By Brian McDonnell
AN immaculately presented MacDonagh Park in Nenagh deserved a much better game on Sunday afternoon, but it didn’t get it. A lively Tipperary side were well prepared for battle, but Offaly played like confused, meandering kittens and the result of this league encounter was never in doubt.
There were no howling epithets from Tipperary manager Declan Ryan, just a solemn contentment at business smartly done.
“We’re happy with the win anyway and with the performance,” admitted Declan Ryan in the aftermath of a much-improved Tipp performance.
“Yeah, it’s (the performance) improving. We have a ways to go yet, but I think we’re going in the right direction and the lads are improving there every week.
“So, fair play to them they’re doing fantastically well at the moment.”
A combination of results, most notably Galway’s win over Kilkenny, now presents Tipperary with a reasonable chance of forcing their way back into contention for league honours. Tipp will complete their programme with games away to Cork (March 27th) and Galway (April 3rd) before hosting Wexford on April 17th - it is likely that Declan Ryan’s men will have to win all three games should they wish to take their place in the National League final.
“Ah, I haven’t really given it much thought to be honest,” manager Declan Ryan told the Tipperary Star.
“We’re just concentrating on our performances at the moment and they are going in the right direction. The performance levels are improving and the management team are happy with that,” he said.
“We’ve a break now next weekend thank God and we can recharge the batteries, but that game against Cork will be a good test for us. Cork and Galway will be two difficult matches and will give us a better indication as to where we’re at.”
The combination of Brendan Maher, a most obvious man of the match, and Gearóid Ryan at midfield really caught the eye, as did the performance of JK Bracken’s Shane Bourke who was sprung from the bench following Eoin Kelly’s hand injury in the fourth minute.
“Yeah, Gearóid (Ryan) had a great first half there and Brendan (Maher) had a great hour so we were going very well there,” Declan Ryan said.
“Shane Bourke did very well and he was called in on short notice after Eoin (Kelly) got a bit of a nick on the finger. We’re not exactly sure what the extent of the injury is at the minute, but we were delighted with Shane Bourke’s performance.”
Although Eddie Connolly had to be withdrawn at the break following a heavy challenge from Offaly’s Michael Cordial the Loughmore-Castleiney man will have been thrilled with his display in the opening half as will Clonoulty-Rossmore’s John O’Keeffe who was outstanding at left wing-back.
“Yeah, he did fine yeah,” added Declan Ryan.
“John is a very good man on the ball and he’s a very intelligent player so we’re delighted with his progress.”
Offaly manager Joe Dooley, who probably wished he hadn’t got up on Sunday morning, bemoaned the fact that his side had only managed a single point from play in the second half of this contest.
“No, that’s just not good enough. We were up against a strong team, but we need to be scoring more. That’s just not good enough,” Joe Dooley said.
“We were four points down at half time, but we were well in the game and probably should have been level at half time. I thought we missed some good chances in the first half. In the second half, when there was ten minutes to go there was still only the four or five points in it, but Tipperary finished stronger than we did,” Dooley admitted.
“We looked tired in the last ten minutes I thought, but it’s still a big improvement on our last two outings.
“The lads battled hard so we’ll take encouragement from it. Three games left now and we have to win two of those to stay up.”
There was grave concern for Tipperary captain Eoin Kelly following a clash with Offaly full-back David Kenny in the fourth minute of Sunday’s game. Kelly was substituted and although he was not prepared to comment on the hand injury immediately after the game the Mullinahone man is expected to make a return to action in four to six weeks.
This week Eoin Kelly will rub shoulders with US President Barack Obama. The Tipp captain, along with the Rose of Tralee Clare Kambamettu and Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan has been invited to the White House for St Patrick’s Day.
Tipperary’s Eoin Kelly will accompany Taoiseach Enda Kenny who will present the President of the United States with the traditional bowl of shamrock.