A stunning start to the second half saw Tipperary revive their league hopes with a hard fought but thoroughly deserved win over Offaly at Tullamore on Sunday.
What a difference a week makes! Following a very poor display away to Waterford in the previous round, Tipp bounced straight back with a surprise win over an Offaly side chasing promotion.
But this was a Tipp side transformed and even though the margin was a single point at the end, it was a victory fashioned out of guts, commitment and no little skill.
The defence was immense, with Matthew O’Donnell a safe pair of hands in goal, his Killenaule clubmate Paddy Codd equally solid in front of him, and Ciaran McDonald and Hugh Coghlan superb.
George Hannigan was much more effective at midfield than at full forward against Waterford while Barry Grogan led the attack with an aplomb that the Aherlow man is so capable of.
Philip Austin also upped his performance from the Waterfodd game with typical darting runs and one-twos with Grogan while after a quiet first half, Brian Mulvihill burst into action in the second.
The Moyle Rovers player will be disappointed with two first half wides when he should have done better – Tipp were off target on six occasions in the first thirty five minutes as well as hitting the upright twice – but Mulvihill turned the game on its head in the opening stages of the second half.
Tipperary trailed by three at the break, 0-7 to 0-4, but it wasn’t an accurate reflection of play as apart from the wides and the woodwork, Tipperary were also frustrated by some fine approach play breaking down at the business end of the pitch with missed passes and wrong options costing them dearly.
But instead of letting that ruin their confidence, they turned it to their advantage by becoming much more clinical when returning for the second half.
Goalkeeper O’Donnell set the tone with another superb save from Offaly subGraham Guilfoyle in the second minute and within thirty seconds Tipp had swept upfield for Austin to set up Mulvihill for a point.
And less than a minute later Grogan burst through the centre and found Mulvihill again and one on one with Alan Mulhall he placed it beautifully low to the corner of the keeper’s net.
The visitors were now ahead for the first time and when Grogan was fouled a minute later he pointed the free to extend the lead. By the 7th minute Johnny Cagney made it 1-7 to 0-7 when he finished a flowing movement in great style that had been started by Paddy Codd deep in defence.
The Leinster side had to wait until the 9th minute for their opening score of the half when O’Donnell denied Ken Casey with another great save and Ciaran McManus pointed the 45.
But back came Tipp and points from Austin, another Grogan free followed by a super score from play from the Aherlow man pushed them five clear, 1-10 to 0-8 twenty minutes into the half.
An Offaly side that already had wins over Cavan, Limerick and Louth were not going to give up without a fight on their home turf and Tipp were ready for the backlash.
Some wayward freetaking didn’t help their cause but points from Niall McNamee and sub Brian Connor had the margin down to three with nine minutes left.
With Offaly pressing, Tipp got a vital breakaway score when sub Peter Acheson set up Grogan who was fouled and the pointed the free himself.
And Tipp needed that four point advantage for the remaining five minutes of normal time and three added on by referee Padraig O’Sullivan from Kerry.
But it wasn’t until the extra minutes that Offaly troubled the scoreboard, McNamee pointing from a free and play and when John Reynonds brought the margin down to a single point, Tipp nerves were dangling. But O’Sullivan blew his final whistle when O’Donnell kicked out the ball and Tipperary’s survival hopes in Division 3 were revived.
It hadn’t looked that way in the early stages when Offaly looked the more composed and McNamee and McManus from a free had them two up after four minutes. Grogan was unlucky not to give Tipp the lead when a free came back off the upright but he had his side’s opening score with a great score from play in the 7th minute. McNamee restored Offaly’s two point advantage after Nigel Dunne had caused problems for Andrew Morrissey down the left wing.
But already Tipperary were showing improved form from their last outing and they came back at the Leinster side in style. Austin was fouled from a Brian Coen pass and Grogan popped over the free in the 11th minute and seven minutes later he tied up the scores again from a free after he had been fouled himself.
The momentum then switched to Offaly again and McNamee shot them in front again from a free in the 20th minute. Tipp were matching them outfield but chances were wasted closer to goal. Hannigan shot wide and both Coen and Brian Fox saw efforts drop short into the keeper’s hands. James Keane extended the Offaly lead and after Brian Mulvihill had shot wide from a good position, Ken Casey punched over to put three between the sides, 0-6 to 0-3.
Still Tipp struggled to make their possession show on the scoreboard. Hannigan was wide again after good work from Coghlan and Austin and Coen had a sot blocked down before Fox finanlly fisted over . Grogan’s battle with the woodwork continued when another effort came back off the upright from a Mulvihill pass before John Reynolds make it 0-7 to 0-4 at the break with the final score of the half.
However the confidence gained by Tipperary in that first half stood them in the second when they finally found their scoring boots and proved the better side.
Now survival in Division Three is a real possibility again but it may require two more wins - home to Wexford on Sunday week and away to Cavan a week later.
The challenge now is to maintain the form shown on Sunday.
Offaly – Alan Mulhall, Brian Darby, Scott Brady, Sean Pender, Shane Sullivan, Karol Slattery, James Keane 0-1; Richie Dalton, Niall Smith, Seam Ryan, John Reynolds 0-2; Ciaran McManus 0-2, free and 45; Nigel Dunne, Ken Casey 0-1; Niall McNamee 0-6, 0-2 frees. Subs – John Coughlan for Smith, Graham Guilfoyle for Ryan, Brian Connor 0-1 for Dunne; Bernard Allen for Coughlan.
Tipperary – Matthew O’Donnell, Andrew Morrissey, Paddy Codd, Niall Curran, Brian Fox 0-1; Ciaran McDonald, Hugh Coughlan, Brian Jones, George Hannigan, Johnny Cagney 0-1, Alan Rockett, Brian Mulvihill 1-1; Philip Austin 0-1; Barry Grogan 0-7, 0-5 frees; Brian Coen. Subs – Stephen Hahessy for Rockett, Peter Acheson for Coen, Aldo Matassa for Cagney, Ciaran McGrath for Mulvihill.
Referee – Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry)