Following a round of applause and an impeccably observed minute’s silence to mark Jimmy Doyle’s passing, Tipperary’s minor hurlers booked a place in the provincial final of the grade he graced with distinction in the 1950s.
Poignancy hung in the Semple Stadium air last night as the Premier County young guns beat Clare by four points to set up a Munster decider with Limerick or Cork on July 12.
What had looked like a routine operation, with Tipp leading by ten points in the second half, became an exercise in survival down the home straight. Tipp were 1-11 to 0-4 clear within minutes of the restart but Ken Morrissey’s visitors launched a stirring revival to cut the gap back to just three points late on.
Mikey Connors steadied frayed Tipp nerves with an insurance score in stoppage time and home fans in the 3,462 attendance trooped home happy.
For Tipp, it’s a first Munster minor final since 2012 but Clare are unlucky to bow out with just one game under their belts. As this fixture wore on, Clare stumbled upon their best formation and personnel but they won’t have a second outing to show further improvements.
Tipp may have to soldier on for the remainder of the season without captain Stephen Quirke, however, after the Moyle Rovers starlet and dual star was stretchered off with a knee injury in the 18th minute.
Tipp were 1-8 to 0-4 in front at half-time against Clare, who registered eight of their 12 wides before the interval.
The Banner boys were level at 0-2 apiece after ten minutes, with two notable inclusions in their starting line-up on the scoresheet. Senior boss Davy Fitzgerald’s son Colm cut over the opening score from a sideline before Jack Cunningham, brother of senior ace Aaron, levelled things up after Tipp had claimed scores from man-of-the-match David Gleeson and Daragh Carey. But Clare went 20 minutes without a score thereafter, allowing Tipp to cruise into an eight-point lead, 1-7 to 0-2.
Tommy Nolan scored the goal in the 26th minute, ghosting in behind Declan Power to hammer home a close-range effort from Alan Tynan’s delivery.
Clare had a response in the second half. Martin Daly’s goal ten minutes from time, knocked home from the edge of the square as goalkeeper Padraic Hayes attempted to clear, made life uncomfortable for Tipp.
Ultimately they survived the test as free-taker Lyndon Fairbrother topped the scoring charts.
The man on placed balls at the other end, Aaron Shanagher, had a mixed bag of an evening. He plucked some lovely ball from the skies in the first half but the Wolfe Tones player missed some frees he would normally put over.
Tipp boss Liam Cahill reflected: “Our energy levels seemed to drop again, I don’t know what it is. It’s a concern, when it’s all unfolding there in front of you it’s hard to know what to do but we’ll go back and see what needs to be looked at for the next day.”
L Fairbrother 0-5 (4f), T Nolan 1-1, D Gleeson 0-4, D Carey 0-2, A Tynan, G Ryan and M Connors 0-1 each.
A Shanagher 0-5 (4f, 1 65), M Daly 1-0, C Fitzgerald (1f, 1 sl), J Cunningham and A Kennedy 0-2 each.
P Hayes (Ballingarry); E Heffernan (Clonoulty Rossmore), E Moloney (Drom & Inch), J Quigley (Kildangan); J Skehan (Holycross Ballycahill), B McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), K Hassett (Kilruane MacDonaghs); D Carey (Templederry Kenyons), A Tynan (Roscrea); L McCutcheon (Templederry Kenyons), S Quirke (Moyle Rovers), G Ryan (Borrisokane); T Nolan (Drom & Inch), D Gleeson (Ballinahinch), L Fairbrother (J.K. Brackens)
T Lowry (Arravale Rovers) for Quirke (inj, 18), S Neville (Lattin Cullen) for McCutcheon (half-time), R Mulrooney (Portroe) for Ryan (45), M Connors (Drom & Inch) for Lowry (55), C Darcy (Kilruane McDonaghs) for Carey (59).
J Loughnane (Sixmilebridge); D Power (Smith O’Briens), S Phelan (Broadford), R Monahan (Tubber); D Chaplin (Broadford), N Fox (Parteen), C Noonan (Killanena); C Fitzgerald (Sixmilebridge), J Cunningham (Wolfe Tones); J McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona), M O’Shea (Smith O’Briens), A Shanagher (Wolfe Tones); C O’Halloran (Éire Óg), M Daly (Feakle), P O’Loughlin (Clonlara).
A Kennedy (Kilmaley) for O’Shea (half-time), P Lillis (Cooraclare) for Monahan (38), D Devanney (Wolfe Tones) for Chaplin (51), P McNamara (Kilmaley) for O’Halloran (58), S Kennedy (Kilmaley) for Noonan (59).
J Larkin (Cork)