The counties will lock horns in the semi-finals of the Waterford Crystal Cup in Clonmel, with both teams in experimental mode ahead of the Allianz Hurling League campaign.
Tipp stuttered past University of Limerick in heavy conditions at Nenagh’s MacDonagh Park on Saturday, with former captain Eoin Kelly showing flashes of enduring class during an impressive 18-minute cameo appearance.
Tipp just about coped better with the heavy pitch as they recorded a five-point victory against a UL team lining out with ten starters from last week’s Fitzgibbon Cup stalemate against Limerick IT.
Tipp raced into a 2-4 to 0-0 lead by the 17th minute, with Pa Bourke goaling from a 20m free in the 13th minute before impressive full-forward Brian O’Meara netted four minutes later.
But Tipp fell asleep from there until half-time as UL, inspired by the free-taking of Clare’s Conor McGrath, halved the deficit and went in at the break 2-4 to 0-5 adrift.
Despite playing with the breeze in the second half, the students could never quite get close enough to mount a serious challenge to the Munster champions and Kelly settled any nerves by shooting three points from play after coming on as a 52nd minute sub.
“He made a serious contribution when he came in and we’re delighted to see him in that kind of form,” said Declan Ryan smiled.
Cork now stand between Tipp and a place in the Waterford Crystal final and Ryan reflected: “It will be a good test. Cork are trying out plenty of players as well.
“They’re getting ready for the league – the same as ourselves.”
Ryan also insisted his panel remains open to any player showing good form for his club as the season progresses. And the three-time All-Ireland SHC medallist admitted cutting seven players from an extended squad last week wasn’t a pleasant task.
“It’s tough – that’s the tough side of the job but unfortunately you can’t carry everyone. If people are showing form, we’ll hold onto them but if people are not showing form, well, they’re going to struggle to stay on the squad.”
Scorers for Tipperary: P Bourke 1-3 (1-2f), B O’Meara 1-0, E Kelly 0-3, A Ryan, J O’Neill, G Ryan, J O’Brien, J Woodlock 0-1 each.
Scorers for UL: C McGrath 0-7 (6fs), P Kelly 0-2, L Ryan (f), M Heffernan, P Walsh 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; D Maher, P Curran, M Cahill; S Maher, C O’Mahony, J Coghlan; D Young, B Maher; G Ryan, A Ryan, P Bourke; J O’Neill, B O’Meara, J O’Brien.
Subs: C O’Brien for D Maher (ht), J Woodlock for Young (46), T Stapleton for Coghlan (46), E Kelly for A Ryan (52), S Curran for G Ryan (64).
UNIVERSITY OF LIMERICK: T Lowry (Tipperary); P Stapleton (Tipperary), Michael Walsh (Kilkenny), K Fox (Tipperary); L Ryan (Kilkenny), B Bugler (Clare), Martin Walsh (Kilkenny); S Golden (Clare), L Markham (Clare); B Beckett (Kilkenny), J Gallagher (Tipperary), P Walsh (Kilkenny); M Heffernan (Tipperary), P Murphy (Tipperary), C McGrath (Clare).
Subs: P Kelly (Tipperary) for Golden (ht), T O’Brien (Limerick) for Murphy (43), C Fogarty (Kilkenny) for Heffernan (52), P Flanagan (Clare) for Beckett (57), M Boran (Kilkenny) for P Walsh (63).
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).