Tipperary 3-19 Clare 1-14
Two of their goals can be marked down as fortunate, but conviction was stamped all over this Tipperary victory in securing their Division 1 semi-final place.
In front of 5,459 hardy souls at Semple Stadium, Eamon O’Shea’s side, aided by the wind in the first half, led from start to finish and ended up top of the table thanks to the other two Division 1A results.
After Eoin Kelly’s second goal five minutes from the end of normal time, they were 16 points ahead of a Clare team whose heart went out of it midway through the second half.
Tony Kelly’s consolation goal for the visitors in injury-time was but a small blot on the Tipperary defence’s copybook as they handled the opposition with relative comfort.
Although Seamus Callanan and John O’Dwyer, stars in their team’s previous two games against Waterford and Galway respectively, failed to score and were substituted, their shortcomings were more than compensated for by the other members of their attack.
A frightfully cold March afternoon like this doesn’t usually reveal much but the clever movement of the Tipperary forwards last seen against Waterford in a Munster final two years ago was evident.
Eoin Kelly’s 2-8 total was one of his highest personal tallies in years while Shane Bourke picked off two points either side of the half.
Lar Corbett’s touch was a joy to watch at times and his poacher instincts were razor sharp to capitalise on Patrick Kelly’s attempted handpass and bat the ball into the net in the 46th minute.
Clare are now teetering between the divisions for a second year running and this was something of a wake-up call for Davy Fitzgerald, who was angered by some grandiose comments made about his team during the week.
“I was listening to such much rubbish during the week about Clare winning All-Irelands,” he said. “I keep saying we’re building – I’ve been saying this from day one but some of our own people get so carried away.
“We have a job to do, it’s a young team and we’re building and we’ll stay building. We’ll take that on the chin today. That’s our first big loss since I’ve been there anyway. We’ll come back fighting for more.”
Fitzgerald also said Clare “can’t ever forget” how Eamon O’Shea encouraged his players to keep driving on for more scores when they were ahead by “11 or 12 points” ahead.
In an often tempestuous affair, sparked mostly by Tipperary eagerness and Clare frustration, the hosts found the net in the ninth minute when Callanan broke down a ball to Corbett who set up Kelly for the opener.
Corbett was also the provider in the 13th minute when his expert pick-up led to a Michael Cahill point and his skills were displayed once more when he fired over a point in the 15th minute.
By that stage, Tipperary led 1-5 to 0-2 and it wasn’t until the 19th minute when Tony Kelly split the posts that Clare registered their first from play.
Kelly had been marshalled well by Cahill and Brendan Maher was putting in a terrific shift in the middle against Nicky O’Connell.
Darren Gleeson was equal to a Colm Galvin shot in the 23rd minute and Paddy Stapleton made an applaudable last gasp interception from Shane O’Donnell 10 minutes later.
Tipperary, even with eight first half wides, were deservedly ahead by the same total at the break (1-11 to 0-6) having gone ahead by 10 in the 34th minute.
Their double-digit advantage was attained once again when Corbett followed up to find the net after Pat Donnellan denied his earlier shot.
Corbett was moved to the edge of the square at the start of the second half and his marker, Brendan Bugler, followed, denying Clare the 2012 All Star’s presence in their half-back line.
Three unanswered Tipperary points between the 51st and 58th saw the Clare challenge well and truly peter out before Kelly’s long-range free was messed up by Kelly and David McInerney and trickled over the goal-line.
This was a step-up Clare failed to negotiate but they might just be as thankful as Tipperary that they have at least one more competitive game before the Munster championship. Even if it’s a relegation do-or-die.
Scorers for Tipperary: E Kelly 2-8 (1-6 frees); S Bourke 0-4; L Corbett 1-1; N McGrath 0-3; B Maher 0-2; M Cahill 0-1 each.
Subs for Tipperary: Patrick Maher for O’Dwyer (h-t); J Woodlock for McGrath (inj 48); J O’Brien for Callanan (53); T Stapleton for O’Mahony (66); B O’Meara for Kelly (70).
Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan 0-8 (7 frees, 1 65); T Kelly 1-1; J Conlan 0-2; S Morey, Conor Ryan, F Lynch 0-1 each.
Subs for Clare: F Lynch for O’Connell (h-t); C McInerney for Collins (45); E Barrett for Conor Ryan (65); D Honan for O’Donnell (66).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford)
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved