Pádraic Maher and Brendan Maher work to make life complicated for Clare's Tony Kelly.
Michael Ryan’s Tipperary hurlers survived a significant gut check at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork on Saturday when carving out a three-point win over Clare in a reasonably dramatic All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final.
All-Ireland Senior Hurling
Tipperary 0-28 Clare 3-16
Fixtures between such neighbours invariably leaves the smell of burnt cordite in its wake and Saturday proved no different as the Banner pushed the All-Ireland champions to the limit. Tipperary, however, responded to the challenge in emphatic style.
Tipperary appeared the much more accomplished hurling outfit, but Clare threatened to wrench this contest away from Michael Ryan’s men on a couple of notable occasions. Indeed, Tipperary’s response to the challenge posed at two significant junctures in this quarter-final warmed the heart and suggested that the Premier County panel may have turned a corner of real note.
In front of 28,567 paying spectators Tipperary raced six points clear as early as the 14th minute (0-8 to 0-2). Clare, however, scooted in for two goals to tie the game by the 20th (0-9 to 2-3). With the full-back line creaking Tipperary responded well and carved out a 0-16 to 2-5 interval advantage despite conceding two distressing three-pointers to Aaron Cunningham.
After the break Tipperary dominated once more and led by seven by the 55th minute (0-23 to 2-10). Clare joint-manager Gerry O’Connor suggested in a pre-match interview with RTÉ that his side were “ready to go to war”. The question was whether his players were prepared to back up such an assertion and to be fair to the Banner they did. And, in a devastating ten-minute surge Clare landed six points without reply with a classy Conor McGrath effort in the 65th minute reducing the Tipperary lead to one (0-23 to 2-16).
Supporters gasped like they had just reached the crest on a giant roller coaster and the Banner sensed blood. Tipperary, however, had other ideas and snapped Clare’s sense of hope like a dried twig. In a rousing finish Tipperary fired over five points before a late Shane O’Donnell goal presented Clare with a consolation of sorts.
One particular moment stood out during this surge: in the 70th minute Pádraic Maher performed a sensational catch over the head of the troublesome Peter Duggan. The team captain was subsequently fouled and despite finding himself addressing the placed ball inside his own 65-yard line and fully ninety metres from goal Brendan Maher converted. The sequence was the equivalent of an underlined passage in a classic novel - it suggested that this Tipperary team will not surrender their All-Ireland crown without a fight.
Now, this performance from Tipperary was far from perfect. The issues associated with the full-back line stand out like a poke in the eye while the contest also featured a significant degree of loose hurling - both sides went man-for-man and appeared to adopt an approach to the contest which may have impressed Arturo Gatti. The Italian boxer was happy enough to let you hit him once it gave him the opportunity to hit you back.
In this contest, for example, Tipperary’s attacking play (twenty-eight points - thirteen wides) certainly caught the eye, but the All-Ireland champions also shipped sixteen points and allowed Clare to take aim at their posts thirty-seven times (nineteen wides and two shots dropped short). You, dear reader, should also note that Clare (including rebounds) also created nine goal-scoring opportunities.
At the back Donagh Maher, Ronan Maher and Pádraic Maher performed well, Brendan Maher was steady in midfield, Dan McCormack and Patrick Maher made a significant impact at half-forward and Séamus Callanan and John O’Dwyer had their moments.
The McGrath brothers, however, were outstanding. Noel McGrath had a huge influence on this contest while John McGrath was named as a fitting man of the match by RTÉ. John McGrath notched six points from play and not so much evaded challenges as ignored them completely. When asked who was marking him in the final ten minutes of the 1956 contest against Limerick when he scored three goals Christy Ring answered “no one” with a smirk. The Clare defence were in no way laissez-faire with John McGrath on Saturday, but the Loughmore-Castleiney man was in simply sensational form.
Tipperary's John McGrath pictured accepting the man of the match award from Matthias Muller (General Manager of the Abbey Court Hotel & Spa - a Bord Gais Energy customer) following Saturday's win over Clare at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary captain Pádraic Maher won the toss and opted to play into the slight breeze. Clare took the lead inside twenty-nine seconds thanks to a Tony Kelly effort before Noel McGrath tied the game in the second minute. Séamus Kennedy then won a terrific turnover before setting up John McGrath for a cracker. Shane O’Donnell, however, responded for Clare and the sides were level (0-2 apiece) by the fifth minute.
The All-Ireland champions, however, then stepped up their performance a gear or three and hit six without reply to take a 0-8 to 0-2 lead by the 14th minute. Séamus Callanan launched the onslaught from a tight angle in the seventh minute. Noel McGrath and John O’Dwyer then swung over efforts before that man Dan McCormack won a free which Callanan converted. Callanan added another free (the build-up to this score featured a terrific Ronan Maher grab) before John McGrath enjoyed a slight sniff of goal in the 14th minute, but opted to tap over following a promising Patrick Maher carry.
Clare, although hurling reasonably well and working hard to find their inside line, had now failed to score for ten minutes. A Tony Kelly free ended that dispiriting sequence in the 16th minute, but Donagh Maher grabbed the ball superbly over the head of Conor McGrath in the 18th before setting up Séamus Callanan for a cracking Tipp point.
Pre-game questions had been asked regarding the ability of the Tipperary full-back line to contain Clare (who opted to play three inside). In the ninth minute Clare had the ball in the Tipp net, but Conor McGrath over-carried the ball en route to goal. The incident, however, served as a significant premonition of developments to come and Clare struck for Aaron Cunningham goals in the 19th and 20th minutes. Podge Collins and Shane O’Donnell provided the assists during this distressing period for Tipperary.
Those goals landed like a heavyweight’s fists and roused the Clare crowd. Indeed, Clare followed up that brace with two poor wides which arrived courtesy of Podge Collins and John Conlon before Tipperary embarked on a steadying sequence to carve out a three-point lead thanks to efforts from Michael Breen, Patrick Maher and Séamus Callanan (free).
The Clare wide tally had already climbed to nine (Tipperary one) when Jamie Shanahan delivered a long-range strike before Conor McGrath added another to leave one between them in the 32nd minute.
Tipperary, however, closed out the half in highly-impressive fashion. Noel McGrath batted a sloppy Clare puck-out into the path of Séamus Callanan and Séamus Kennedy added a long-range effort before points from John O’Dwyer and John McGrath helped the All-Ireland champions into a 0-16 to 2-5 interval lead (that was four points in four minutes). And, it is worth noting that following the concession of the Cunningham goals Tipperary (who were playing into the wind mind) out-scored Clare 0-7 to 0-2.
Séamus Kennedy pictured in action against Clare's Podge Collins.
Three minutes into the second half Shane O’Donnell dispossessed James Barry and helped himself to Clare’s sixth point of the afternoon. John O’Dwyer, however, responded with a brilliant effort off his left following a smart Pádraic Maher delivery (0-17 to 2-6).
In the 41st minute Conor McGrath went for goal when he gathered a rebound from an Aaron Cunningham shot - the Cratloe man’s effort hit Donagh Maher en route to goal and seconds later, following a driving run from Dan McCormack, Killenaule’s John O’Dwyer picked out Séamus Callanan; with the goal at his mercy the Tipperary full-forward flashed a rasping shot over the bar (0-18 to 2-6).
Two Tony Kelly frees cut the Tipperary lead to four, but a John McGrath point in the 47th minute helped the All-Ireland champions toward a five-point advantage (0-19 to 2-8).
Clare converted frees (through Tony Kelly and David Reidy) in the 49th and 54th minutes, but such contributions were significantly off-set by four more Tipperary points - John McGrath helped himself to one, Noel McGrath cracked over two superb efforts and when Noel McGrath set Patrick Maher for another in the 55th minute Tipp led by seven (0-23 to 2-10).
Clare, however, were not prepared to lie down and landed six points in eight minutes to close the gap to one by the 65th - Tony Kelly, Peter Duggan, Colm Galvin, David Reidy (free), Cathal McInerney and Conor McGrath were responsible for such scores (0-23 to 2-16).
Tipperary, it has to be said, appeared to be wobbling. Indeed, the Tipp defence may well have coughed up another goal in the 64th minute when Aaron Cunningham won a scramble to the left of Darragh Mooney’s goal, but his pull found the side netting.
A reprieve materialised in the 67th minute when Donagh Maher intercepted a Clare delivery with both Shane O’Donnell and Conor McGrath lurking in behind. The Burgess man found Patrick Maher who, in turn, picked out Séamus Callanan. The full-forward was fouled, John O’Dwyer converted and Tipperary supporters sighed with relief. Tipp, however, were not out of the woods, but there was a show of clenched fists all round when Pádraic Maher made a significant intervention. Maher had been switched across onto Peter Duggan (who proved himself a significant thorn in the Tipperary side) and the Thurles man climbed high to win a Clare delivery in rousing fashion in the 70th minute. Michael Ryan’s team captain was subsequently fouled and Brendan Maher drilled over the resultant free from inside his own 65-yard line.
Efforts from John McGrath, Steven O’Brien and Jason Forde concluded the scoring from a Tipperary point of view while Clare busied themselves with the search for goals. Darragh Mooney saved from Shane O’Donnell in the 74th minute and Tomás Hamill dived to block the follow up from Peter Duggan. O’Donnell took aim again in the 75th minute, but was hooked by Donagh Maher. Tipperary ‘keeper Darragh Mooney managed to block another David Reidy shot in the 75th minute before Shane O’Donnell scrambled home the rebound.
Séamus Callanan scored seven points for Tipperary on Saturday.
Michael Ryan’s Tipperary team now progress to the All-Ireland semi-finals while on Sunday, July 23rd Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork will also host the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final clash between Wexford and Waterford (4pm).
A draw for the All-Ireland semi-finals may be required following the respective quarter-finals - Leinster champions Galway will be in All-lreland semi-final action on Sunday, August 6th while Munster champions Cork are scheduled to play on Sunday, August 13th.
Since repeated pairings are avoided at the semi-final stage the following are the possible permutations: if Waterford win their respective quarter-final there will be a semi-final draw on Monday since both Waterford and Tipperary have already played Cork; if Wexford win Tipperary will face Galway and Wexford will take on Cork in the last four.
Tipperary: Darragh Mooney (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill), Donagh Maher (Burgess), Tomás Hamill (Moyne-Templetuohy), James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane), Séamus Kennedy (St Mary's Clonmel, 0-1), Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields, captain), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh, 0-1 frees), Michael Breen (Ballina, 0-1), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-4), Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha, 0-2), Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh), John O'Dwyer (Killenaule, 0-4, 0-1 frees), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch, 0-7, 0-3 frees), John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-6). Subs: (45th) Seán O’Brien (Newport) for James Barry, (61st) Jason Forde (Silvermines, 0-1) for Michael Breen, (68th) Niall O’Meara (Kilruane MacDonagh’s) for John O’Dwyer, (71st) Steven O’Brien (Ballina, 0-1) for Séamus Callanan.
Clare: Andrew Fahy, Seadna Morey, Patrick O'Connor, Cian Dillon, David Fitzgerald, Conor Cleary, Jamie Shanahan (0-1), Colm Galvin (0-1), Tony Kelly (0-6, 0-4 frees), Cathal Malone, Pádraic Collins, John Conlon, Shane O'Donnell (1-2), Aaron Cunningham (2-0), Conor McGrath (0-2). Subs: (33rd) Peter Duggan (0-1) for John Conlon, (52nd) David Reidy (0-2, 0-2 frees) for Pádraic Collins, (57th) Cathal McInerney (0-2) for Cathal Malone, (67th) Jason McCarthy for Tony Kelly
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).