with the wind that was there we found it difficult,” Charlie McGeever said.
“The two areas I thought were decisive were not kicking on when we scored four points in the first half and then that late point in the first half. Points were going to dictate today more than goals - not going in with a three-point lead when we should have cost us. I would say it over and over again - never in this competition have we got the scores on the board to win matches.”
Irrespective of Monday’s result Charlie McGeever said he was proud of the efforts of his players.
“Absolutely,” insisted Charlie McGeever.
“We played Kerry, Cork, Monaghan and Clare. They have done what I expected them to do. I am a little disappointed and I would have liked to have got to an All-Ireland semi-final because I think the team are good enough. There wasn’t much in it there and there wasn’t much in the Kerry match.
“We have a lot of players for next year. We have a very young side. Most of those have been in since the ninth of November and that experience will help them, but I think we have got to go looking for more scoring forwards. Our two inside boys are still underage next year and have done well all year, but, again, they are still very young,” Charlie McKeever added.
“I am proud of them. They have been a great bunch to work with. We had a great set-up and we have absolutely no complaints leaving here. Coming here today we couldn’t blame anything.
“The one thing I would say is that it was a poor venue for an All-Ireland quarter-final in terms of the ground being absolutely awful. It’s crazy given that there was an opportunity to play a quarter-final in Croke Park on Saturday. It wasn’t the difference between us winning and losing, but, ultimately, the GAA have to look at this and admit that it is a very poor set-up,” Charlie McKeever concluded.