Tipperary 2-12 Antrim 0-13: A much-improved second-half display saw Tipperary claim an opening day victory over Antrim in Division 3 of the Allianz Football League.
Goals from All Star Michael Quinlivan and Philip Austin were pivotal as the Premier County, last year’s All-Ireland semi-finalists and one of the leading contenders for promotion, won by five points in front of 722 spectators at Semple Stadium.
Tipp were four points down in the first half, and trailed by 0-5 to 0-7 at the break, but a more direct approach in the second period bore rich dividends.
Both of Tipp goals came from long Alan Moloney deliveries from midfield, with Conor Sweeney providing the assists. Quinlivan profited in the 56th minute before Austin claimed the second goal with six minutes remaining.
It was encouraging stuff from Tipp, who were two points down before turning the screw. With the breeze at their backs in the second half, and kicking towards the Town End, Tipp showed fine game management to win a first round league game for the first time since 2014.
Both teams finished the game with 14 players as Tipp had used all six subs when they lost a second player, Willie Connors, to a black card.
And Antrim were a man light for the closing seconds when Conor Murray was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
A black card for Ryan Murray at the end of the first half cost the visiting Saffrons. Murray had been motoring well before he was handed his marching orders, a hotly-disputed decision but arguably correct as the forward appeared guilty of a hand-trip.
Murray’s replacement, CJ McGourty, did well but also missed a couple of straightforward chances from frees.
Antrim were also unlucky to see two point efforts in the first half denied by the upright, while Tipp goalkeeper Evan Comerford did well to keep out a palmed Stephen Beatty effort.
Comerford’s opposite number, Chris Kerr, saved well from Quinlivan early in the second half but he would have to pick the ball out of his net twice as Tipp broke through.
Tipp manager Liam Kearns reflected: “I wasn’t happy at half-time, we were poor in the first half. We were very rusty and made a lot of mistakes and basically they showed more aggression and were more at it than we were.
“But we sorted out a lot at half-time and I was happy with the second half, even though we left a few scores behind us but we got the job done.”
On the disputed black card, Antrim boss Frank Fitzsimons said: “It was right in front of me, the referee came to the linesman and the linesman didn’t say anything, but he (ref) went back and gave a black card to Ryan. It took effect on us but you have to dust yourself off, get up and go again. We had to put somebody else on (McGourty) and he did well when he came on too.”
Scorers for Tipperary: P Austin (1-2); C Sweeney (0-4, 2 frees); M Quinlivan (1-0); J Keane (0-2 frees); K Fahey, R Kiely, L McGrath (f) & B Fox (0-1 each).
Scorers for Antrim: C.J. McGourty (0-4, 2 frees); R Murray (0-3, 2 frees, 1 sl); P McBride & M Fitzpatrick (0-2 each); P McAteer, C Murray (0-1 each).
TIPPERARY: E Comerford; A Campbell, P Codd, W Connors; K Fahey, R Kiely, J Feehan; A Moloney, M Dunne; J Keane, L McGrath, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, P Austin.
Subs: K O’Halloran for McGrath (h.t.), E Moloney for K Fahey (46), I Fahey for Dunne (66), Liam Boland for Quinlivan (68), J Hennessy for Codd (69), Luke Boland for Fox (b/c 70+1)
ANTRIM: C Kerr; P Healy, P Gallagher, C Hamill; P McBride, J Laverty, P McAteer; M Johnson, J Dowling; D Lynch, C Murray, S Beatty; R Murray, C Small, M Fitzpatrick
Subs: CJ McGourty for R Murray (b/c 35), R McCann for Small (52), R Scott for Beatty (63), S Donnelly for Lynch (64)
Referee: B Cawley (Kildare)
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