A battling 14-man Tipperary were fully deserving of a share of the spoils with Down in their opening game of the Allianz Football League Division 3 at Clonmel Sportsfield.
Left short-handed by Jack Kennedy’s exit just five minutes into the second half, it seemed the Premier County were in big trouble. Up just a point, and with a slight breeze favouring Down, the odds seemed stacked against Tipp.
However, David Power’s side put in a tremendous effort over the remaining half hour and might even have sneaked an unlikely win with a little more composure in front of goals.
If anything Tipp improved with 14 as they gallantly took the game to the visitors and were two points to the good (0-10 to 0-8) by the 56th minute after Conor Sweeney pointed after taking a mark. But they were not to score again in almost 18 minutes of football.
In an exciting finish to a very enjoyable encounter, both sides had opportunities but in the end, the draw was the fairest result and both managers were happy to take it.
“It is kind of frustrating, we could have won it and then we could have lost it as well,” said Power. “I am extremely proud of the players. I thought they put in a huge shift out there after a bad start again. We missed a couple of chances and even if we had a bit more composure at the end I think we could have snatched it.
“This could be a vital point. Down are going to be right up there. This could be a vital point for us come the end of the league.”
A fairly lacklustre opening quarter had Down leading 0-2 to 0-1, with all three points coming from frees — Donal O’Hare (2 for Down) and Conor Sweeney replying for the hosts. Down looked the livelier and had a couple of half-chances at goal, Cory Quinn almost getting in around the Tipp keeper Evan Comerford.
Tipp midfielder Jack Kennedy was then black-carded and Down utilised that numerical advantage to go 0-4 to 0-1 up with two excellent points from Cory Quinn and Barry O’Hagan.
Frees from Sweeney and O’Hare left the Mournemen three to the good after 27 minutes before Tipperary finished the half strongly with four unanswered points from Evan Comerford (45), Steven O’Brien, Liam Boland (mark) and Conor Sweeney to lead by one at the break.
Within 90 seconds of the restart, the Down goalkeeper Rory Burns kicked a 45 to level before Kennedy replied with a sweet point to edge his side ahead again. However, it was to Kennedy’s last action before his dismissal by Wicklow referee Anthony Nolan.
Points from Owen McCabe and Pat Havern, separated by a Conor Sweeney free, left the sides all-square. Tipp keeper Evan Comerford kicked his second free of the day and when Conor Sweeney added a mark four minutes later Tipp suddenly looking likely winners.
But Paddy Tally’s side inched close, with Rory Burns’ second 45 and Owen McCabe tied things up in the 64th minute.
“I think it was fair enough,” Tally concluded. “We were down by two with less than 10 minutes to go. We weren’t playing particularly well and I couldn’t actually see how we were going to get an awful lot more. That match today was very difficult and I think it was a fair enough result.”
Scorers for Tipperary: C Sweeney (0-5, 3 frees 1 mark); E Comerford (0-2, free, 45); S O’Brien, J Kennedy, L Boland (mark) (0-1 each).
Scorers for Down: D O’Hare (0-3 frees); O McCabe (0-2), R Burns (45s) (0-2 each); C Quinn, P Havern, B O’Hagan (0-1 each).
TIPPERARY: E Comerford, A Campbell, J Meagher, C O’Shaughnessy; E Moloney, R Kiely, D Brennan; S O’Brien, C Kennedy; B Maher, J Kennedy, K Fahey; L Boland, C Sweeney, B Fox.
Subs: K O’Halloran for Fahey (HT), J Lonergan for Boland (58); T Nolan for C Kennedy (65); C Kennedy for Maher (66).
DOWN: Rory Burns (0-2, 45x2), Peter Fegan, Kevin McKernan, Ryan McAleenan, Gerard Collins, Darren O’Hagan, Shane Annett, Conor Maginn, Sean Dornan, Barry O’Hagan (0-1), Conor Poland, Daniel Guinness, Owen McCabe (0-2), Donal O’Hare (0-3F), Cory Quinn (0-1).
Subs: Pat Havern (0-1) for Dorna (HT); Liam Kerr for Maginn (42 mins); Niall Donnelly for Poland (47); Ross McGarry for Guinness (52); Johnny Flynn for B. O’Hagan (68).
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)