Ronan Maher (Tipperary) and Diarmuid O'Keeffe (Wexford) pictured at the Anner Hotel in Thurles. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Ryan’s Tipperary welcomed Wexford to Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday night in round three of the Allianz National Hurling League (division 1A) and presented David Fitzgerald's men with a six-point defeat.
Allianz National Hurling League Division 1A
Tipperary 3-21 Wexford 1-21
There was a welcome edge to Tipperary’s play on Saturday night. Indeed, Michael Ryan’s team ticked a series of boxes in this contest. The Premier County went in hard, hurled well and did not allow themselves to be disconcerted by Wexford’s unorthodox approach to the contest. Indeed, Tipperary, at times, smartly by-passed the Model County sweeper Shaun Murphy and were ravenous to win contested ball.
As expected Wexford attempted to impose a non-traditional structure on the game with Shaun Murphy playing the sweeper role, a tactic which left Donagh Maher free at the opposite end of the field. Tipperary, however, managed their use of the ball reasonably well and it was actually the Model County who struggled to deal with the prevailing pattern of the game and conceded ten frees in the opening half. The very worst of those infractions materialized in the 36th minute when Jack O’Connor pulled at head height under a dropping ball and only received a caution for his trouble.
Wexford started well and led 0-3 to no-score after four minutes thanks to scores from Lee Chin (free) and Kevin Foley (two). Patrick Maher enjoyed a sight of Mark Fanning’s goal in the fifth minute, but Liam Ryan’s hook took the sting out of the shot before Seán Curran got Tipp off the mark in the sixth minute before Conor McDonald re-opened Wexford’s three-point lead a minute later.
Successive points from John McGrath and Jason Forde (free) closed the gap to one by the tenth minute, but Lee Chin responded for Wexford with a wonderful point in the 12th minute - the wing-forward brought a surging solo run to an end when landing a left-handed effort. But Tipperary responded with a rousing score of their own in the 13th minute - John McGrath did especially well to turn over a Wexford defender and found Seán Curran. The Mullinahone wing-forward’s pull across the face of goal eluded two Wexford defenders and found Jason Forde who gathered and fired home a goal in one glorious movement (1-3 to 0-5).
Jason Forde and Paul Morris traded frees soon after before a brilliant hand pass from Kevin Foley in the 17th minute picked out the enterprising blind side run of Lee Chin and Tipperary wing-back Barry Heffernan had no option, but to cough up a penalty which Aidan Nolan converted. In the 20th minute Paul Morris added a free to Wexford’s tally (1-4 to 1-7) and Tipperary were cut three adrift.
Tipperary, who showed real pride in their hurling, then hit 0-6 without reply to take complete control. Patrick Maher launched the onslaught with a super strike off his right before John McGrath grabbed Michael Breen’s teasing diagonal delivery in the 22nd minute and left one between them.
Despite enjoying a numerical advantage in their own half Wexford’s discipline left a lot to be desired and Jason Forde punished a series of indiscretions with four successive frees between the 23rd and 29th minutes to present the home team with a 1-10 to 1-7 lead. Indeed, the ‘Mines landed a mighty effort from well inside his own ’65-yeard line the 27th minute.
Lee Chin (free) brought eleven scoreless minutes to a conclusion for Wexford, but Tipp added five scores soon after. Brendan Maher turned over a dithering Model County defender and set up Noel McGrath for a point before Jason Forde landed another free. And, then when Mark Fanning looked to launch a counter-attack Barry Heffernan read the play, intercepted smartly, carried forward and drove over off his right; then it was the turn of Donagh Maher to intercept a Mark Fanning re-start and crack over another point for Tipperary. And, there was still time for another Wexford re-start to go badly wrong. Seán Curran read the trajectory of the delivery this time and set up Michael Breen.
Tipperary led by seven points at the break and deservedly so (1-15 to 1-8).
Three minutes into the second half Lee Chin converted a ’65 to check Tipperary’s scoring surge while another Paul Morris free left five in it (1-15 to 1-10) with thirty-nine minutes played.
Ronan Maher hit back with a left-handed long-range strike for Tipperary to become the home side’s ninth scorer from play. David Dunne hit back for Wexford in the 43rd minute, but Tipperary appeared comfortable in the contest while the Model County were struggling to create shooting opportunities. And, to add to their misery John McGrath grabbed a ball and fed Jason Forde who scored his second goal off his right (2-16 to 1-11).
Lee Chin landed smashing score in reply (2-16 1-12), but with Pádraic Maher now emerging as a ball-winning force in this contest the Tipperary crowd (8,355-strong) were becoming more and more vociferous.
A Jack O’Connor point in the 48th minute added to the Wexford tally, but Patrick Maher, after getting a belt for his ball-winning trouble, responded in kind (2-17 to 1-13).
A Jason Forde free left eight between the sides (2-18 to 1-13), but Tipp did get a fright in the 54th minute when Lee Chin wound up with the goal at his mercy. Thankfully, Donagh Maher was on hand to bravely block while Paudie Feehan deflected Jack O’Connor’s follow-up effort over the bar (2-18 to 1-14).
Billy McCarthy, in an illustration of the Thurles man’s pedigree, swung over a smasher off his right in the 57th minute and then it was the turn of Jason Forde to cut over a smashing sideline ball (2-20 to 1-14).
Points from Shaun Murphy and Lee Chin offered token resistance as this contest entered the final ten minutes - Tipperary led 2-20 to 1-16 despite that rally. Tipperary may well have conceded a goal in the 63rd minute, but Daragh Mooney conjured a terrific reaction save to deny Conor McDonald before a Rory O’Connor effort left six in it with seven to play. A Lee Chin free in the 65th minute left five in it and to be fair to Wexford they were trying valiantly to battle their way back into this contest - Wexford had now notched four points in succession (2-20 to 1-18).
Lee Chin then reduced the margin to four in the 67th minute when Tipperary conceded their 16th free of the evening. And, if you suspected that Tipp were about to wobble Billy McCarthy recycled to Pádraic Maher and the Thurles man landed a glorious point from inside his own half. The score felt like a full stop at the end of sentence.
A Lee Chin effort reeled Tipp in before Chin created a shooting chance for Conor McDonald in the 71st minute, but Daragh Mooney saved superbly at the expense of a ‘65. Lee Chin converted the resultant placed ball and we wondered if Wexford’s superior fitness would catch the home side in the final frantic minutes.
If we were worried there was no need for our concern - in the 73rd Patrick Maher won possession and buried a right-handed effort to seal the win.
In round four Tipperary are away to Kilkenny on Sunday, February 25th and in round five the Premier County host Cork on Sunday, March 5th - the quarter-finals are scheduled to take place on the week-ending March 11th, semi-finals on the week-ending March 18th and the final is fixed for Saturday, March 24th. In the opening round of the Allianz National Hurling League Tipperary lost to Clare (0-19 to 1-21) before the Premier County saw off the challenge of Waterford 1-20 to 1-11 in round two.
Tipperary: Daragh Mooney (Éire Óg Annacarty), Seán O'Brien (Newport), James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane), Donagh Maher (Burgess, 0-1), Barry Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg, 0-1), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields, captain, 0-1), Paudie Feehan (Killenaule), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh), Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1), Seán Curran (Mullinahone, 0-1), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-1), Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha, 1-2), Michael Breen (Ballina, 0-1), Jason Forde (Silvermines, 2-9, 0-8 frees, 0-1 sideline), John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-2). Subs: (53rd) Billy McCarthy (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1) for Barry Heffernan, (60th) Ger Browne (Knockavilla Kickhams) for Seán Curran, (65th) Mark Russell (Lattin-Cullen) for Michael Breen.
Wexford: Mark Fanning, Damien Reck, Liam Ryan, Conor Firman, Shaun Murphy (0-1), Diarmuid O'Keeffe, Mathew O'Hanlon, Paudie Foley, Aidan Nolan (1-0, 1-0 penalty), Kevin Foley (0-2), Jack O'Connor (0-2), Conor McDonald (0-1), Lee Chin (0-10, 0-4 frees, 0-2 ‘65s), David Dunne (0-1), Paul Morris (0-3, 0-3 frees). Subs: (48th) Rory O'Connor (0-1) for Paul Morris, (59th) Cathal Dunbar for David Dunne, (62nd) Harry Kehoe for Shaun Murphy, (70th) Éanna Martin for Diarmuid O’Keeffe.
Referee: James MacGrath (Westmeath).
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