Following the heroics at Nowlan Park a fortnight ago, much was expected of Tipp’s new hopefuls. But, to the disappointment of their frustrated followers, they failed miserably to make an impression.
While admittedly playing against an exceptionally strong wind in the first half, Tipperary only managed to score two points, both coming from Eoin Kelly frees, and their first point from play was not registered until the 52nd minute when substitute Willie Ryan found the target with his first touch.
Of course the elements, a cocktail of snow, hail, rain, and near gale force winds militated against quality hurling but it was Tipperary’s lack of urgency which put an awful lot of question marks over them and must have left manager Babs Keating a frustrated man.
Despite Tipperary’s limitations, it would not be fair to downplay Antrim’s encouraging showing. After the sides were level at two points apiece following the opening quarter, Antrim surged to the front with corner forward Brian McFall unerring in his free-taking duties and Karl McGeegan firing on all cylinders.
McFall hit over four points from frees, while McGeegan, listed to play at midfield but operating effectively on the right flank of attack, scored three sublime points as Antrim opened up an interval lead of 0-7 to 0-2.
Massive underdogs Antrim closed down their lethargic opponents all over the field and outstanding individual performances from Sean Delargy, Michael McCambridge, Barry McAuley, and John Campbell at the back, augers well for the future of hurling in the Glens.
After such a good early showing, Antrim were rocked seconds after the resumption when corner forward Pa Bourke finished a long clearance from impressive centre back Conor O’Mahony to the net.
Eoin Kelly, with another free, left just a point between the sides and we waited for the anticipated Tipp surge. But Antrim had other ideas and managers Terence McNaughton and Dominic McKinley came up with the ploy of playing seven defenders in front of goalkeeper Ryan McGarry, with Ciaran Herron operating as sweeper.
In worked a treat for a while and Tipp only got on level terms in the 48th minute when Eoin Kelly sent over another point from a free and then the Mullinahone wizard put the home side ahead for the first time two minutes later with a converted 65.
Ultimately, the ploy of packing the back line misfired. The Northerners were left with just two players in the last line of attack and consequently never threatened to penetrate a Tipperary defence where full-back Paul Curran mopped up.
Tipped then upped the tempo and while never fully impressing, struck with splendid late points from Ryan, Kelly, and Bourke to open up a 1-10 to 0-7 lead entering the closing stages.
Hard-working midfielder Brendan Herron got Antrim’s only point of the second half on the stroke of full time.
Tipperary were past the post when Shane Maher embellished the scoreline in injury time.
Babs Keating won’t take too many positives out of the game, but McNaughton and McKinley might dare to dream of better days to come.
Tipperary: P Bourke 1-1, E Kelly 0-7 (0-5 frees, 0-1 65), W Ryan, C O’Mahony, S Maher 0-1 each. Antrim: B McFall 0-4 (0-4 frees), K McKeegan 0-3, B Herron 0-1.
G Kennedy, E Buckley, P Curran, A Byrne, E Corcoran, C O’Mahony, B Dunne, J Woodlock, F Devanney, J Carroll, E Kelly, D Egan, P Bourke, M Webster, P Kelly. Subs. S McGrath for Carroll, W Ryan for Webster, S Maher for Devanney.
R McGarry, B McAuley, M McCambridge, S Delargy, A Molloy, J Campbell, C Herron, K McGeegan, B Herron, K Elliott, N McAuley, M Herron, B McFall, P Richmond, P Shields. Subs: M Scullion for M Herron, S McNaughton for Richmond.
J O’Mahony (Limerick).