Jason Lonergan points way as Tipperary struggle to find top gear against Clare

Tipperary 0-15 Clare 0-07: Tommy Toomey conceded his Tipperary U21 footballers will have to improve considerably to shock Cork in the EirGrid provincial decider.

Tipp stuttered to an eight-point win over Clare at Semple Stadium last night as Jason Lonergan struck five points from play. Tipp did have nine different scorers on a chilly night, but much of their play was disjointed and only in the closing minutes did they really look like clicking into top gear.

Clare brought a dogged challenge to Thurles and travelled with a quarter-final win over Waterford under their belts. But the Banner boys failed to score from play in the first-half as Tipp led 0-7 to 0-4 at the break in front of 640 spectators.

Tipp had seven scorers in the first-half but were lucky not to concede a goal in the 20th minute when Martin O’Leary rattled the town end crossbar. It was a night when both goalkeepers preserved clean sheets and Clare’s Killian Normoyle can be pleased with his efforts. The Lissycasey man denied John McGrath in the first half and kept out sub Gerry Cronin with a blinding save at the death.

Otherwise, this was a low-key affair as Tipp did enough to get over the line and set up a third successive final meeting with Cork, chasing five-in-a-row in the province.

Senior men Liam Casey, Steven O’Brien, Colin O’Riordan and Ian Fahey all got on the scoresheet, with O’Riordan on target after just 31 seconds, and Tipp will need this quartet firing on all cylinders in under three weeks.

But it was Lonergan who grabbed the headlines with five classy scores to cap a hard-running display. Toomey reflected: “We saw them (Clare) playing Waterford and we knew it was going to be a war of attrition – and it was. And it took us a long time to get on top of them.”

Tipp were 0-3 to 0-0 clear within four minutes and 0-5 to 0-1 up with less than 18 minutes on the watch.

And while Clare didn’t score from play until Jamie Malone registered in the 34th minute, Tipp couldn’t afford to breathe easily until the final minutes when a flurry of scores arrived.

Toomey admitted: “Not everything went right but we’re in a final and that helps.

“Cork won’t be too worried about our display today but the final will be a different game.”

Toomey added: “It was our full forward line’s first time to play together and a number of lads haven’t been with us. You have to take those circumstances into account.

“Sometimes when you have a game under your belt, your next game will be better.

“Our game will have to be better to be competitive in the final – there’s no doubt about that.”

Scorers for Tipperary: J Lonergan 0-5, L Casey & S O’Brien 0-2 each, C O’Riordan, B Maher, I Fahey, P Maher, J McGrath & J Keane (f) 0-1 each.

Scorers for Clare: K Sexton 0-4f, J Malone 0-2, P O’Malley 0-1f .

TIPPERARY: E Comerford; K Fahey, J Feehan, C O’Shaughnessy; C O’Riordan, R Mulcahy, B Maher; L Casey, S O’Brien; J Lonergan, I Fahey, P Shanahan; P Maher, J McGrath, J Keane.

Subs: D McEnroe for Keane (44), G Cronin for Shanahan (50), T Sweeney for P Maher (57).

CLARE: K Normoyle; C O’Mahoney, J O’Dea, C Brennan; D Nagle, C O’Brien, C O’Dea; E Hanrahan, J Malone; L Corry, P O’Malley, D Masterson; M O’Leary, K Sexton, E Courtney.

Subs: D Burke for Hanrahan (28), C Cleary for Masterson (h.t.), M Byrne for Corry (h.t.), J Downes for O’Malley (41), N Bonfil for Courtney (58), C MacNelis for O’Mahoney (60+1).

Referee: J Bermingham (Cork).

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