They’ll probably still require a tank or two of oxygen when the air thins against Cork in a fortnight, but for the new management headed up by Liam Kearns and the new-look team he has been forced to assemble, this opening chapter to their summer was, if nothing else, encouraging.
Sure, the eight-point winning margin was some distance removed from the 22-points which separated the teams at this very juncture last year, but Tipperary’s canvass has changed dramatically in the interim 12 months and of the 21 players who saw action that afternoon in Thurles, only 11 were present in Fraher Field.
From that 11, centre-back Robbie Kiely and corner-forward Conor Sweeney were late withdrawals owing to injury. What it meant was that from last year’s starting team, half were now missing.
It all contributed to a less than assured opening from the visitors. There was a sluggishness to Tipperary’s play, whereas Waterford, full of confidence, were determined to inflict as much damage as possible early on.
Tommy Prendergast, Craig Curry and Gavin Crotty’s direct running caused difficulty for the travelling rearguard and two early fouls allowed Paul Whyte kick two frees inside the opening two minutes. A third from the Déise full-forward, this time from play, capped a smart opening from the underdogs.
Tipperary did eventually settle. Two Michael Quinlivan efforts either side of a George Hannigan point squaring matters by the end of the first quarter.
The subsequent passages of play are where the home side will look with most regret this morning; and where Tipperary will again give thanks to the alertness of ‘keeper Evan Comerford.
On 16 minutes, Comerford produced a superb save to deny Paul Whyte. Three minutes later, Whyte again found himself inside the cover. Again, Comerford was equal to the shot.
Two chances. No goal. And despite Whyte converting the resulting ’45, the underdogs had blown their chance to strike a blow.
Hannigan and Crotty traded minors thereafter, but the tide was slowly turning. Premier defenders Bill Maher, Colm O’Shaughnessy and Peter Acheson were driving forward with purpose at every opportunity, while Hannigan, the master conductor in the final third, was pinging balls in every direction.
The hosts would score only once in the closing 11 minutes of the first-half, Tipperary raising four white flags during this period — Acheson, Martin Dunne, Hannigan and Shaughnessy on target.
Each one of their eight first-half points was registered from play; four of Waterford’s six arrived via the placed ball. Therein lay the difference.
And this gulf in class would become far more apparent for the 1,753 in attendance upon the change of ends as Liam Kearns’ charges knocked 1-6 between the posts before Waterford could muster a flag of any description — the latter going 23 minutes of the second-half without adding to their tally.
Acheson’s strong running was rewarded with a second point, with Kevin O’Halloran converting two frees in quick succession to leave the scoreboard reading 0-11 to 0-6.
Given the mass exodus from the squad over the past eight and a half months, Tipperary were bound to enjoy a stroke of good fortune at some stage and it duly arrived on 47 minutes — much to Maurice O’Gorman’s misfortune, mind you.
Kevin O’Halloran’s delivery was flicked off the crossbar by Quinlivan, but the ball would strike the Waterford defender on the back and dribble harmlessly into the net for a Tipperary goal. Quinlivan, Acheson and Brian Fox poured further salt in Waterford’s wounds and at 1-14 to 0-6, it was game over.
Paul Whyte, set-up by sub Joey Veale, engineered a Waterford goal on 58 minutes to bring an end to their scoring drought.
It was a frustrating second period, though, for their chief marksman as he was off target with a number of frees.
The home side tallied 10 second-half wides and Tommy Prendergast’s 63rd minute point would prove their second and final score of the half.
For Waterford, the dark clouds remain, as does their wait for a third Munster championship win since 1989. For Tipperary, the dark clouds which gathered in recent months appear to be lifting.
M Quinlivan (0-4); G Hannigan, P Acheson (0-3 each); M O’Gorman (1-0 OG); K O’Halloran (0-2, 0-2 frees); M Dunne, C O’Shaughnessy, B Fox (0-1 each).
P Whyte (1-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ’45); G Crotty, T Prendergast (0-1 each).
E Comerford; C O’Shaughnessy, A Campbell, C McDonald; B Maher, P Acheson, S Leahy; M Dunne, G Hannigan; P Austin, A Moloney, B Fox; J Keane, M Quinlivan, K O’Halloran.
J Feehan for Leahy (45); I Fahey for Austin (55); B Hewitt for Moloney (62); M Hanley for O’Shaughnessy (68); D Leahy for Fox (72).
S Enright; R Ó Ceallaigh, M O’Gorman, T O’Gorman; M Curry, S Prendergast, T Ó hUallacháin; T Prendergast, C Curry; G Crotty, P Hurney, J McGrath; JJ Hutchinson, P Whyte, L Ó Corraoin.
C Murray for Hutchinson (HT); J Veale for Crotty (50); M O’Halloran for McGrath (54); B Looby for M Curry (56).
D Gough (Meath).