Tipperary 1-16 Laois 1-10: Their county board delegates may have gone against the football fraternity and helped the so-called All-Ireland Super 8 series become a reality, but Tipperary shrugged that disappointment aside with another eye-catching performance to keep their promotion hopes alive at O’Moore Park.
Liam Kearns had echoed the views of the majority of football managers and inter-county players when insisting the system was designed to ensure his charges, and teams of their ilk, could never repeat their epic run to the last four that lit up the 2016 championship.
While they were far from perfect on Saturday and could be glad of some wayward Laois shooting, as well as two magnificent saves by Evan Comerford from the Kingston brothers Donie and Paul, Tipp were deserving winners, displaying a hunger for industry and strong, direct running and support play that tore Laois apart in the first half in particular.
They could have had three or four goals in the opening period alone and Graham Brody made another good stop from Josh Keane late on.
Ironically, it took an untypical error by Darren Strong, who allowed the ball to slip through his grasp from Kevin O’Halloran’s long- distance free in injury-time, to finally breach the home side’s defences.
Tipp had done more than enough by then to secure their second win of the campaign though, starting strongly and responding twice when Laois threatened to reel them in.
It was a strange occasion, with both Kearns and Peter Creedon returning to face teams they had formerly managed and Creedon must have been extremely frustrated as his crew fell behind despite dominating possession. They shot five wides in the opening 10 minutes and were three points down, Jimmy Feehan with the pick of Tipperary’s scores from outside the 45.
Conor Sweeney was a real threat in general play too, while also popping over a couple of frees to make it 0-6 to 0-1. Colm Begley ended his side’s 16-minute drought with a lovely score off the outside of his left boot to spark a revival. Niall Donoher and Kingston added some excellent scores themselves and having trailed by five, the hosts were back to within one at half time, 0-7 to 0-6.
On his first appearance of the season, John O’Loughlin levelled within seconds of the resumption but Tipp got their noses in front once more, Austin and McGrath supplementing the successful free-taking of Sweeney to open up a four-point gap. The home support found their voices when David Conway took a brilliant pass from Darren Strong to goal in 60th minute, drilling to the far corner of the net with his left boot.
Tipp found the right response once more, with points from Liam Casey, Emmet Moloney and Kevin Fahey giving them breathing space before O’Halloran’s fortuitous injury-time goal set the seal on a fine performance.
Scorers for Tipperary:
C Sweeney (0-7, 5 frees); K O’Halloran (1-0 free); P Austin (0-2); E Moloney, J Feehan, L Casey, J Keane (free), B Fox, K Fahey, L McGrath (0-1 each)
D Kingston (0-5, 3 frees); D Conway (1-2, 0-1 free); C Begley, J O’Loughlin, N Donoher (0-1 each)
E Comerford; A Campbell, P Codd, W Connors; E Moloney, R Kiely, J Feehan; J Kennedy, L Casey; J Keane, K O’Halloran, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, P Austin.
L McGrath for Quinlivan inj (25), K Fahey for Connors (61), G Hannigan for Casey (66), L Boland for Austin inj (69), A Moloney for Kennedy (70)
G Brody; D Strong, D Booth, J Kelly; S Attride, C Begley, E Buggie; J O’Loughlin, S Ramsbottom; D O’Reilly, D Conway, N Donoher; D Luttrell, D Kingston, P Kingston.
A Farrell for Ramsbottom (40), E Lowry for O’Reilly (48), R O’Connor for Donoher (55), J Finn for D Kingston (59), R Munnelly for P Kingston (59), G Dillon for Luttrell (66)
N McKenna (Monaghan).
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