By Brian McDonnell at MacDonagh Park, Nenagh
Tipperary 1-18 Clare 0-17
The crucial moment in this ferociously-fought contest arrived in the 29th minute of the opening half when David Butler whispered open Sesame to the Clare defence and scrambled home a goal which propelled the Premier toward a 1-10 to 0-10 interval lead. And, while it is rarely sensible nor clever to sum up a game based on one moment in this case it is true to say that David Butler’s three-pointer ultimately separated these evenly-matched sides.
The performance of David Butler, a towering Drom & Inch man, caught the eye. Butler scored 1-4 from play while a number of his playing colleagues came to fore in an always-enthralling affair. James Logue, as we have come to expect, was neat and tidy in goal, corner-back Christy Coughlan saw off Clare danger man David O’Halloran while Eddie Connolly and Ronan Sherlock were a consistent force in the half-back line.
Michael Gleeson had a very influential second half as did Damien O’Brien who was immense under the dropping ball. Kieran Morris was unerring from placed balls and unselfish in open play while Michael Heffernan tacked on two vital points in the second half.
Following a frenetic opening six minutes the sides were locked at 0-2 apiece thanks to points from David Butler, Pa Sheahan, Kieran Morris (free) and Cathal O’Connell (’65).
Tipperary, inspired by a partisan crowd (paying attendance 2,236), then moved sweetly into top gear and hit Clare with four successive points.
Michael Heffernan set David Butler up for a point, Kieran Morris (free) added to Tipp’s tally while another Butler effort and yet another Kieran Morris free helped the Premier into a 0-6 to 0-2 lead by the tenth minute.
Clare responded with efforts from Cathal Malone and Cathal O’Connell (free) reducing the deficit to two points before Kieran Morris (free) forced Tipp back into a three-point lead (0-7 to 0-4) in the 16th minute.
Clare were far from finished however and thanks to points from the troublesome Peter Duggan, Fergal Kennedy and David O’Halloran the sides were locked at 0-7 apiece with 21 minutes played.
Damien O’Brien then set up Paudie White for a vital Tipperary point, but Pa Sheahan responded for Clare almost immediately before the Premier surged clear of the Banner thanks to points from David Butler and Kieran Morris (free) to lead 0-10 to 0-8 by the 25th minute.
To their credit Clare responded once more with a point from Cathal O’Connell (free) before Tipperary plundered a vital goal in the 29th minute - James Barry’s searching clearance broke inside the Clare full-back line and although ‘keeper Niall Woods advanced a combination of Michael Heffernan and David Butler combined to scramble the ball home with Butler adjudged to have made the telling intervention.
On the stroke of half-time a Cathal Malone point for Clare left three between at the break - Tipperary 1-10 Clare 0-10.
Three minutes into the second half a Kieran Morris free extended the Tipperary lead while a combination of Christy Coughlan and Gerry Walsh did especially well to smother David O’Halloran’s goal-scoring opportunity in the 38th minute.
Then, following points from Kieran Morris (free) and Michael Heffernan, Tipperary led 1-13 to 0-10 by the 42nd minute.
Clare were far from discouraged by a wide count which would ultimately climb to 13 (Tipperary seven) and hit back with timely efforts from Cathal Malone and Cillian Duggan.
In the 46th minute David Butler set up Damien O’Brien for an absolute cracker of a point, but, once more, Clare responded with a Cathal O’Connell brace (one free) leaving three in it (0-14 to 1-14) entering the 53rd minute.
Tipperary then proceeded to make life difficult for themselves with three consecutive rash efforts flying wide of the Clare posts, but Michael Ryan’s men regained their composure following Peter Duggan’s 21-yard free which had reduced the margin to a mere two points in the 56th minute.
Tipperary needed to respond and did so when Michael Gleeson’s sublime cross-field delivery picked out Damien O’Brien who fired over from close range.
Yet another Cathal O’Connell free left a potentially dangerous two points between them in the 57th minute, but Tipperary responded to the challenge with Seán Carey setting up Michael Heffernan and then Michael Gleeson for vital points which forced Tipp into a 1-17 to 0-16 lead.
In second half injury time a Cathal O’Connell free left a goal between the sides and although Cillian Duggan won the resultant puck-out, he was immediately surrounded by four Tipperary men and forced to over-carry.
Kieran Morris fired over the resultant opportunity and in the 63rd minute, despite indicating a minute of injury time to be played, referee Diarmuid Kirwan finally decided to blow his final whistle.
Tipperary: James Logue (Ballingarry), Christy Coughlan (Templederry Kenyons), Kevin O’Gorman (Thurles Sarsfields), Gerry Walsh (Carrick Swan), James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane), Eddie Connolly (Loughmore-Castleiney, captain), Ronan Sherlock (Silvermines), Michael Gleeson (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1), Paudie White (Clonoulty-Rossmore, 0-1), Michael Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg, 0-2), Joe Gallagher (Kildangan), Seán Carey (Moyle Rovers), Kieran Morris (Moycarkey-Borris, 0-8, 0-8 frees), Damien O’Brien (Burgess, 0-2), David Butler (Drom & Inch, 1-4). Subs: (35th) Evan Sweeney (Loughmore-Castleiney) for Joe Gallagher, (51st) Richie Ruth (Thurles Sarsfields) for Paudie White, (60th) Niall Teehan (Gortnahoe-Glengoole) for James Barry.
Clare: Niall Woods, Paul Flanagan, David McInerney, Ciarán O’Doherty, Stephen O’Halloran, Cillian Duggan (0-1), Cathal Chaplin, Pa Sheahan (0-2), Jarlath Colleran, Peter Duggan (0-2, 0-1 free), Cathal O’Connell (0-7, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ’65), Cathal Malone (0-3), Fergal Kennedy (0-1), Aidan Lynch, Davy O’Halloran (0-1). Subs: (43th) Niall Arthur for Aidan Lynch, (51st) Conor Ryan for Cathal Malone, (53rd) Michael O’Neill for Davy O’Halloran, (59th) Brian Donnellan for Jarlath Colleran.
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).