EDDIE Connolly captained Tipperary to their first Munster intermediate hurling title since 2002 and the Premier’s eighth title in all. The Loughmore-Castleiney man was outstanding at centre-back. Indeed, Eddie had to be. Clare didn’t travel all the way to MacDonagh Park in Nenagh to play the role of dazzled spectator.
“Very happy,” Eddie Connolly told the Tipperary Star.
“That was a tough and a sweet one in the end. They really put it up to us in the second half. Thankfully the team has a lot of steel in it.
“We showed that when we went up a big score against Limerick and Cork in the other two games. They both came back at us, but there is a bit of steel in the team and we were able to withstand a bit of pressure. Thankfully we got over the line again.”
With both Clare and Tipperary playing an extra defender and two-man full-forward lines the middle third of the field proved to be a vital battle ground.
“Both defences seemed packed and had a spare man back there so it was hard to get clearances away at both ends,” Eddie Connolly explained.
“I think we had the sharper forwards on the day and we were able to get our scores that little bit easier. Thankfully in the end we were on top on the scoreboard.”
A David Butler goal in the 29th minute of the opening half helped Tipperary into a vital 1-10 to 0-10 interval lead.
And, in the end that three-pointer proved the essential difference between the teams.
A goal Eddie Connolly, for one, was glad to see go in.
“Very much so,” admitted the Loughmore-Castleiney man.
“In all our other games we had no problem getting goals, but it was a bit tighter there today. We were only playing with two men in the full-forward line for a lot of the game so that made it a bit harder to score the goals. That goal before half-time was the crucial score.”
The attention of the Tipperary supporters will now turn to Wednesday, August 8th when the under-21s take on Clare at Cusack Park, Ennis in their respective provincial decider.
It hardly needs pointing out that should Tipperary win they will replicate Cork’s achievement in 2005 when the Rebels were crowned senior, minor, under-21 and intermediate champions.
“Hopefully the under-21s can go and win Munster now,” Eddie Connolly said.
“It would be some achievement to have the four hurling cups and with the football teams, both senior and minor, going very well, who knows, but there could be an awful lot of trips to Croke Park this year.”
Tipperary manager Michael Ryan (Fethard) was joined on the management team by coach Michael Ferncombe (Holycross-Ballycahill) and selectors Eamonn O’Dwyer (Arravale Rovers) and Seán O’Meara (Shannon Rovers).
And, Mick Ryan agreed with Eddie Connolly that David Butler’s goal was decisive in propelling Tipp toward the All-Ireland intermediate final on September 1st.
“It was,” Michael Ryan told the assembled press.
“It was looking like we were going to go in level there at half-time and I suppose it was a fortunate enough goal. There was a bit of a break there in the goalmouth and it was the difference in the end.
“Clare, you would have to say, came out there in the second half and had four or five bad wides. We had missed a few chances too, easy chances. It was a real tense kind of a game. It was real heart-in-the-mouth stuff.
“Thankfully we got there. We are in an All-Ireland final now and it’s a huge bonus for us.
“It was a very tight game and you wouldn’t expect anything different from a Munster final.
“We were playing a good, young Clare team who were coming here full of confidence,” Michael Ryan added.
“They hit us with everything and thankfully we got over the line in the finish. We showed great character there and they never gave up at any stage. They deserve every bit of this, each and every one of them. They have worked exceptionally hard all year each one of them and we’re delighted.”
And, Michael Ryan feels that this Tipperary team can improve on their provincial campaign: “we are definitely improving. Even in the first half there we felt that we had not played to our potential. We felt that there was a lot more in us. Maybe we were not let play either. You would have to say that about Clare as well, but there is definitely more an improvement there as well. That’s what we will be telling them. That’s the stick that we will beat them with”.