Four goals and five points the margin.
Pretty stark also Rory Hanniffy’s assessment of his own performance at full-back on Tipperary scoring machine Seamus Callanan, who notched 2-10 to go with the 3-8 he had scored last week in the win against Galway.
“I was probably the problem! We were overrun really,” he said. “Your main focus is on your own role, or at least it is at this stage with me anyway. I just wasn’t up to it today, got a bit of a runaround, not a nice way to finish up the year.”
And yet that isn’t the full story.
Where Offaly had been demolished by Kilkenny in the Leinster championship five weeks ago, humiliated in fact, here they were competitive for most of the game. Started badly, right enough, conceded two goals in the opening four minutes, the flying Lar Corbett with the first, a lovely pass from Callanan, the human dynamo Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher with the second, fastest onto a breaking ball. But they battled back and with free-taker Brian Carroll unerring from placed balls, had closed the gap to just two points by the 25th minute (2-5 to 0-9).
Before the break though another two goals conceded, Lar with his second, then Seamus with the fourth. It left the half-time score at 4-9 to 0-11, Offaly now with a mountain to climb.
True, Callanan had been centrally involved for two of those Tipperary goals but this was far from being entirely Rory Hanniffy’s fault – the ball being supplied to the Tipp attack was dream ball for an inside line.
“Yeah, but maybe the legs weren’t getting me to where I wanted to be as quickly as they once did either,” said the Offaly man.
“Our forwards were putting them under pressure all through, were making it hard for them to clear the ball as well. I’ve always lived on personal responsibility, you have to own up when someone gets the better of you and that’s what happened today.”
Well okay, that is what happened eventually, but this wasn’t as bad a beating as it seems, not for Rory or Offaly. In fact the Faithful county had by far the better of the third quarter, outscored Tipperary 1-5 to 0-2 to reduce the margin to just four by the 48th minute (4-11 to 1-16). Then came one of those moments which, in a game where there is such a margin at the finish, people might say don’t really matter. But they do. An Offaly forward was in possession around 55m from the Tipperary goal, was being fouled, but the referee waved play on, allowing an ‘advantage’. It would have been an almost certain point for Offaly, given how Brian Carroll was shooting but instead the ball was turned over and Tipperary themselves started on a scoring spree. They hit six unanswered points to again open the gap to ten points and finally break Offaly hearts.
It stayed at ten points to the 65th minute but Tipperary, the cavalry now called in (nice to see Eoin Kelly back in action, scored a beauty with almost his first touch, a classic Kelly whipped over-shoulder point), hit 1-5 in those closing minutes to put a very deceptive and unfair look on the scoreline.
No consolation probably to the deeply hurting Offaly supporters today, no consolation either to the brutally honest Hanniffy. Instead, some soul-searching, starting with himself, whether or not he should stick around for a 15th season. “We’ll look at that but I won’t be making decisions today.”
Of one thing though he’s certain – Brian Whelehan should be re-appointed.
“He found himself in this position sooner than he ever expected but that’s how things worked out. It doesn’t need to be said, the admiration I have for him as a former team-mate and now as a manager.
“I’m proud to have hurled with him and for him. I’m sure he has learned so much — it’s not a job I imagine is easy, I can only imagine that next year he’ll have a completely different perspective on it and this year will really stand to him. ”
Scorers for Tipperary: S Callanan (2-10, 0-7fs), L Corbett (2-2), Patrick Maher (1-1), K Bergin (0-4), D Maher (0-2), J Woodlock, J O’Dwyer, N McGrath, E Kelly, J Forde and T Stapleton (0-1 each).
Scorers for Offaly: B Carroll (0-13, 10fs), C Egan (1-0), J Bergin (0-3, 1f, 1 65), C Parlon, S Dooley, S Ryan, D Currams (0-1 each).
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; M Cahill, Padraic Maher, P Stapleton; J Barry, B Maher, C Barrett; K Bergin, J Woodlock; G Ryan, Patrick Maher, N McGrath; J O’Dwyer, S Callanan, L Corbett.
Subs for Tipperary: D Maher for Ryan (blood 7-12), D Maher for Ryan (35), T Stapleton for Barrett (47), E Kelly for O’Dwyer (59), S McGrath for Woodlock (60), J Forde for Patrick Maher (66).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; N Wynne, R Hanniffy, C McDonald; K Brady, G Healion, C Parlon; C Mahon, S Ryan; S Dooley, D Kenny, C Egan; B Carroll, D Currams, J Bergin (c).
Subs for Offaly: S Cleary for Kenny (31), K Connolly for Brady (35), P Geraghty for Cleary (62), T Geraghty for Connolly (69).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).
By the 50th minute Offaly had reduced the ten-point Tipperary half-time lead to just four but a Seamus Callanan set the Premier on a six-point unanswered streak.
Tipperary for the double! No, seriously. No-one doubts the pedigree of the hurlers but before this game the footballers put on a super display to dispose of home side and favourites Laois, confirming their new-found status as a football power.
Lar Corbett got two goals and two points at one end of the field but, late in the game, was found to be last man back in the Tipp defence, just in front of keeper Darren Gleeson. Action man.
It’s hard to argue again with Seamus Callanan and another 2-10 but I’m going for Bonner Maher – what an asset, to any team. Lorrha-Dorrha’s second finest, after Shane Brophy of course.
Tipperary used the outing well, gave five extra players a run, four of whom (Denis Maher, Thomas Stapleton, Eoin Kelly and Jason Forde) scored, the fifth (Shane McGrath) was probably more influential than any.
Galway’s Alan Kelly had an easy ride, two sporting sides in a game that never threatened to spill over, but did miss a critical call – gave Offaly advantage when a free was what was needed.
All-Ireland quarter-final in two weeks for Tipperary, end of season for Offaly.