Déise out of luck as O’Brien fires Tipp

THE importance of Ronan O’Brien’s scrambled goal in the final minute of the opening half only assumed its real significance at the end of this game as Tipperary held on for the narrowest of victories over luckless Waterford in an exciting Munster IHC semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.

Another Cork/Tipp showdown then in the provincial decider, but Tipp will know that the Gods smiled radiantly on them in this semi final, in which Waterford had more than enough of the play and chances to have at least grabbed a draw.

Fitting though that O’Brien’s goal should be the all-important score because he was easily the most effective Tipperary forward on view, and without his flair for taking and making scores, it’s doubtful if they would have been celebrating at the hour’s end.

In stark contrast Waterford squandered a plethora of chances. The concession of the lone goal so close to the half-time break was a real downer, and with just seven minutes remaining they spurned a glorious goal chance of their own, when David Howard failed to finish a ball from close range that had been invitingly set up for him.

With Waterford doing all the early hurling they eased two points clear in as many minutes, with Howard and Eoin Bennett finding the range, and they weren’t flattered in extending their lead to 0-5 to 0-1, with only seven minutes gone.

But with Brian Hogan emerging as one of their outstanding performers at wing back, Tipp slowly began to settle. Hogan chipped in with a brace of points — one a super effort from long range — and while his direct opponent, John Wall, was equally unerring in his freetaking for Waterford, Tipperary midfielders Shane Stapleton and Con O’Brien were now beginning to exercise what proved to be decisive mastery.

They had narrowed the deficit to the minimum, 0-7 to 0-6, by the 24th minute and then grabbed the lead for the first time in the final minute of the half, as Hogan’s prodigious free from deep inside his own defence was scrambled to the net by Ronan O’Brien. Another Wall point narrowed the deficit back to a point, leaving Tipp somewhat flattered by their 1-6 to 0-8 advantage at the break.

Niall Dunphy had Waterford level within a minute of the restart but Tipp eased to safer pastures, with four points in as many minutes between the 41st and 45th minutes from William Keogh, Hogan (free), Shane Sweeney, and O’Brien. It was a lead they never again surrendered.

Brian Wall, with a magnificent man-of-the-match performance at centre back, drove Waterford on, while the introduction of Stephen Barron improved their attack.

There was just a goal between them when Howard squandered a great equalising chance in the 53rd minute, and while a brace of points from Wall (a free and 65) slashed the margin to one again Barron fluffed the chance of forcing a replay, losing possession in their final attack deep into added time.

If Hogan and Ronan O’Brien were best for Tipp, there were also significant contributions from goalkeeper Vincent Doheny, defenders Seamus Hickey and Colm Everard and midfielders Stapleton and O’Brien.

Brian Wall was immense in Waterford’s defence, with goalkeeper Brendan Landers, Brian Flannery, Shane Kearney, John Wall, Eoin Bennett and Sean Daly aiding a determined if unsuccessful effort.

Scorers: Tipperary: R. O’Brien (1-5, 0-3 frees); B. Hogan (0-4, 0-3 frees); C. O’Brien, W. Keogh, S. Sweeney, S. Stapleton (0-1) each. Waterford: J. Wall (0-9, 0-6 frees, 0-1 ‘65’); E. Bennett (0- 2); N. Dunphy (0-2); D. Howard, S. Barron(0-1) each.

TIPPERARY: V. Doheny; S. Hickey, P. Shanahan, M. Phelan; A. Kelly, C. Everard, B. Hogan; S. Stapleton, C. O’Brien; D. Sheppard, S. Sweeney, R. O’Riain; W. Keogh, A. Fitzgerald, R. O’Brien. Sub:N. Hogan for Sheppard.

WATERFORD: B. Landers; P. Murray, S. Kearney, B. Flannery; P. Murphy, B. Wall, J. Coffey; R. Walsh, D. Howard; J. Wall, P. Queally, G. Power; E. Bennett, S. Daly, N. Dunphy.

Subs: S. Barron for Queally; B. Hannon for Power; N. Curran for Dunphy.

Referee: John Sexton (Ballyhea).

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