Tipperary senior football manager Liam Kearns.
Liam Kearns' Tipperary senior football team re-discovered their footballing form on Saturday night when the Premier County beat Meath by eight points at Semple Stadium, Thurles.
Allianz National Football
League Division Two
Tipperary 2-15 Meath 1-10
Considering the landscape of division two this was a big game for both sides. And, they played like it. Indeed, this was an entertaining game which Tipperary deservedly won. It goes without saying, however, that the meagre attendance of 1,291 for this key contest was very disappointing.
For long stages of the opening half Tipperary struggled to contain Meath, but appeared to figure out their opponents in the second quarter. After fifteen minutes the sides were locked on 0-4 apiece, but Tipperary then out-scored Andy McEntee’s men 1-4 to 0-1 during the closing stages to take a significant six-point interval lead (1-8 to 0-5).
Meath rallied with three successive points immediately after the break, but Bill Maher discouraged the Leinster side with a terrific goal in the 46th minute - despite their genuineness you suspected that the Royal County were not capable of such attacking flair.
Please note that Conor Sweeney and Bill Maher was absolutely superb for Tipperary in this contest while the form of John Meagher is worthy of a mention - the Loughmore-Castleiney man looks a huge addition to Liam Kearns’ defense.
Next up for the Tipperary footballers is a meeting with Louth at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday, March 4th (throw-in 12.30pm) - Liam Kearns’ men will share the stage on that occasion with Michael Ryan’s hurlers who host Cork at 2.30pm.
Following that double header Tipperary are away to Down in Páirc Esler, Newry on Sunday, March 18th while on Sunday, March 25th Cavan will welcome the Premier County to Breffni Park, Cavan.
The division two league final is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 1st at Croke Park, Dublin while Tipp will face Waterford in a Munster Senior Football Championship quarter-final on May 19th - the winner of that clash will face Cork on June 2nd while the Munster final is fixed for June 23rd.
Josh Keane and Graham Reilly traded early points before Conor Sweeney set up Liam McGrath for the lead score in the fourth minute. Sweeney then pounced when Meath ‘keeper Andrew Colgan failed to deal with a common or garden variety delivery and the Premier County helped themselves to a 0-3 to 0-1 lead.
Pádraig McKeever (free) hit back from Meath before Tipperary created their first goal-scoring opportunity in the 11th minute - Michael Quinlivan picked out the enterprising support run of Robbie Kiely. The team captain had goal on his mind, but was frustrated by a foot block and Conor Sweeney converted the resultant placed ball (0-4 to 0-2).
Meath then enjoyed an encouraging period. In the 13th minute Seán Tobin played in Pádraig McKeever who was pulled down just before entering the box and McKeever tapped over a free to leave one between them before Tobin landed a left-footed point and tied the game (0-4 apiece) in the 15th minute.
In the final fifteen minutes of the opening half Tipperary shifted up a gear or three. A Conor Sweeney free in the 20th minute re-claimed the lead for the home side. Then, three minutes later, Michael Quinlivan played a one-two with an alert Bill Maher and belted over a right foot shot. John Meagher featured in a slick Tipperary attack which culminated in Conor Sweeney’s second point from play before Liam Casey landed a terrific long-range point in the 30th minute (0-8 0-4).
James McEntee hit back with a Meath point two minutes before the break, but Tipperary closed out the half in spectacular fashion - in the 36th minute Josh Keane found Conor Sweeney in the left corner-forward position; the Ballyporeen man tested Meath ‘keeper Andrew Colgan with a high diagonal ball and there was Michael Quinlivan to win the aerial battle and rifle home a sensational goal. The Quinlivan strike represented a bright moment on a freezing cold night at Semple Stadium, but, perhaps, the Tipperary management will have been most pleased by the disciplined tackling in defence which earned a turnover and preceded the goal which helped the Premier County into a 1-8 to 0-5 interval advantage.
A Pádraig McKeever free cut the Tipperary lead to five immediately after the break before points from James McEntee and Graham Reilly left three in it in the 38th minute (1-8 to 0-8).
Tipperary needed to pour cold water on this Meath rally and did so in the 46th minute when a sustained Premier County attack culminated when Michael Quinlivan picked out the blind side run of Bill Maher and the Kilsheelan-Kilcash man slid a glorious finish in under the despairing dive of ‘keeper Andrew Colgan (2-8 to 0-8).
A brace of Conor Sweeney frees then left eight in it with forty-nine minutes played (2-10 to 0-8) before Pádraig McKeever’s fifth free reduced the deficit faced by Meath to seven points with less than twenty minutes to play.
Steven O’Brien intercepted a Meath kick-out in the 56th minute before belting over a right-footed effort before Conor Sweeney added a point from play in the 61st minute (2-12 to 0-9).
In the 62nd minute Bryan Menton cracked home a Meath goal to reduce Tipperary’s lead to six points (2-12 to 1-9) and we dearly hoped that Liam Kearns’ men were not in the mood to cough up a significant lead (again).
In the 64th minute Liam Boland set up Conor Sweeney for a lovely point and the home side, thankfully, looked more than comfortable - Thomas O’Reilly did notch a point for Meath in the 69th minute, but it was far too little too late.
A Conor Sweeney free and a Seán Carey point from play brought the scoring to a conclusion.
Tipperary: Evan Comerford (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers), John Meagher (Loughmore-Castleiney), Shane O'Connell (Golden-Kilfeacle), Kevin Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), Robbie Kiely (Carbery Rangers, Cork, captain), Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule), Liam Casey (Cahir, 0-1), Steven O'Brien (Ballina, 0-1), Bill Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash, 1-0), Josh Keane (Golden-Kilfeacle, 0-1), Brian Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen, 0-9, 0-5 frees), Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials, 1-1), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-1). Subs: (HT) Paddy Codd (Killenaule) for Shane O’Connell, (61st) Liam Boland (Moyle Rovers) for Kevin Fahey, (67th) George Hannigan (Shannon Rovers) for Liam Casey, (70th) Seán Carey (Moyle Rovers, 0-1) for Liam McGrath.
Meath: Andrew Colgan, Séamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Dónal Keogan, Shane McEntee, Mickey Burke, Daniel O’Neill, Bryan Menton (1-0), Harry Rooney, James McEntee (0-2), Graham Reilly (0-1), Eamon Wallace, Seán Tobin (0-1), Pádraig McKeever (0-5, 0-5 frees), Cillian O’Sullivan. Subs: (28th) Brian Power for Daniel O’Neill, (34th) Bryan McMahon for Seán Tobin, (52nd) Dónal Lenihan for Cillian O’Sullivan, (58th) Adam Flanagan for Harry Rooney, (58th) Thomas O’Reilly (0-1) for Pádraig McKeever, (68th) Brian Conlon for Shane McEntee.
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh).
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