Tipperary 2-11, Clare 1-8: Maybe this was the day when the promotion door swung open for Tipperary again.
They still have it all to do, mind you, but on a weekend when Division 3 pace-setters Armagh and Fermanagh drew, it was important for Tipp to make up some ground.
That it was at the expense of Clare and that victory brought them level with the Banner County were added bonuses for Peter Creedon and Tipp.
Two damaging defeats away to Armagh and Fermanagh had threatened to derail a campaign that began with Tipp as second favourites behind Armagh to claim the Division 3 crown outright.
But it’s been a topsy-turvy season to date, with Creedon forced to sit out the visit to Fermanagh after incurring a one-match touchline ban for his criticism of referee David Coldrick’s performance in Armagh.
Back directing operations from the sideline on Saturday, Creedon oversaw a competent display that brought Tipp their second victory from four outings – both at Semple Stadium.
Creedon reflected: “Obviously promotion was something we were chasing at the start of the year but this League is difficult and a lot of our players are young.
“I think we started with five U21s and they’re playing a lot of football. You’re not going to get perfect performances week in, week out.
“You’re going to get dips here and there.
“I’d be very proud of the way the boys responded because it was a hard loss (Fermanagh) last week and Clare are a good team.
“But Semple Stadium is good to us. It’s way faster. Last week’s pitch was as slow as a wet week.”
The kick-out statistics suggested Tipp were dominated in that area but Clare’s penchant for going short was the key reason for this.
Tipp’s backroom team were quick to notice the trend and in the 24th minute, with selector Mick O’Loughlin screaming ‘no short kick-out, no short kick-out’, the Clare recipient was swarmed by three players and penalised for over-carrying.
Creedon added: “We have four points on the board now and we can look forward to next week. Clare are a good team so we knew it was going to be a hard battle.”
That it was but Tipp were relatively efficient, despite registering ten of the game’s 22 wides.
It was a free-ridden affair, as novice Dublin referee Gary McCormack dished out ten yellow cards, evenly split between both sides.
“We weren’t as bad as we looked against Fermanagh last week and probably weren’t as good as we looked against Limerick in the previous game,” Creedon added.
“I thought it was very honest and a lot of good, hard tackling. A lot of mistakes too but we kicked some quality points in the second half. I thought we were comfortably the better team.”
Goals in either half from Conor Sweeney and Philip Austin sealed a six-point victory, as Clare missed a penalty in stoppage time.
Shane Brennan’s 60th-minute goal had provided a flicker of hope for the visitors but Austin extinguished it by finishing Brian Mulvihill’s excellent approach work with two minutes remaining.
Clare, who trailed by 0-4 to 1-5 at half-time, were denied a second goal in stoppage time when David Tubridy saw his penalty saved by Evan Comerford, before the luckless Clare hitman volleyed the rebound over the bar from point-blank range.
Scorers for Tipperary: P Austin and C Sweeney (two frees) (1-2 each), S O’Brien & B Grogan (45) (0-2 each), S Kennedy, M Quinlivan and I Fahey (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare: D Tubridy (three frees) and S McGrath (0-4 each), S Brennan (1-0).
TIPPERARY: E Comerford; R Kiely, P Codd, A Campbell; G Hannigan, P Acheson, S Kennedy; C O’Riordan, S O’Brien; I Fahey, P Austin, L Casey; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, B Grogan.
Subs for Tipperary: S Flynn for Quinlivan (inj, 22), B Mulvihill for Flynn (50), G Mulhair for Grogan (60).
CLARE: J Hayes; D Ryan, K Hartnett, G Kelly; C Russell, M McMahon, J Malone; G Brennan, C O’Connor; S Collins, S Hickey, S McGrath; D Tubridy, P Collins, P Burke.
Subs for Clare: S Brennan for S Collins (46), S Haugh for Malone (50), M O’Leary for Burke (62), C Dunning for Hickey (66).
Referee: G McCormack (Dublin).
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