Allianz National Hurling League
Tipperary 0-20 Clare 4-15
Although the Tipperary performance during this humbling defeat left quite a bit to be desired at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday the display of the Clare men, at times, was a real treat - the combination play, work rate and the manner in which the All-Ireland champions created room for one another really was something to behold.
Similarly to the prevailing pattern in the Waterford Crystal Cup final Clare’s shape caused Tipperary a litany of problems, but on this occasion the Banner had the legs to finish the job.
By playing Conor McGrath on his own in the full-forward line and regularly withdrawing the rest of their team outside the Tipperary ‘45 Clare isolated Paddy Stapleton in a one-on-one battle with the Cratloe speedster while at the other end of the field Pat Donnellan played the sweeper role to perfection. Essentially Tipperary failed to restrict space in front of their own goal and to create it at the opposite end of the end - a critical double whammy.
At the break Clare led 3-7 to 0-8 and even though Tipperary did improve in the second half and close the gap to three points with 20 minutes to play David Fitzgerald’s men responded like champions. The Banner hit 1-4 to the home side’s solitary point in an impressive 11-minute period to lead 4-12 to 0-15 by the 61st minute. Indeed, Darren Gleeson also saved well from Peter Duggan and Shane O’Donnell during this devastating period. In the end Tipperary were left cursing 15 wides, but there appeared to be serious systematic issues at play here as opposed to those associated with shooting accuracy.
Points from Colm Galvin and Peter Duggan forced the All-Ireland champions into a 0-2 to no-score lead.
Paddy Stapleton made a brilliant interception to deny the raiding Clare a goal in the fifth minute before Noel McGrath notched Tipperary’s opening point of the game in the tenth.
Tipperary failed to track Patrick Donnellan seconds later as the O’Callaghan’s Mills man ghosted forward for a handy point.
Having suffered a couple of early frights the Tipperary defence came unhinged in the 11th minute when Patrick O’Connor picked out Conor McGrath who beat Darren Gleeson at his near post following an unfortunate slip from Paddy Stapleton - 1-3 0-1.
Some poor decision making from Tipperary saw the home side’s wide count climb to five before John O’Dwyer converted from play in the 14th minute. Clare, however, responded at their leisure with a John Conlon strike before a Jason Forde free left four in it (0-3 to 1-4).
A pop pass from John O’Dwyer sent James Woodlock through on goal in the 17th minute, but the Drom & Inch man was hooked before Shane Bourke helped himself to a point. Shane McGrath then advanced to score a nice point, a score the Ballinahinch man celebrated with a clenched fist - 0-5 to 1-4.
By the time Conor McGrath turned over Cathal Barrett and fed Darach Honan for a handy point in the 22nd minute Tipperary had already driven four placed balls wide.
Clare notched the score of the game in the 24th minute when David McInerney intercepted a slack Jason Forde delivery - three stick passes later John Conlon flashed the ball over the bar - 1-6 to 0-5.
Entering the 30th minute there was just three between them (0-7 to 1-7), that is until Colin Ryan floated a glorious ball in behind the Tipperary defence and Pádraic Collins raced through before crossing to Conor McGrath who smacked home a goal of real quality. A John O’Dwyer point in the 32nd minute left five in it, but seconds later Clare struck their third goal; a score greeted by audible groans from the home support - Colm Galvin dispossessed Tomás Hamill and fed the raiding John Conlon who smacked in another three-pointer. Once more the Clare forwards had acres of room to charge into.
Given that we had been treated to a reasonably distressing opening half an improved performance in the second half was required. Dónal Tuohy was asked to make a fine save from John O’Dwyer in the 37th minute following a glorious reverse pass from Jason Forde before points from John O’Dwyer (’65) and Shane Bourke gave the home support something to shout about.
Three successive wides from Tipperary then preceded a fine Peter Duggan point in the 43rd minute before a John O’Dwyer brace (one free) and a Jason Forde point left four in it (0-13 to 3-8). John O’Dwyer converted a long-range free in the 50th minute, but sensing danger Clare responded to the challenge in devastating fashion. Conor McGrath settled his side with a fine point before McGrath struck for his third goal in the 52nd minute - this time Tipperary failed to deal with a long-range delivery and McGrath beat the advancing Darren Gleeson with a composed flick (4-9 to 0-14).
A Kieran Bergin point from a tight angle offered token resistance before three Colin Ryan points (two frees) helped Clare into a 4-12 to 0-15 lead by the 61st minute. In the 58th and 59th minutes Tipperary fans were left sighing with relief when Darren Gleeson made sharp saves to deny Peter Duggan and then Shane O’Donnell. Points from Michael Heffernan, Conor Kenny, James Woodlock and John O’Dwyer (free) restored some pride for Tipp (0-19 to 4-12), but Clare finished the game the stronger with a series of points bookending a Conor Kenny effort in the 70th minute.
Tipperary: Darren Gleeson (Portroe), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Paddy Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh), Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch, 0-1), Tomás Hamill (Killea), Thomas Stapleton (Templederry Kenyons), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh, captain), James Woodlock (Drom & Inch, 0-2), Paddy Murphy (Nenagh Éire Óg, 0-1), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-1), Kieran Bergin (Killenaule, 0-1), Shane Bourke (JK Bracken’s, 0-2), John O’Dwyer (Killenaule, 0-7, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ‘65), Jason Forde (Silvermines, 0-2, 0-1 frees). Subs: (35th) Conor O’Mahony (Newport) for Tomás Hamill, (41st) Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for Paddy Murphy, (58th) Conor Kenny (Borris-Ileigh, 0-2) for Shane Bourke, (61st) Michael Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg, 0-1) for Kieran Bergin, (64th) Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for Jason Forde.
Clare: Dónal Tuohy, David McInerney, Cian Dillon, Seadna Morey (0-1), Brendan Bugler, Conor Ryan, Patrick O’Connor, Pat Donnellan (0-1), Colm Galvin (0-1), John Conlon (1-3), Peter Duggan (0-2), Darach Honan (0-1), Colin Ryan (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 ’65), Conor McGrath (3-1), Cathal O’Connell. Subs: (26th) Pádraic Collins for Darach Honan, (50th) Tony Kelly (0-1) for Colm Galvin, (51st) Shane O’Donnell for Cathal O’Connell, (65th) Cathal McInerney for Peter Duggan, (71st) Paul Flanagan for Seadna Morey.
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).