Having entered the contest without seven of their leading players, including Conor Keane and Marc O’Connor, Kerry were dealt another blow when reduced to 14-men on 22 minutes as midfielder Matthew O’Sullivan was sent to the line after his yellow and black offences forced referee Kevin Murphy to reach for the back pocket.
Ahead by 0-3 to 0-1 at the time, momentum swept away from Kerry in deflating fashion as Tipperary midfielder Liam Casey, set-up by Kevin Fahey, slotted the ball beyond ‘keeper Eoghan O’Brien in the ensuing play to move the visitors in front. The home outfit were in trouble, big trouble.
Tipperary, having redeployed corner-forward Jack Kennedy as a sweeper within minutes of the throw-in, continued to operate with seven in defence despite now enjoying numerical advantage. Indeed, such was Tipperary’s negativity on the night that for large spells of the second-half, the Kerry half of the field was populated by just two blue and gold shirts. Had one arrived late into Tralee, they’d have easily been forgiven for thinking it was the visitors who were playing with a man less.
Jack Savage, with his first free of the evening, levelled this quarter-final on 25 minutes and although a Josh Keane free and Liam Casey returned Tommy Toomey’s outfit in front, it was the last time they would hold the inside bend.
Two further Jack Savage frees tied the game at the break and while the scoreboard was wholly unreflective of Kerry’s first-half dominance – Jack O’Connor’s young troops kicked six first-half wides, management would have been mildly pleased by the manner in which their players had responded to O’Sullivan’s dismissal and Casey’s subsequent goal.
Cillian Spillane and Barry O’Sullivan were thrown into the action for the second period and right from the off, Kerry stepped it up a fair few gears. They camped inside the Tipperary ’45 for the opening five minutes and yet managed nothing more than a Jack Savage free.
Jack Kennedy restored parity for a fourth time on 35 minutes and the subsequent 14 minutes of action passed without a score being kicked at either end; Spillane and Brandon Barrett were guilty of bad misses, while sub Darragh Roche was denied by a flying save from Tipperary keeper Jake McDonald.
Savage, following a foul on Andrew Barry after 49 minutes, nudged the home outfit in front, but immediately Tipperary replied through Ross Mulcahy. It was as if the Premier County were content to defend so long as the game was tied and were only motivated to surge up the field when behind.
White flags from Barry O’Sullivan, Micheál Burns and Jack Savage’s sixth free of the night in a three minute spell shoved Kerry into a decisive three-point advantage and despite Jack Kennedy and a Josh Keane free reducing the gap to the minimum, Kerry deservedly held on.
Crucial too was the last ditch tackle in the second minute of stoppages that took the ball off the toe of Tipperary corner-back Colm O’Shaughnessy as he pulled the trigger on goal. In both attack and defence, the Kingdom were that bit smarter.
J Savage (0-7, 0-6 frees); M Burns (0-2); T Brosnan, B O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
L Casey (1-1); J Keane (0-2 frees), J Kennedy (0-2 each); S Quirke, R Mulcahy (0-1 each).
Kerry: E O’Brien (Churchill); Brian Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht), C Ó Lúing (An Ghaeltacht), B Sugrue (Renard); T O’Sullivan (Dingle) A Barry (Na Gael), G White (Dr Crokes); M O’Sullivan (St Michael’s Foilmore), G Horan (Austin Stacks); B Barrett (Ardfert), M Burns (Dr Crokes), Brian Ó Seanacháin (Ballydonoghue); T Brosnan (Dr Crokes), E Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht), J Savage (Kerins O’Rahilly’s).
B O’Sullivan (Dingle) for Horan (HT), C Spillane (Templenoe) for Ó Conchúir (HT), D Roche (Glenflesk) for Brosnan (40 mins), D Foran (St Senan’s for Barrett (42), D O’Donoghue (Spa) for Sugrue (59).
J McDonald (Clonmel Commercials); C O’Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan), J Feehan (Killenaule), D Owens (Moyle Rovers); R Mulcahy (Moyle Rovers), K Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), S O’Connell (Golden-Kilfeacle); P Shanahan (Upperchurch-Drombane), L Casey (Cahir); E Moloney (Drom & Inch), T Nolan (Drom & Inch), J Keane (Golden-Kilfeacle); P Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), S Quirke (Moyle Rovers), J Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials).
L Boland (Moyle Rovers) for Shanahan (54 mins), B Martin (Kilsheelan-Kilcash) for Nolan (57).
K Murphy (Cork).