Allianz National Hurling League
Tipperary 1-19 Dublin 0-19
Sighs of relief and roars of encouragement rang around Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday afternoon when Eamon O’Shea’s Tipperary recovered a six-point deficit to Dublin before winning by the required three and thereby avoided a relegation play-off.
Although this encounter provided us with no overwhelming evidence that a corner has been turned this gritty display did suggest that there is an appetite in the players to improve.
An enthusiastic Dublin raced into a 0-9 to 0-3 lead inside the opening 21 minutes, but Tipperary fought back manfully and trailed by just one at the break (0-9 to 0-10). A surging Séamus Callanan run culminated in a second half goal for Patrick Maher and from there Tipperary worked their way toward a vital three-point win.
Four Alan McCrabbe points (three frees) helped Dublin into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead by the ninth minute. Séamus Callanan had responded with a brace of frees, but Dublin’s intent was best illustrated in the ninth minute when manager Anthony Daly raucously celebrated a McCrabbe strike from distance - Dublin were chasing a first competitive win on Tipperary soil since 1946.
Patrick Maher drew a superb reaction save from Gary Maguire in the tenth minute before McCrabbe (free) and then Ryan O’Dwyer added to the visitor’s tally.
A driving Michael Cahill run culminated in a fine point in the 15th minute for Tipperary (0-3 to 0-6) before Gary Maguire made another save, this time of the routine variety from Jason Forde at his near post.
Points from Ryan O’Dwyer, Danny Sutcliffe and Alan McCrabbe (free) forced Dublin into an ominous 0-9 to 0-3 by the 21st minute before Kieran Bergin turned over Liam Rushe and Séamus Callanan smacked over a rousing point in the 23rd.
Bergin notched a point of his own a minute later following neat work from Séamus Callanan before Bergin intercepted a slack Dublin clearance in the 26th, fed John O’Dwyer and the Killenaule man left three between them; a Séamus Callanan free in the 28th minute left two in it (0-7 to 0-9) while a Michael Carton long-range strike brought Tipp’s four-point scoring surge to an emphatic halt.
Tipperary’s approach play in the opening half had been defined by long (and high) balls into the full-forward line and while Patrick Maher was threatening on occasion it didn’t seem the most sensible tactic against a physically powerful defence which was also employing a sweeper.
Two Séamus Callanan points left the minimum between them at the interval (0-9 to 0-10).
Dublin, now playing into the wind, made a determined start to the second half and added to their tally with an Alan McCrabbe free before Jason Forde swung over a Tipperary sideline ball which was, incredibly, waved wide in the 39th minute.
The 4,768-strong attendance watched in wonder as Danny Sutcliffe and Ryan O’Dwyer drove over terrific points to force Dublin into a 0-13 to 0-9 lead. Tipperary needed to locate a little inspiration and found it in Séamus Callanan who raced through the heart of the Dublin defence. Gary Maguire made a terrific save to deny the Drom & Inch man, but Patrick Maher bundled in the rebound in the 42nd minute to leave one in it.
Dublin responded with an Alan McCrabbe free, but the Tipperary supporters had now found their voice and roared over a terrific Noel McGrath effort in the 45th minute. Seconds later McGrath was fouled for a free, which Séamus Callanan converted, before Patrick Maher harried Niall Corcoran into a rushed clearance, John O’Dwyer intercepted and Noel McGrath handed Tipperary the lead for the first time in the 47th minute (1-12 to 0-14).
It was heart-warming to hear the Tipperary crowd on the side of the players once more, but it could have all gone horribly wrong in the 48th minute when Conal Keaney threatened a goal, that is until James Barry affected a telling block.
A Michael Carton point levelled matters, but with Thurles’ Denis Maher making a right nuisance of himself at right wing-forward Tipperary poured forward with points from Noel McGrath, John O’Dwyer and Séamus Callanan handing the home side a 1-15 to 0-15 lead by the 53rd minute.
With 13 minutes to play Paul Ryan went for goal from a 21-yard free, but Brendan Maher saved before points from Joey Boland (free) and Danny Sutcliffe reduced the margin to a single point. Fouls on John O’Dwyer and Séamus Callanan handed the Drom & Inch man the opportunity to fire Tipperary three points clear (1-17 to 0-17) with three minutes to play.
By now most were aware that a three-point winning margin was required to guarantee Eamon O’Shea’s side safety and so groans greeted a free conceded by Cathal Barrett in the 68th minute which Alan McCrabbe converted. Noel McGrath, however, won a free which was converted by Callanan within seconds before another McCrabbe free in injury time left two in it.
Finally, the outstanding Kieran Bergin won a great ball in the middle of the field and shipped a heavy challenge before feeding Ronan Maher who had made an enterprising run on the blind side of the Dublin half-back line. Bergin picked Maher out and the Thurles youngster smacked over a point which was greeted with a terrific roar. Dublin enjoyed one final opportunity, but Niall McMorrow’s delivery dropped short.
Tipperary: Darragh Egan (Kildangan), Paddy Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh), Conor O’Mahony (Newport), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh, captain), Conor O’Brien (Éire Óg Annacarty), Kieran Bergin (Killenaule, 0-1), Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch), John O’Dwyer (Killenaule, 0-2), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-3), Paddy Murphy (Nenagh Éire Óg), Jason Forde (Silvermines), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch, 0-11, 0-8 frees), Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha, 1-0). Subs: (HT) Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for Paddy Murphy, (38th) James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane) for Michael Cahill, (52nd) Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone) for Patrick Maher, (62nd) Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1) for Shane McGrath, (69th) Michael Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg) for Jason Forde.
Dublin: Gary Maguire, Niall Corcoran, Peter Kelly, Simon Timlin, Michael Carton (0-2), Liam Rushe, Shane Durkin, Joey Boland (0-1, 0-1 free), Johnny McCaffrey, Colm Cronin, Ryan O’Dwyer (0-3), Conal Keaney, David O’Callaghan, Danny Sutcliffe (0-3), Alan McCrabbe (0-10, 0-8 frees). Subs: (45th) Mark Schutte for Colm Cronin, (55th) Niall McMorrow for Cian O’Callaghan, (62nd) Paul Ryan for David O’Callaghan.
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).