TIPPERARY manager John Evans admitted that he could have cried when Cork’s U-21s snatched an injury-time victory in last Saturday’s provincial final and he was on the verge of tears again yesterday as the senior team clinched promotion from Division 3.
Agony turned to ecstasy within 24 hours for Tipperary football as a superb second-half performance against Louth at Semple Stadium ensured the Premier County top the division with one game left.
It’s not often that the county’s footballers outshine their hurling counterparts but this was one of those rare occasions as Evans’ charges got a standing ovation from supporters at the final whistle as they milked deserved applause.
Under the guidance of Evans, Tipp have now jumped from Division 4 to 2 within two seasons and, just like last weekend in Roscommon, they came from six points down to clinch victory against relegation-threatened Louth.
Tipp trailed 1-5 to 0-2 after 25 minutes but crucially they had cut that gap back to a manageable three points at half-time as the hosts went in 1-5 to 0-5 adrift at the break.
Playing against a swirling second-half breeze, Tipp used possession intelligently and outscored their opponents 0-13 to 0-6 in the second half to secure a four-point success.
Damian O’Brien, introduced as a first half substitute, was instrumental in the Tipp revival while Ciarán McDonald, the only U21 panellist to start the game, was superb in defence.
Darren Clarke hit 1-5 for Louth and substitute Shane Lennon hit two points when he was introduced but Tipp’s younger legs proved decisive in the closing stages with Brian Fox, man of the match on Saturday against Cork, instrumental in creating two late scores after coming on.
Evans reflected: “A lot of people were putting Saturday down as an almighty negative but they turned it around and showed what mental strength this panel has.
“Six points down, without (injured) Philip Austin and our young guns standing on the sidelines, you’d say it was time to fold up the tent and go home, but there was no folding of the tent and we went at them.”
Clarke’s 23rd-minute goal at the Killinan End left Tipp in all sorts of trouble but a run of five unanswered points during the second half saw them lead in the 52nd minute for the first time since Brian Coen opened the scoring after three minutes. It was a lead they would never relinquish and when the dust has settled, the team ranked 125/1 for promotion at the start of the season had achieved what many believed to be impossible.
Scorers for Tipperary: : B Grogan 0-8 (6f, 1 45), B Coen 0-4, D O’Brien 0-3, G Hannigan, B Mulvihill & N Fitzgerald 0-1 each.
Scorers for Louth: D Clarke 1-5 (0-3f), S Lennon & R Carroll 0-2 each, A Reid & D Crilly 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY: P Fitzgerald; M Phelan, C McDonald, A Morrissey; C Morrissey, H Coghlan, C Higgins; G Hannigan, E Hanrahan; S Murphy, N Fitzgerald, B Mulvihill; J Tierney, B Coen, B Grogan.
Subs: D O’Brien for Murphy (26m), K Mulryan for Hanrahan (45m), I Barnes for Fitzgerald (55m), B Fox for Tierney (58m), L Coskeran for Mulvihill (70m).
LOUTH: S Reynolds; D Finnegan, P McGinnity, J O’Brien; R Finnegan, P Ruth, G Hoey; R Carroll, B White; A Reid, P Keenan, D Crilly; D Reid, JP Rooney, D Clarke.
Subs: S Lennon for A Reid (58m), C Judge for Rooney (62m), M Fanning for Hoey (64m).
Referee: J Bannon (Longford).
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