Allianz National Hurling League
Tipperary 1-19 Dublin 0-19
Sighs of relief and roars of encouragement rang around Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday afternoon when Eamon O’Shea’s Tipperary recovered a six-point deficit to Dublin before winning by the required three and thereby avoided a relegation play-off.
Although this encounter provided us with no overwhelming evidence that a corner has been turned this gritty display did suggest that there is an appetite in the players to improve.
Four Alan McCrabbe points (three frees) helped Dublin into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead by the ninth minute. Indeed, Dublin’s intent was best illustrated in the ninth minute when manager Anthony Daly raucously celebrated a McCrabbe strike from distance - Dublin were chasing a first competitive win on Tipp soil since 1946.
Patrick Maher drew a superb reaction save from Gary Maguire before McCrabbe (free) and then Ryan O’Dwyer added to the visitor’s tally.
A driving Michael Cahill run culminated in a fine point in the 15th minute for Tipperary (0-3 to 0-6) before points from Ryan O’Dwyer, Danny Sutcliffe and Alan McCrabbe (free) forced Dublin into an ominous 0-9 to 0-3 by the 21st minute.
Séamus Callanan smacked over a rousing point in the 23rd, Kieran Bergin notched another a minute later and when John O’Dwyer struck in the 26th there was just three between them. A Séamus Callanan free in the 28th minute left two in it (0-7 to 0-9) while a Michael Carton long-range strike brought Tipp’s scoring surge to an emphatic halt.
Two Séamus Callanan points left the minimum between them at the interval (0-9 to 0-10).
Dublin, now playing into the wind, made a determined start to the second half and added to their tally with an Alan McCrabbe free before Danny Sutcliffe and Ryan O’Dwyer drove over terrific points to force Dublin into a 0-13 to 0-9 lead.
Tipperary needed to locate a little inspiration and found it in Séamus Callanan who raced through the heart of the Dublin defence. Gary Maguire made a terrific save to deny the Drom & Inch man, but Patrick Maher bundled in the rebound in the 42nd minute.
Dublin responded with an Alan McCrabbe free, but the Tipperary supporters had now found their voice and roared over a terrific Noel McGrath effort in the 45th minute. Seconds later Séamus Callanan converted a free and Noel McGrath handed Tipperary the lead for the first time in the 47th minute (1-12 to 0-14).
It could have all gone horribly wrong in the 48th minute when Conal Keaney threatened a goal, that is until James Barry affected a telling block.
A Michael Carton point levelled matters, but with Thurles’ Denis Maher making a right nuisance of himself at right wing-forward Tipperary poured forward with points from Noel McGrath, John O’Dwyer and Séamus Callanan handing the home side a 1-15 to 0-15 lead by the 53rd minute.
With 13 minutes to play Paul Ryan went for goal from a 21-yard free, but Brendan Maher saved before points from Joey Boland (free) and Danny Sutcliffe reduced the margin to a single point. Fouls on John O’Dwyer and Séamus Callanan handed the Drom & Inch man the opportunity to fire Tipperary three points clear (1-17 to 0-17) with three minutes to play.
An Alan McCrabbe free in the 68th minute left two in it once more before Noel McGrath won a free which was converted by Callanan. Within seconds, however, another McCrabbe free in injury time left two in it.
Finally, the outstanding Kieran Bergin won a great ball in the middle of the field and shipped a heavy challenge before feeding Ronan Maher who had made an enterprising run on the blind side of the Dublin half-back line. Bergin picked Maher out and the Thurles youngster smacked over a point which was greeted with a terrific roar.
Anthony Dayl’s Dublin enjoyed one final opportunity, but Niall McMorrow’s delivery dropped short.
Tipperary: Darragh Egan (Kildangan), Paddy Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh), Conor O’Mahony (Newport), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh, captain), Conor O’Brien (Éire Óg Annacarty), Kieran Bergin (Killenaule, 0-1), Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch), John O’Dwyer (Killenaule, 0-2), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-3), Paddy Murphy (Nenagh Éire Óg), Jason Forde (Silvermines), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch, 0-11, 0-8 frees), Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha, 1-0). Subs: (HT) Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for Paddy Murphy, (38th) James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane) for Michael Cahill, (52nd) Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone) for Patrick Maher, (62nd) Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1) for Shane McGrath, (69th) Michael Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg) for Jason Forde.
Dublin: Gary Maguire, Niall Corcoran, Peter Kelly, Simon Timlin, Michael Carton (0-2), Liam Rushe, Shane Durkin, Joey Boland (0-1, 0-1 free), Johnny McCaffrey, Colm Cronin, Ryan O’Dwyer (0-3), Conal Keaney, David O’Callaghan, Danny Sutcliffe (0-3), Alan McCrabbe (0-10, 0-8 frees). Subs: (45th) Mark Schutte for Colm Cronin, (55th) Niall McMorrow for Cian O’Callaghan, (62nd) Paul Ryan for David O’Callaghan.
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).