By Brian McDonnell
DECLAN Ryan was absolutely delighted by the response of his players to the scenario they found themselves in on Sunday afternoon.
After just eight minutes they trailed by six points (1-3 to no-score), but thereafter the Tipp lads tapped the ball left and right, up and down, like someone might fill in a simple cross word puzzle at top speed. Indeed, from six points down Tipperary out-scored their Clare counterparts by 15 points (4-19 to 0-16) during the remainder of the game, scoring 4-17 of that tally from play in the process. As early as the 20th minute Tipp, thanks to Lar Corbett’s goal, had recovered and led 3-3 to 1-7 before progressing to win this Munster semi-final by nine points.
And, Declan Ryan was more than pleased with the manner in which his side solved this particular puzzle.
“We were delighted with the result,” Declan Ryan told the Tipperary Star.
“I suppose the performance in the first 20 minutes would not be what you would be looking for in a Munster semi-final, but I was delighted with the way we got the couple of goals to keep us in the game and we responded well, I think, to the challenge. We’re delighted to be in a Munster final.”
First half goals from Eoin Kelly, Patrick Maher and Lar Corbett ripped the heart right out of an ambitious Clare side: “our ability to get goals has stood to us again. It would have been very bleak for us at half time only for the goals we got. I think they showed a lot of composure there, we kept fighting there and I think the work rate was very good. Overall we are just delighted to get through today. It was a slippery one for us”.
Lesser teams may have panicked in the face of such adversity, but not this Tipperary side.
“There’s a lot of composure and there’s a lot of experience in the group,” Declan Ryan said.
“Even the younger guys are winners. They have competed at a very high level now for a number of years so I think that and their work rate ethic is what paid off today.
“We are after having two good battles now and two good games. The Munster final will be a huge battle as well. There’s no doubt about that with Waterford coming to defend their Munster crown. This is why the guys train so hard. It’s for days like today and full credit to them for the way they battled through it.”
Declan Ryan attended and was impressed by the recent Munster semi-final clash between Waterford and Limerick which the Déise won thanks to a late John Mullane goal.
“Waterford are a very experienced team. They play a different type of hurling, very defensive and they have goal-scoring ability as well so it’s going to be a huge battle. It’s a 50-50 game with Waterford as defending Munster champions and we’re looking forward to it.”
In the opening half of Sunday’s clash with Clare the Tipperary defence struggled to cope with the Banner, but the management team addressed that issue with some key substitutions before the Premier forced their way into a commanding lead in the second half.
“Yeah, we have a strong panel,” Ryan added.
“All the guys that are on the panel have trained very hard and they got their chance today and they showed that the good work they have done has paid off. So, we’re delighted to have options on the bench.
“Any day you play Munster championship you are going to be well tested.
“The defence is going to be well tested again the next day no doubt, but we were delighted with the way our defence finished up there. They battled very hard there in the second half.”
Tipperary coach Tommy Dunne admitted that he was hoping for a much better start to this Munster semi-final: “We were hoping to make a strong start. We knew Clare would be trying to do the same and it was they who got the better start. It took us a long time to get to grips with them. In fairness to Clare I thought they gave a very good account of themselves and they were unlucky not to get a couple of more goals.
From our point of view we got a couple of goals, probably against the run of play. We were under severe pressure and those goals got us into the game and kept us in the game in the first half. Clare were well on top, but those goals made a huge difference.
“The first two goals cut the deficit and the third one put us ahead, even though we didn’t deserve it on the balance of play.”
The Toomevara man however appreciated the response of his players once they found themselves facing a formidable challenge.
“That comes from experience,” Dunne said.
“We’ve been around the block a few times and in fairness the lads dug out some great scores when we really needed them.
“We prepared very well for the game. We were very conscious that people were completely writing Clare off and we were very much on our guard for that.
“I think had we underestimated Clare to any degree we would have come second today. I thought Clare meant business out there.”
For Clare manager Ger O’Loughlin reports on the game could only be couched in the terms of a medical bulletin. The Clarecastle man was, however, proud of the effort his players put in.
“Most people would have not given us a chance that we would have been six points up after ten minutes, but most times in hurling matches goals win matches and we paid the price of giving away two soft goals to bring them back into it,” Ger O’Loughlin said.
“It’s something that we have to learn, that you can’t concede after a great start. We had a tremendous start, our hurling was very crisp, our tackling was ferocious and we looked a team.
“But in saying that we let them back into it and against the All-Ireland champions like Tipp there is never a panic button pressed.”