Tipperary senior footballers' Division 3 League campaign got underway at Fitzgerald Park, Kilmallock on Sunday last, with the visitors 'satisified enough' in the end to emerge with a point against Limerick.
As ever after a drawn encounter, both sides will reflect on the “what ifs” and “buts” as to what might have been but when new Tipperary manager Liam Kearns and his backroom team dissect last Sunday's performance they will probably feel that little bit more rueful that they hadn't emerged victorious.
Following McGrath Cup defeats to Clare and Kerry, Tipperary were hopeful of a first competitive win under the new regime, and it looked very likely following a positive opening half. At the break, Tipp, having had the advantage of a strong wind, led by 1-6 to 0-5 but should have been more convincingly ahead.
In the opening half they held the Shannonsiders to just one point from play, with Limerick depending on frees for their remaining four points. Limerick didn't register a single wide in this period of play with Tipp having five of their own. At the final whistle Tipperary would regret that they hadn't put the game to bed when the chance was certainly there for them to do so.
The second half was a very different matter entirely with the home side using the elements to their advantage and pinning Tipperary back. Outscoring Tipp by 1-6 to 0-2 and leading by three points with three minutes of normal time remaining it looked good for the hosts, but admirably Tipp rallied again with a late goal. Deservedly perhaps both sides emerged with a share of the spoils at the end of an entertaining game.
Tipp started the better and led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 15 minutes with points from Conor Sweeney, Philip Austin (free) and team captain Peter Acheson to a point from the lively Limerick half-back Stephen Cahill who was black carded shortly after scoring his 13th minute point. Strangely eight yellow cards were issued over the 70 minutes.
Another blow for Limerick quickly followed when Josh Keane played Peter Acheson through and the Moyle Rovers man, with some work to do, found the inside of the side netting to put Tipp in the ascendancy at 1-3 to 0-1 after quarter of an hour.
From then to the break Tipp had the better of the possession but failed to make it pay as they should have, a goal chance by Conor Sweeney in the 28th minute which went narrowly wide the most glaring missed opportunity. Tipp did tag on three points via Sweeney, and a pair of fine points from Rockwell Rovers' Alan Moloney, both from a long way out.
However, four frees conceded in the second quarter by a blanket 13-man rearguard were punished by the excellent free-taking of Ian Ryan who ended the day with nine points in total, eight of them frees. This will be an obvious concern for Tipperary in the concession of so many frees and with even more difficult opponents yet toplay in this eight-team Division 3.
Credit to Limerick also who re-emerged for the second half the more determined outfit and 20 minutes in had the game back to a single point following three further frees from Ian Ryan and an excellent effort from 50 metres from Seanie Buckley. Tipp's only reply being a point from Philip Austin after a short Conor Sweeney free in the 47th minute.
Tipp were then rocked when a Limerick attempt at a fisted point came back off the crossbar - following a rare Colm O'Shaughnessy error - and substitute Peter Nash smashed home for the lead for the first time at 1-9 to 1-7.
A reply for Tipp with a free from Conor Sweeney was brief respite; the men in green kicking two rousing points from Ian Ryan and another from Seanie Buckley to put them three to the good with just three minutes of normal time to play.
Encouragingly for the long campaign ahead, Tipp heads didn't drop and after a move involving Austin and Acheson, the hard-working Josh Keane managed to get in behind the defence from the right hand side to blast a piledriver to the roof of the Limerick net for parity.
In time added-on Conor Sweeney with a close-in free seemed to have salvaged what had looked a most unlikely win minutes earlier, but another close-in free at the other end three minutes into added-time from Ian Ryan was enough to give both sides something from a hard opening day in Division 3.
Limerick: Brian Scanlon, Johnny McCarthy, Paudie Browne, Sean O'Dea, Stephen Cahill (0-1), Iain Corbett (Capt), Brian Fanning, Gearoid Hegarty, Darragh Treacy, Danny Neville, Pa Ranahan, Seanie Buckley (0-2), Sean McSweeney, Ian Ryan (0-9, 0-8F), Peter Nash (1-0).
Subs: Michael O'Donovan for Cahill (black card, 15 mins); Peter Nash for McSweeney (24); Donal O'Sullivan for Scanlon (HT); Tom Lee for Kelly (49); James Naughton for Treacy (62).
Tipperary: Ciarán Kenrick (Moyle Rovers), Colm O'Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers), Ciaran McDonald (Aherlow), Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule), John O'Callaghan (Ballyporeen), Robbie Kiely (Carbery Rangers), Alan Moloney (Rockwell Rovers, 0-2), Martin Dunne (Moyle Rovers), Niall O'Donovan (Arravale Rovers), Peter Acheson (Capt., Moyle Rovers 1-1), Brian Fox (Eire Og, Annacarty), Josh Keane (Golden/ Kilfeacle 1-0), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen, 0-4, 0-2F), Philip Austin (Borrisokane 0-2, 0-1F).
Subs: Kevin O'Halloran for O'Callaghan (46 mins); Billy Hewitt for Moloney (59); David Butler (Drom/Inch) for O'Donovan (68); Donagh Leahy (Arravale Rovers) for Dunne (70+1).
Ref: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).
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