Tipperary 1-16 Offaly 0-13
Tipperary only scored two second-half points, but advanced to their fourth Allianz Hurling League Division 1 semi-final in a row, after a six-point win over Offaly at O'Connor Park today.
Aided by a stiff first half wind in Tullamore, the visitors powered to a 1-14 to 0-4 interval lead, with a 17th minute Seamus Callinan goal helping his side to a to 1-7 to 0-1 advantage at that stage.
Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin kept Offaly in touch, and the Midlanders launched a strong second half comeback, following a straight red card for Callinan early on the restart.
The loss of Kieran Bergin with a leg injury also hit Tipperary hard, with a 48th minute Brendan Maher point the final score for the visitors.
Offaly worked hard to peg back the lead, with Dooley, Bergin and Stephen Quirke on target, but Dooley failed to land a 67th minute penalty.
With a Brian Carroll effort blazing over the crossbar, Tipperary held out, despite finishing with 13 men after Cathal Barrett picked up a second yellow card in the closing 10 minutes.
Offaly's quest for place in their first league semi-final since the mid-nineties was always going to prove tough, against an in-form Tipperary side who had scored 8-101 in their five group games.
Tipperary claimed victory in their previous four league meetings, and while the sides were well balanced in the opening stages of this match, the visitors kicked on to move 13 points clear at the break, before a strong Offaly second half, after the loss of Callinan and Bergin early on the restart.
4,234 watched on as the sides played out an entertaining opening with Tipperary leading by 0-2 to 0-1 after seven and a half minutes.
Offaly had the bulk of the scoring chances in the opening minutes but struggled to capitalise on this, with Emmet Nolan and Quirke firing early wides, while Nolan missed a fifth minute goal, after a powerful save by Darragh Egan.
Shane Dooley cancelled out an early Callanan score after six and a half minutes, but Callanan's second point arrived a minute later and handed the visitors a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Jason Forde, Bergin and Callanan fired points as Tipperary raced 0-6 to 0-1 ahead after 15 minutes.
Tipperary became goal hungry and Callanan continued in his good vein of form smashing the ball past James Dempsey to push the visitors eight points clear.
At the opposite end Padraic Maher was putting in a good innings at centre half back, while Tipperary continued to push the Offaly defence.
Jason Forde had another goal chance, but Offaly survived, while a potential third goal opportunity finished over the crossbar from Noel McGrath.
Dooley responded with Offaly's first score in 16 minutes, but Brendan Maher bagged a quick brace of points, as did Callanan to open up a 1-12 to 0-2 lead approaching the break.
Dooley cut the gap, before Niall O'Meara and Bergin added points to a lone Joe Bergin score, to ensure a 10-point interval gap.
Tipperary continued to pile on the pressure on the restart, but the visitors were reduced to 14 men inside three minutes of the throw-in, after Callanan was shown a straight red card, following an off-the-ball incident with
Midfielder Bergin once again impressed, but momentum was halted after the DIT student went to ground with a leg injury, and was stretchered off, with Shane McGrath introduced in his place.
Tipperary were under sustained pressure over the remainder of this game, and while the likes of O'Meara impressed, Offaly's scoring chances hugely increased.
Dooley brought his tally to five points, with the score standing at 1-16 to 0-10 in the 59th minute, and while he cut the gap to seven points with four minutes remaining, and with Barrett sent to the line on a second yellow at this stage, accuracy also proved an issue.
A Dooley pointed 65 metre free reduced the gap further, but his penalty shot was blocked late on with Quirke denied by Egan in injury-time, before Carroll blazed the ball over the crossbar.
Time ran out on the hosts, as Tipperary advance to yet another semi-final.
TIPPERARY: D Egan; C Barrett, C O'Mahony, P Stapleton; M Breen, Padraic Maher, R Maher (0-1); J Woodlock, K Bergin (0-3); J Forde (0-1), Brendan Maher (0-3), Patrick Maher; N McGrath (0-1), S Callanan (1-6, 4f), N O'Meara (0-1). Subs: S McGrath for Bergin (45); S Bourke for O'Meara (57); C Kenny for Forde (61); Sean Maher for Patrick Maher (70).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; D King, D Short, N Wynne; C Parlon, C Egan, P Camon; B Carroll (0-2), S Ryan; C Kiely, J Bergin (0-2). E Nolan; S Quirke (0-2), D Currams, S Dooley (0-7, 3f, 1 65). Subs: T Carroll for Ryan (31); C Mulrooney for Currams (44).
REFEREE: John Keenan (Wicklow)