Munster Under-21 Hurling
Tipperary 1-25 Clare 5-19
Tipperary were just the thickness of a corner-forward’s ankle away from landing the knock-out blow at Cusack Park, Ennis on Wednesday night last, but, sadly, Clare recovered in time to surge to a six-point extra-time win.
At the final whistle the Tipperary’s players stood, sat or knelt in a tableau of despair as the Clare lads celebrated a famous comeback on home turf.
There was no denying the fact that the Banner were fortunate to bring the Tipperary under-21 campaign to a close for a third consecutive year.
Two of Tipp’s starting forwards had to be replaced prior to the break, the Premier’s wide tally was double that of the home side and two Clare goals materialised when efforts at points bounced down off a post and into the hand of a Clare forward while Tipperary’s most influential player, John Meagher, was shown a straight red card for a tangle with Clare’s Peter Duggan.
That said it is not the Tipperary tradition (nor should it be) to search for excuses in the wake of a defeat. Tipperary scored 1-25 and should have put this one away.
And, the list of positives is encouraging - Paul Maher was terrific in goal while men like John Meagher, Tom Fox and Colin O’Riordan were outstanding. What really stole the show, however, from a Tipperary point of view was the quality of the tackling and a determination to manage the middle third of the field.
With Stephen Cahill playing in a withdrawn role and John Meagher sweeping this exceptional facet of the game helped Tipp recover from conceding two early goals to lead 1-16 to 2-9 with fifteen minutes to play. Clare bounced back to force extra-time by out-scoring Tipperary 1-4 to 0-3 in the final quarter (full-time: 1-19 to 3-13) before striking for two match-deciding goals in the 73rd and 81st minutes.
Tipperary started well with Colin O’Riordan making a robust impression before Clare hit 2-2 without reply to lead 2-2 to 0-2 after seven minutes - Aaron Cunningham rounded Cathal Barrett for the first three-pointer while Peter Duggan pulled on Eoin Quirke’s long-range free for the second.
Three Jason Forde frees dragged Tipp back into contention while further points from Séamus Kennedy, Seán Maher and Bill Maher reduced the margin to two points (0-8 to 2-4) by the 22nd minute.
The nature of Tipperary’s tackling and the side’s considered attacking play warmed the heart. Indeed, late points from Jason Forde and Stephen Cahill left just two in it at the break - 0-10 to 2-6.
Four minutes into the second half Tipp were level thanks to points from Jason Forde and Tom Fox.
Clare responded well and led 2-8 to 0-13 when Jason Forde won a terrific turnover ball and sent Tadhg Gallgher through on goal; the Kildangan man finished off his left and Tipp were leading.
A long-range effort from Gearóid O’Connell illustrated that Clare were not prepared to go quietly, but points from Ronan Maher, Jason Forde (sideline) and Colin O’Riordan helped Tipp into a 1-16 to 2-9 lead by the 45th minute.
There was still four between them in the 47th minute when Clare plundered a third goal - Paul Maher saved brilliantly from Peter Duggan, but the rebound broke to David Reidy who helped himself to an easy finish (1-17 to 3-10).
The sides traded points thereafter before John Meagher expertly intercepted a Clare sideline ball in the 57th minute and picked out Dan McCormack who gave Tipp a vital lead. Clare responded, however, with an Aaron Cunningham point to level it before Tipp suffered the indignation of seeing John Meagher being sent off following what seemed like a minor tangle with Clare’s Peter Duggan in the 60th minute.
Two Jason Forde points helped Tipp into a 1-21 to 3-13 lead in the opening minutes of extra-time, but Clare hit back in devastating fashion with six consecutive points while Paul Maher was asked to make a stunning save from Peter Duggan and Michael Breen also made a telling block.
At the break in extra-time Tipp trailed by three (1-22 to 3-19). Points from Conor Hammersley and Stephen Cahill reduced the margin to one before Clare struck for their fourth goal - Tony Kelly’s effort at a point hit a post and bounced down into the hand of Aaron Cunningham who buried his shot from close range - 1-24 to 4-19.
With five minutes to play Jason Forde saw a 21-yard free saved as Tipp’s wide tally mounted. With minutes to play Clare ‘keeper Keith Hogan made a stunning reaction save to deny Forde before a Dan McCormack effort left three in it (1-25 to 4-19) entering injury time. Misfortune struck once more in the 81st minute when Tony Kelly’s effort at a point hit a post and fell into the hand of Aaron Cunningham (again). Paul Maher saved brilliantly, but Shane O’Donnell buried the rebound.
Tipperary: Paul Maher (Moyne-Templetuohy), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Michael Breen (Ballina), Tom Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty, 0-1), Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1), John Meagher (Loughmore-Castleiney), Tomás Hamill (Moyne-Templetuohy), Séamus Kennedy (St Mary’s Clonmel, 0-1), Bill Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash, 0-1), Colin O’Riordan (JK Bracken’s, 0-3), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-1), Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh, 0-2), Stephen Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1), Jason Forde (Silvermines, captain, 0-12, 0-7 frees, 0-1 sideline), Seán Maher (Clonoulty-Rossmore, 0-1). Subs: (25th) Tadhg Gallagher (Kildangan, 1-0) for Seán Maher, (HT) Dylan Fitzelle (Cashel King Cormacs) for Liam McGrath, (56th) Conor Hammersley (Clonoulty-Rossmore, 0-1) for Séamus Kennedy, (FT) Barry Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg) for John Meagher, (HT ET) Steven O’Brien (Ballina) for Tadhg Gallagher, (ET 20th) Séamus Kennedy for Michael Breen.
Clare: Keith Hogan, Jarlath Colleran, Jack Browne, Seadna Morey, Eoin Quirke, Conor Cleary, Gearóid O’Connell (0-2), Colm Galvin (0-3), Tony Kelly, Peter Duggan (1-1), Shane McGrath, Jamie Shanahan (0-2), David Reidy (1-1), Bobby Duggan (0-8, 0-4 frees, 0-2 ‘65s), Aaron Cunningham (2-2). Subs: (36th) Eoin Enright for Shane McGrath, (42nd) Shane Gleeson for Eoin Quirke, (HT ET) Shane O’Brien for Gearóid O’Connell, (ET 12th) Shane O’Donnell (1-0) for Peter Duggan, (ET 16th) David Conroy for Bobby Duggan.
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).