History was made in Mallow on Sunday afternoon last when Tipperary's fantastic intermediate ladies footballers scored a well deserved victory over Clare in the Munster Final - a first ever for The Premier County, who continue to make huge strides in the code.
Although trailing by five points at half time against what was regarded as a very strong Clare outfit, Tipperary had it all to do with Clare’s attackers Niamh O’Dea and Ailish Considine doing most to deny The Premier any chance of claiming the title.
The Banner ladies had the advantage of a fresh breeze during the first half but it was Tipperary who opened the scoring with two unanswered points from the Cahir duo of Aishling McCarthy and Aisling Moloney within two minutes.
Clare however replied with a fine goal having cut the defence apart and Ciara Hickey giving Tipp goalie Patricia Hickey no chance. Clare followed this up with a point from Ailish Considine and Tipp were now behind by two points and it was Clare who looked the more determined side.
Tipp’s Aisling Moloney had another point but now Clare hit a purple patch and scored three unanswered to put the Banner ladies three points to the good with sixteen minutes played, Niamh O’Dea and Ailish Considine doing the damage.
Clare had a packed defence and were content to break at speed with these two sharpshooters, the targets up front.
Tipp's Moloney and Catriona Walsh hit two points to narrow the gap but once more Clare fired over three of their own by way of an instant reply. Tipp tried hard to claw back the lead but when the Clare keeper saved well on twenty five minutes it looked ominous for Tipperary heading towards half time. Clare’s O’Dea had another two points with Tipp’s McCarthy managing a pointed free just before half time to leave the Premier County trailing by 1-8 to 0-6 and with it all to do.
Despite the deficit, anyone who knows the character and strength of this Tipp side were not giving up just yet. Tipperary would have wind advantage in the second half but would also have to come out in a more determined attack-minded manner and take the game to Clare for the duration.
The second half began with Clare opening the scoring and again it was O’Dea who stroked over a beautiful point from play. Gillian O’Brien had come on during the half time break and she was now busy getting onto a lot of ball.
The experienced Mairead Morrissey showed great determination to fist over a nice point after evading a number of tackles and there then followed three unanswered points by Tipperary - Edith Carroll with two and Gillian O’Brien with the other to give hope.
The play was slowly but surely turning in Tipp’s favour but a goal would surely be needed to swing the result Tipp’s way. Clare’s O’Dea had another point but the Tipp defence and midfield were now showing for early ball and Tipp’s pressure up front was telling and frees conceded were duly punished by Tipp’s McCarthy.
Clare were not done yet however and O’Dea was now coming outfield in order to get on more ball as a goal separated them with 11 minutes of second half play expired 1-10 to 0-10.
Two more pointed Tipp frees by McCarthy in the thirteenth and nineteenth minutes saw just the minimum between the sides and Tipp were finishing strongly. Clare’s O’Dea again put two between the sides but not to be outdone Tipp’s Aisling Moloney immediately cancelled this out with a beautiful rallying point from distance.
O’Dea for Clare and another Moloney point for Tipp again left just a point between the sides with three minutes plus stoppage time remaining.
The turning point and decisive score came in the twenty ninth minute when following some wonderful defensive harrying work by Tipp’s Jennifer Grant and Anne O’Dwyer, the ball moved quickly upfield. Moloney gathered the ball in the corner and when her pin point pass picked out the powerful run by midfielder Lorraine O’Shea through the centre, the midfielder made no mistake with just the goalie to beat for a fine goal.
Now two points up Tipp were not to be denied but still Clare pressed for the goal but had to be content with another point from play. Tipp's insurance point came from Moyle Rovers Gillian O’Brien into stoppage time when she stroked over one of the sides best points from an acute angle with thirty four minutes played.
When referee Seamus Mulvihill called time there were wild scenes of delight for this Tipperary side and their loyal band of supporters. This win goes a long way in making up for the disappointment of losing a replayed league final some months previously. Tipp will now move forward from this and await the winners of Down who play the winners of Wicklow/Roscommon in the qualifiers to decide the All Ireland semi final pairings. It could well happen that Tipp and Clare may yet again meet in this year’s championship.
Congrtaulations to Tipperary ona very fine victory - a richly deserved reward for a very positive campaign. The trick now will be to keep the momentum going for the rest of the championship.
Tipperary : Patricia Hickey, Laura Morrissey, Samantha Lambert, Anne ODwyer, Jennifer Grant, Brid Condon, Cliona ODwyer, Lorraine OShea (1-0), Sheelagh Carew, Edith Carroll (0-2), Mairead Morrissey (0-1), Eimear Myles, Catriona Walsh (0-1), Aishling McCarthy (0-5 ,4f), Aishling Moloney (0-5): Subs Used : Gillian O Brien (0-2), Aoife Ryan, Kate Davey, Emma Buckley.
Panel : L Fitzpatrick, B Ryan, B Ryan, C Mullins, S Delahunty, S Condon, M Curley, G Condon, A OShea, R McGrath, R Crowe.
Management : Gerry McGill, Peter OLeary, Una OBrien, Jim Kilty, Michael Nash, Richard O Brien. Physio Marie Aherne.