Impressive as their second-half showing may have been, Clare’s comprehensive victory stemmed largely from the three red cards shown to Tipperary’s Willie Connors, Tommy Nolan and Chris McCullagh.
Of particular weight in determining the outcome was the first red card handed out by referee Nathan Wall just before half-time and, indeed, the only dismissal you could argue against.
Clare goalkeeper Jason Loughnane, upon gathering a long delivery, attempted to side-step the close attention of Nolan, but was caught on the neck by the butt of the corner-forward’s hurley. Granted, it was a lazy effort on the part of Nolan to halt Loughnane’s progress, but certainly not demanding of a straight dismissal.
It capped a contentious half-hour in which Wall had already dished out three yellow cards, drawing the ire of both sets of fans in the 1,218 crowd.
Tipperary appeared to brush off Nolan’s dismissal when pointing in the opening seconds of the second half, stretching their lead to 0-11 to 0-9. It followed a first-half display where half-forwards Stephen Quirke and Alan Tynan caused real problems, scoring all but one of their 0-10 total.
Andrew Coffey’s early second-half minor, however, would prove their last score for 28 minutes, in which time they were hit for 1-14 and incurred a further two red cards.
Clare manager Eamon Fennessy accepted the red card shown to Nolan was a turning point given the visitors had shaded the opening exchanges.
“The first sending-off seemed to unsettle them,” he said. “We got the lads in at half-time, regrouped and told them they weren’t hurling to their potential. We struck a few early scores and took momentum from there.
“All our preparation centred on taking the game to Tipperary, we did that and thankfully we came out on the right end. They are the ones that set the standard in the first-half, we had to come to their level, we did but we did it the hard way.
“This is a new group with very few survivors from last year and so every game is bringing them on.”
Aaron Shanagher led the Clare onslaught, his converted penalty on 50 minutes ending the game as a contest. Connors conceded the penalty for a wild pull on Ian Galvin. The corner-back received a straight red and was soon joined in the stand by substitute McCullagh after his needless challenge on Shanagher.
Scorers for Clare: A Shanagher 1-13 (0-10f, 1-0 pen, 0-1 ’65); M O’Shea, I Galvin, B Guilfoyle 0-2 each; C Corbett, M O’Malley, J McCarthy (1f), S Conway 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tipperary: A Tynan 0-5 (3f), S Quirke 0-4, T Nolan, M Dunne, A Coffey 0-1 each.
CLARE: J Loughnane; C Cooney, S Downey, R Hayes; J McCarthy, D Walsh, D Fitzgerald; M O’Malley, P McNamara; C Corbett, M O’Shea, I Galvin; L O’Donovan, A Shanagher, B Guilfoyle.
Subs: S Conway for O’Donovan (44), C Smith for O’Shea (59), D Chaplin for Corbett (59), C Fitzgerald for Guilfoyle (59), C O’Halloran for O’Malley (60).
TIPPERARY: B Hogan; C Ryan, J Skehan, W Connors; P Maher, D Peters, A Coffey; B O’Connell, B McCarthy; A Tynan, S Quirke, L McCutcheon; T Nolan, M Dunne, R Ryan.
Subs: P Ryan for McCutcheon (26), L Fahey for McCarthy (32), C McCullagh for Ryan (43).
Referee: N Wall (Cork).