For Dublin, a draw, courtesy of a converted Paul Winters free deep into injury-time, keeps alive their hopes of a first minor title since 1965. And yet, for Tipperary, who held a two point lead with as many minutes to go, it wasn’t quite a disaster either.
On the balance of play, the Premier county were lucky to be leading at that stage and had they held out for victory at the end of an impressive championship campaign they would have done so with just 1-2 from play.
That strange statistic emerged for a number of reasons. Primarily, it was the excellence of free-taker John McGrath, younger brother of Tipp senior star Noel, who swooped for 1-11 from placed balls. He nailed a first-half penalty as well as nine frees and two 65s. It also highlighted Dublin’s difficulties in defence where frees were conceded at an alarming rate.
And, last, but by no means least, the high free count was linked to referee Colm Lyons’ strict implementation of the rules.
Neither manager went so far as to criticise Cork whistler Lyons, though he did anger both sets of supporters, late on in particular.
Firstly, he blew up Dublin full-back and captain Cian O’Callaghan for fouling the ball as he attempted to clear his lines, resulting in a free that put Tipp a point ahead in the 54th minute.
Then, crucially, he penalised Tipp centre-back Tomas Hamill for over carrying as he strode out of defence two minutes into injury time. It was the free from which Winters struck the leveller that ensured the sides will meet again.
The normal feeling after drawn games is that the underdogs missed their big chance. Certainly, Dublin were the underdogs yesterday with some bookies offering odds as high as 3/1 on them.
But it’s hard not to imagine them giving as good a display again. In a game of more energy than efficiency, the rare flashes of genius came from Dublin’s Cormac Costello.
The dual star and 2011 finalist shot 1-3 including a fine solo goal midway through the first-half. He’s one of four Dublin players who must now prepare for minor finals on consecutive weekends as the footballers are due to play Meath on September 23.
From Tipperary’s perspective they will feel they can only improve. Having put up tallies of 2-25 and 2-16 against Waterford and Galway previously in the championship, their difficulties up front were surprising and surely a once off.
William Maher’s Munster champions fell four points down early on. Winters as well as Dublin dual stars Costello and Conor McHugh were all on the mark. McHugh’s point that put Dublin 0-4 to no score clear was greeted with a fist pump from the flame haired Na Fianna man.
But within minutes Tipp had stolen the momentum and raced into a 1-2 to 0-4 lead themselves thanks in the main to a converted penalty from McGrath. Dublin only half cleared from defence and when Mark McCarthy ran in on goal he was fouled by Shane Barrett for a penalty that McGrath crashed to the net.
The early revival set the tone for a tight, tit-for-tat encounter which Dublin led by 1-8 to 1-5 at half-time. Their goal came from Costello in the 17th minute when he took off on a solo run and blasted across goals at the Hill 16 End.
Yet just like early on, Tipp were strong to reply again, hitting Dublin for another 1-2 without reply early in the second-half.
This time McCarthy was the goal scorer after shaking off Barrett and cracking a low drive across MacGabhann for a 2-7 to 1-8 lead.
In truth, it wasn’t a classic encounter and free flowing open play was at a premium, mainly because of all the frees.
Still, Tipp weren’t complaining as they took a two point lead into the closing exchanges thanks to McGrath’s virtually unerring accuracy.
Sean Maher, the only Tipp player to score a point from play in the hour, put them 2-13 to 1-14 clear after 58 minutes and finally it appeared they had stemmed the sky blue tide.
But Winters notched his fifth point of the day from a free to reduce the margin to one. And then when Lyons penalised Hamill for over carrying deep into injury time the opportunity to equalise was handed on a plate to the young St Brigid’s free-taker who didn’t waste it.
Dublin scorers: C Costello 1-3; P Winters 0-6 (5f); C Boland & C McHugh 0-2 each; E O’Donnell, S McClelland & D Gormley 0-1 each.
Sub: C Bennett for Conway 51.
Tipperary scorers: J McGrath 1-11 (1-0pen, 9fs, 2 65s); M McCarthy 1-0; S Maher 0-2.
Subs: S Ryan for Shelly h/t, K Slattery for Gallagher 51, C Lanigan for McCarthy 61.
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).