Waterford Crystal Cup Quarter-Final
Kerry 0-8 Tipperary 2-16
Eoin Kelly helped himself to 1-8 as Tipperary cruised into the semi-finals of the Waterford Crystal Cup thanks to an ultimately comfortable victory over Kerry in Tralee last Sunday.
In dreadful conditions at Austin Stack Park, Tipp made heavy weather of this quarter-final tie before scoring a flattering 14-point win.
Manager Eamon O’Shea had to call for the cavalry as Pádraic Maher and Noel McGrath came off the bench to help make the game safe.
Tipp were 0-9 to 0-3 clear at half-time but four points from Kerry after half-time, including three from free-taker Shane Nolan, reduced the deficit to just two.
Tipp finally managed their first score of the second half in the 51st minute and it was a decisive strike as Michael Cahill, who played exceptionally well at midfield, scored a fine goal.
Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher, who later sustained a hamstring strain, and McGrath combined to set up Cahill and the Thurles Sarsfields man drilled a low shot past Kerry netminder Tadhg Flynn.
Mikey Boyle responded with a point for Kerry but that 54th minute score was the final contribution of the afternoon from the Kingdom, before Tipp hit 1-7 without reply down the home straight.
Six-time All Star Kelly capped an impressive attacking display with Tipp’s second goal in the final minute before substitutes Colin O’Riordan and Ronan Maher tagged on injury-time points.
Overall, this wasn’t a day for being flashy as heavy underfoot conditions and heavy rain ensured that good hurling was at a premium.
Instead, assistant manager Michael Ryan hailed the “effort, commitment and desire” of the Tipperary players as they dug in for a result that sets up a semi-final showdown against University of Limerick in Nenagh next Sunday (2.0).
Ryan added: “We’re delighted to come out of here with a win.
“It’s what we came down to do. We came down to get through to the next round, as simple as that.
“It was very difficult out there. We were under no illusions but that it was going to be very difficult.
“I thought Kerry were very game. I thought they played a very good gameplan in the first half. The scoreline was not flattering in the least but our boys finished very strong. We were delighted to be able to use the bench – it really carried us out.”
From the start, Kerry operated with a ‘sweeper’ system as Daniel Collins dropped deep to provide extra cover in defence.
Paul McGrath drifted out from corner forward to play as a third midfielder for the hosts and that left Brendan Maher as the spare man at the back for Tipperary.
Captain Maher would hurl a world of ball for Tipp and there were also impressive displays from the aforementioned Cahill, Shane McGrath and Conor O’Mahony, who has looked assured at full-back.
O’Shea is obviously intent on trying out as many combinations as possible during the early stages of the season and the positioning of Cahill at midfield was interesting.
Ryan said: “A back can play anywhere in the backs as far as I’m concerned, and as far as midfield and the middle third.”
Kerry were two points ahead early on before Tipp rallied to level twice at 0-2 and 0-3 apiece.
Tipp hit the front for the first time in the 22nd minute when Kelly pointed a free and in front of just 357 spectators, the visitors would lead from there until the finish.
Tipp were based in Kerry for the weekend and played an internal training game among themselves on Saturday afternoon.
Ryan revealed that Shane Bourke picked up a hamstring strain in that game and he also conceded that corner back Paddy Stapleton is a doubt for the start of the National Hurling League next month after pulling a hamstring in training last week.
Kerry: Tadhg Flynn; Dougie Fitzell, Thomas Casey, Keith Orpen; Sean Weir, Jason Leahy, Brendan O’Leary; Philip Lucid (0-1), Daniel Collins; Mikey Boyle (0-1), Shane Nolan (0-5f), Conor O’Brien; Pa Joe Connolly, Padraig Boyle (0-1), Paul McGrath. Subs: Darren Dineen for Casey (inj, 29), Ricky Heffernan for McGrath (35+1), Paudie O’Connor for O’Brien (48), Kieran Dineen for Heffernan (50), Brian O’Leary for Lucid (65).
Tipperary: Darragh Egan (Kildangan); Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Conor O’Mahony (Newport), Jack Peters (Kilruane MacDonaghs); Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch), Brendan Maher (Borrisoleigh), Conor O’Brien (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill); Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields) (1-2), James Woodlock (Drom & Inch); Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) (0-1), David Collins (Drom & Inch) (0-2), Patrick Maher (Lorrha & Dorrha); Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone) (1-8, 0-4f), Paddy Murphy (Nenagh Éire Óg), Conor Kenny (Borrisoleigh). Subs: Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney) (0-1) for Murphy (h.t.), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for Woodlock (48), Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) (0-1) for Patrick Maher (52), Colin O’Riordan (JK Brackens) (0-1) for Collins (69).
Referee: Declan O’Driscoll (Limerick).