Score: Tipperary 2-11 University of Limerick 0-12. Perhaps the only thing Tipperary Manager Declan Ryan will have learned from this Waterford Crystal quarter final tie at wet and windy Nenagh on Saturday afternoon last, is what a valuable contribution last years captain Eoin Kelly, still has to make to the Premier County.
By Noel Dundon
Perhaps the only thing Tipperary Manager Declan Ryan will have learned from this Waterford Crystal quarter final tie at wet and windy Nenagh on Saturday afternoon last, is what a valuable contribution last years captain Eoin Kelly, still has to make to the Premier County.
The Mullinahone maestros appearance midway through the second half of a mudbath helped ease Tipperary into the semi-final and a very welcome date with Cork in advance of the keenly anticipated NHL opener against Kilkenny at the back end of the month.
So, on the face of it, while defeat in this game against a UL side which boasted quite a few Tipp lads, might not have been all too earth shattering, the reality is that Tipp’s preparations for the Kilkenny clash can only be enhanced by further participation in the Waterford Crystal Cup.
Were a player to be dropped from the squad on the basis of Saturday’s fare, he would surely have shouted injustice from the top of Slievenamon – this was a long long way from championship; a long long way from hurling really. It was more a test of willpower and willingess to do whatever had to be done to win. Tipp did just about that with Brian O’Meara at full forward epitomising the kind of fight necessary to see a side through on such horrible days for the ancient game. It could hardly have been more miserable – cold, wet, windy and muddy. Thankfully everybody seemed to come through unscathed although the Nenagh field will take some time to get over the scars.
There was as much interest in the UL side from a Tipp perspective as there was in the blue and gold jersied outfit. Thossy Lowry in goal ( Holycross Ballycahill); Paddy Stapleton ( Borris Ileigh) and Kevin Fox (Eire Og Anacarthy) in defence; Joe Gallagher (Kildangan), Paddy Murphy and Michael Heffernan (Eire Og Nenagh), and sub Paul Kelly (Mullinahone) who bagged 0-2 when he came on, made up the Tipp contingent – Allstar half back Padraic Maher was ‘cup-tied’ having played with Tipp in the first round.
However, despite the sizeable Premier influence in the UL ranks, it was Tipp, playing with the breeze in the first half, who stamped their authority on proceedings. They had 0-4 on the board through Pa Bourke, Adrian Ryan, John O’Brien and John O’Neill when Bourke blasted a 21 yard free to the net to put Tipp seven up.
Three minutes later, in the 17th minute Brian O’Meara flicked the ball over Lowry’s head for a beautiful finish after Gearoid Ryan and O’Neill combined to set him up.
Tipp’s 2-4 in 17 minutes gave them a very sizeable lead, but amazingly, that was to be that for the half. UL began to find their feet and three pointed frees from Clare star Conor McGrath, followed by one from Michael Heffernan and another from play from McGrath, left UL trailing by 2-4 to 0-5 at the interval. A five point deficit was not huge, considering the strength of the breeze, and it has to be said that UL certainly gave Tipp enough of it in the second quarter. The feeling was that the Tipp lads could struggle if UL managed to get a few more scores on the board. They did.
Upon turning around, with Paul Kelly drafted into the attack, UL signalled their intentions. McGrath had two further frees and while Pa Bourke and Gearoid Ryan responded, Paul Kelly’s influence was beginning to show.
Fortunately for Tipp, so too was Eoin’s at the other end. The six times Allstar came into the fray in place of the hard working Adrian Ryan and made an immediate impact. He pointed two to go along with another from Pa Bourke, and while Conor McGrath and Padraic Walsh had efforts for UL, followed by another from Paul Kelly, Eoin had another for Tipp, and it looked as though the storm had been weathered.
Eoin Kelly’s steadying influence was very noticable. He seemed to have the ability to pop up and take possession off colleagues and was unerring with his strikes thereafter. Looks to have a bit of work to do in terms of fitness, but his skills and striking are as crisp as ever.
The scoring was rounded off by a Lester Ryan effort being cancelled by James Woodlock as Tipp secured a hard fought five point win.
This game could hardly be described as a season defining outing. However, a number of positives certainly emerged from it. Adrian Ryan and Donagh Maher continue to impress; Brian O’Meara had a very telling input; Eoin Kelly still displays the fire for action; and the O’Mahony, Curran and Cahill staples in defence are as keen as ever.
Tipp’s trimmed panel saw the management use five subs but the jury is still out on a number of others who will probably command game time in the future.
UL, perhaps lethargic at the start following their Fitzgibbon Cup draw with LIT on the previous Thursday, will bemoan the fact that they allowed Tipperary to claim a ten point lead in the first quarter – it was always going to be very difficult for them to recover after that. With Brian Lohan (Clare) and Ger Cunningham (Limerick) patroling the tramlines for them, they managed to resurrect the game and can thank the contributions of the Walsh brothers Martin and Padraic – brothers of Kilkenny star Tommy, Conor McGrath, Lester Ryan, Paddy Stapleton and Brendan Bugler for helping them back into contention. They would have liked a semi-final slot against Cork, but the honour goes to Tipperary in Clonmel Sportsfield on Sunday afternoon next.
Tipperary: D Gleeson, D Maher, P Curran, M Cahill, S Maher, C O’Mahony, J Coughlan, D Young, B Maher, G Ryan 0-1, A Ryan 0-1, P Bourke 1-3, J O’Neill 0-1, B O’Meara 1-0, J O’Brien 0-1. Subs: C O’Brien for D Maher; T Stapleton for J Coughlan; J Woodlock 0-1 for D Young; E Kelly 0-3 for A Ryan; S Curran for G Ryan.
UL: T Lowry, P Stapleton, M Walsh, K Fox, L Ryan 0-1, B Bugler, M Walsh, S Golden, L Markham, B Beckitt, J Gallagher, P Walsh 0-1, M Heffernan 0-1, P Murphy, C McGrath 0-7. Subs: P Kelly 0-2 for S Golden; T O’Brien for P Murphy; P Flanagan for B Beckitt, C Fogarty for M Heffernan; M Boran for P Walsh.
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).