Tipp and Offaly served up a feast yesterday in Thurles, and a reminder that this year’s championship will not be the foregone conclusion many are already predicting.
Offaly came into this game on the back of a solid campaign, but the questions were still being asked: are they the real deal or were their league results the consequence of the so-called big teams keeping their powder dry? Were they still too young?
Conversely, Tipp came in under a cloud, a stuttering series of results, one unconvincing performance after another. On the evidence of yesterday’s game, Offaly have answered the questions being asked of them in convincing fashion, while Tipp fans can breathe a little easier.
It was a cracking game, superb scores, lots of fine first-touch play. Playing into a stiff breeze, Tipp opened well, led 1-6 to 0-5 after 24 minutes, a typical goal from returning Eoin Kelly.
Outfield, it was older brother Paul doing the damage, a hat-trick of long -range pointed frees, with fellow midfielder Shane McGrath delivering a constant supply of good ball inside.
Offaly’s hurling was crisp, intelligent, creative, and by the half-hour mark, they had taken the lead, 1-7 to 1-6.
Their goal was a blinder; wing-back Kevin Brady played a short ball out to Gary Hanniffy, low ball delivered inside, grabbed by Carroll, turn, solo, shot rifled to the net.
In the last five minutes of the half (plus four of added time), Tipp came back and Michael Webster’s goal, following good lead-up work involving the Kelly brothers and John Carroll helped them to a half-time lead, 2-7 to 1-8.
If the first half was good, the second was even hotter, the first 20 minutes especially.
Tipp scored eight points in that period from six different players, but every time they looked like pulling away, back came Offaly. A goal in the 47th minute, another Carroll rocket after being set up by wing-forwards Dylan Hayden and Brendan Murphy; a goal again in the 55th minute after a poorly defended long sideline by Michael Cordial was batted out to Alan Egan, who scored from close range.
The goals tied it up, 2-15 to 3-12, but the last 15 minutes belonged to the home side.
With wing-forward Kenny Dunne in sparkling form (five points from play), McGrath brilliant in midfield, their half-back line of Corcoran/Fanning /Moloney gaining control, Tipp upped the ante, shooting six points to two in reply and ended up worthy winners.
“No complaints,” said McIntyre, “we came down here to give it our best shot. We have to learn, and sometimes you have to learn the hard way.
“It’s a learning process, and we learned a lot of harsh lessons today; we were vulnerable under their puck-out, conceded a couple of soft scores from our own difficulties. But I salute the effort of our players.
“What these lads have learned from the league campaign is that they’re not as far off the top teams as some people would like to think they are.
“I’m proud of the way they battled today; they gave it their best shot, but Tipp hurled well.”
With Babs Keating rushing off on family duty, it was left to selector Tom Barry to reply on behalf of Tipperary.
“It was our first day having more or less the full squad.
“We were very happy with the way they performed, but we’re not the finished article.
“We still have lots of areas to work on, but we’d be hopeful we’re going in the right direction,” he said.
: Tipperary: E Kelly 1-3; M Webster 1-2; K Dunne 0-5; P Kelly 0-4 (0-3 frees); S McGrath 0-3; C Morrissey 0-2; H Moloney, J O’Brien, 0-1 each. Offaly: B Carroll 2-5 (0-4 frees); A Egan 1-1; J Bergin 0-2; B Murphy 0-2; M Cordial 0-2 (0-1 s/l); D Hayden, R Hanniffy, 0-1 each.
: B Cummins; P Curran, P Maher, M Ryan; E Corcoran, D Fanning, H Moloney; P Kelly, S McGrath; C Morrissey, J Carroll, K Dunne; E Kelly, M Webster, G O’Grady. Subs: D Egan (O’Grady 48); D Fitzgerald (Carroll 68).
: S O’Connor; B O’Meara, P Cleary, D Franks; K Brady, R Hanniffy, D Tanner; G Hanniffy, A Hanrahan; D Hayden, M O’Hara, B Murphy; B Carroll, J Bergin, A Egan. Subs: M Cordial (Hanrahan 31); D Murray (O’Hara 52); C Parlon (Hayden 67).
: M Haverty (Galway).