Tipp manager Liam Kearns dubbed this encounter with Meath as “a four-pointer,” but despite his side’s comprehensive win at Semple Stadium on Saturday night, his focus remains on securing Division 2 status in the National Football League for next season.
The win keeps Tipperary in the hunt for promotion with five points out of eight, but Kearns is still looking over his shoulder. “We are not even thinking about promotion and until we have consolidated our position in Division 2 that will be the case.”
Tipperary host Louth next week and Kearns hopes his team will reach their Holy Grail with victory, though he views the contest with extreme caution.
“Louth came down here and kicked our backsides last year when both were chasing promotion from Division 3. I am not happy with our home form even though the big pitch here should suit our game. We have not put back to back home wins together for some time and that is something I will be hoping we can put right next week,” Kearns said.
He had every reason to be happy with his charges’ work-rate against Meath. With Conor Sweeney on top of his game in attack, the home side enjoyed the better of the first half exchanges before 1,291 spectators on a bitterly cold evening.
The sides were level, 0-4 each, after 15 minutes, and then Tipperary took over going 0-8 to 0-4 clear with unanswered points from Michael Quinlivan (2), Sweeney, and Liam Casey.
The icing on the cake came in injury-time when Josh Keane and Sweeney combined to set up Quinlivan for a cracking goal and an interval lead of 1-8 to 0-5.
Meath needed a big response and it came. They resumed with three points in as many minutes through Padraig McKeever, James McEntee and Graham Reilly and looked poised for an impressive comeback.
Tipperary, however, kept their composure, closing down the avenues to their goal. And after 45 minutes Bill Maher finished off fine work by Liam McGrath and Josh Keane with Tipperary’s second goal, restoring their six-point advantage. From there to the finish, Tipp were never in danger of dropping points.
Meath’s goal from Bryan Menton after 62 minutes was no more than a consolation for the Leinster men, leaving manager Andy McEntee to express great disappointment at his side’s performance. “We were totally outplayed,” he admitted, accepting his side are out of the promotion hunt.
In contrast, the Tipp boss was pleased Tipp had responded after a lacklustre showing last time out in Ennis.
“We were very disappointed at our performance against Clare and were lucky to get a point there. I take the blame for that in that the players’ minds were not set right. We did a lot of work after that game but Meath gave us problems early on. We dropped Brian Fox back to check the runners coming through and once we dealt with that things worked alright.
Conor Sweeney with nine points, three from play, was Tipp’s top performer but in Robbie Kiely, Brian Fox, John Meagher, the midfield partnership of Steven O Brien and Liam Casey, and ace goal poacher Michael Quinlivan, they had leaders all over the field.
For Meath, relegation remains a possibility. This was a performance they will want to forget, despite the efforts of Bryan Menton, Eamon Wallace, Graham Reilly, Cillian O Sullivan and Seamus Lavin.
Scorers for Tipperary: C Sweeney (0-9, 6 frees); M Quinlivan (1-1); B Maher (1-0); S O Brien, L Casey, S Carey, L McGrath, J Keane (0-1 each);
Scorers for Meath: P McKeever (0-4 frees); B Menton (1-0); J McEntee, G Reilly (0-2 each); S Tobin, T O Reilly (0-1 each).
E Comerford; S O Connell, J Meagher, A Campbell; B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; L Casey, S O Brien; K Fahey, J Keane, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, L McGrath
P Codd for O Connell (H/T); L Boland for Fahey (60); G Hannigan for Casey (66); S Carey for McGrath (69);
A Colgan; S Lavin, C McGill, D Keogan; D O Neill, M Burke, S McEntee; B Menton, H Rooney; J McEntee, E Wallace, C O Sullivan; G Reilly, P McKeever, S Tobin
B Power for O Neill (28); B McMahon for Tobin (34); D Lenihan for O Sullivan (51); A Flanagan for Rooney (57); S Gallagher for McKeever (57); B Conlon for S McEntee (67);
N Cullen, Fermanagh