Tipperary 1-16 Clare 1-15
You’d be forgiven for confusing Conor Sweeney as a regular visitor of Jones Road, one of the many summer guests to emerge from the Hogan Stand tunnel.
The Ballyporeen corner-forward moved effortlessly on the hallowed turf, the radar in perfect working order, the ease at which he adapted to unfamiliar surrounds most impressive.
Sweeney, as is the low standing of Tipperary football, had stepped inside the Croke Park whitewash on just one previous occasion — the county suffering a comprehensive qualifier defeat to Dublin back in 2010. Four years would ensue without a single opportunity to return.
And so Saturday would not be wasted. On this turn, Sweeney was determined to rise above the occasion, to stand out and make his mark.
The 24-year-old finished with 1-8 to his name, ticking emphatically every box, six second-half minors central in edging Tipp across the line.
“I kicked a lot of scores yeah, but it was a case of being in the right place, right time. The work was done for me,” he said.
“It is great to be here. I played here a couple of years back and that was an experience in itself. It is a fantastic stadium and just a pity we don’t get up here more often.
“At the start, it did affect us slightly. We were doing things we never do, dropping the ball, shooting from angles we wouldn’t normally shoot from. We all just wanted to impress so much. I think we just needed to go back and start doing the simple things. We did that and we came away with the win.”
Sweeney was the central component of an inside line that wreaked untold damage on the Banner rearguard, Michael Quinlivan and Barry Grogan capable co-conspirators. Grogan raised four white flags in a decent showing and while Quinlivan was rendered scoreless, much credit here to Clare’s Kevin Hartnett, the Clonmel youngster provided the final pass for several scores. In total, 1-12 was sunk amid the debris of the Clare full-back line.
“The two boys are very good. We inter-change a lot. You have to keep moving in there, keep their full-back line thinking. Thankfully we did the business today.
“We came here to do a job and it didn’t matter if it was one or 10 points, we got the win and are delighted.”
Clare did enjoy a slender advantage by the end of the first quarter, Shane McGrath and David Tubridy sharing six white flags; it failed, however, to tell the full tale — seven Tipperary wides added to a superb save from Clare keeper Pierce De Loughrey, frustrating their dominance.
On 19 minutes, the target was finally nailed. Barry Grogan supplied the delivery and while Harnett repelled Pater Acheson’s initial effort, Sweeney scored the rebound.
Grogan, Robbie Kiely and George Hannigan swung over further minors, but Clare continued to advance, with Tubridy and a massive punt from midfielder Cathal O’Connor reducing the deficit to a point — 1-7 to 0-9 the interval difference.
Shane Hickey and Jamie Malone found the target either side of a Barry Grogan effort and Clare seized the initiative when Martin O’Leary, teed up by Malone and Ciaran Russell, shook the roof of Paul Fitzgerald’s goal on 43 minutes. Ahead by 1-11 to 1-8, now was their time to tighten fatally the noose. Tipperary, however, stubbornly refused to concede any further ground.
Grogan and Sweeney combined subsequently in steering over four unanswered points as the pendulum swung back in favour of Peter Creedon’s side.
“That is the kind of response we’ve given all year,” added Sweeney. “We were forced to dig and we did.”
And so it ebbed and flowed, three times they were level, until Conor Sweeney put Tipp two points up with a few minutes of time remaining. Clare had to mine their resources and while Tubridy, their most effective performer alongside midfielder Gary Brennan, pared it back to a point, no equaliser could be located.
Scorers for Tipperary: C Sweeney (1-8, 4fs), B Grogan (0-4, 2fs), G Hannigan, R Kiely, S O’Brien, I Fahey (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare: D Tubridy (0-7, 4fs), S McGrath (0-4), M O’Leary (1-0), S Hickey, C O’Connor, J Malone, C Russell (0-1 each).
Tipperary: P Fitzgerald; J Coghlan, P Codd, A Morrissey; R Kiely, P Acheson, D Leahy; S O’Brien, G Hannigan; P Austin, I Fahey, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, B Grogan.
Subs for Tipperary: S Grogan for P Austin (43), C McDonald for Morrissey (45), C O’Riordan for Fahey (61), C McCullagh for S Grogan (BC, 70).
Clare: P De Loughrey; D Ryan, K Hartnett, M McMahon; S Hickey, G Kelly, E Coughlan; G Brennan, C O’Connor; S McGrath, J Malone, C Russell; M O’Leary, S Brennan, D Tubridy.
Subs for Clare: M Óige Murphy for Hickey (46), P McMahon for S Brennan (50), J Hayes for De Loughrey (56).
Referee: N Mooney (Cavan).
Tipperary’s response to the Clare goal on 43 minutes. Reeled off four points without reply to move back into the lead and nullify O’Leary’s strike. Crucial.
Talk of the town
The deplorable attendance. Just 8,654 filed through for both games, but there was certainly less than half that in the Hogan Stand for the opener. Poor.
Did that just happen?
Martin O’Leary’s goal strike, sweeping move capped off by a scintillating finish.
Best on show
Conor Sweeney, no contest. 1-8 over the 70 minutes represented a very good days work. Took his goal well and proved a constant threat in the right corner.
Black card watch
Séamus Grogan was black carded on the stroke of full-time.
Tipperary substitutions had greater impact, while Colm Collins was slow in wheeling off Clare forwards who were non-existent for most of the contest.
The man in black
Clare were clearly irked by more than a handful of Noel Mooney’s decisions, particularly the awarding of a free against sub keeper Joe Hayes for touching possession on the floor in the process of pulling off a superb save from Conor Sweeney.
Tipperary entertain Limerick on May 31 in the Munster quarter-final, while Clare welcome Waterford to Cusack Park the following weekend.
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