GAELIC FOOTBALL

Liam McGrath's late late free rescues point for Tipperary footballers

Jeddy Walsh

Reporter:

Jeddy Walsh

Email:

jeddy.walsh@nationalist.ie

National Football League Division 2

TIPPERARY 2-5  FERMANAGH 2-5

A cooly converted free in the fifth minute of time added-on by Liam McGrath rescued a point for Tipperary’s footballers against Fermanagh at Semple Stadium, Thurles, this afternoon.

Just when it seemed all was lost for the home side, the Loughmore/Castleiney clubman took on the responsibility of the 40 metres free and with his right foot earned Tipperary their first point of this year’s Division 2 campaign.

Welcome as that equaliser was, this was a game Tipp should have been able to close out especially after hitting the front in the 70th minute when Brian Fox’s second goal of the day put his side two clear going into overtime.

But it wasn’t to be as Fermanagh were thrown a lifeline a minute later when a good move through the Tipp defence gave Aidan Breen an opportunity to shoot for goal. John Meagher’s block on that effort was adjudged illegal by the referee – after consulting with his umpires – and from the resultant spot kick Sean Quigley sent subsitute Tipp goalkeeper Michael O’Reilly the wrong way.

Now the Lakesiders had the narrowest of advantages as the clocked ticked down, but only briefly before the All-Ireland minor winning captain of 2011, Liam McGrath, saved his side’s skins with his equalising free.

How precious or costly that point won or that point lost will be before this League is over, we will have to wait and see, but Liam Kearns’ side should never have found themselves hanging on by their nails at the death.

A fortuitous Brian Fox goal in the sixth minute, when the Fermanagh keeper made a mess of what should have been a bread-and-butter save, gave Tipp a headstart in what was a woefully low-scoring first half. But they wouldn’t score again for another 25 minutes, when wing-back Kevin Fahey pointed after a slow build-up in play. Just two scores in the entire first half tells its own story.

Between those two scores Fermanagh had twice replied in a half when 14 defenders inside their own 45 line was a common sight. But perhaps the most notable moment of the half came in the 28th minute when a Tipperary turnover caught the Ulster defence on the hop. The quick counter attack put two Tippmen through on goal but Liam Boland’s low effort was saved; perhaps a pass to Liam McGrath might have been a better option for the Moyle Rovers player.

Tipp had edged 1-3 to 0-3 ahead by the 44th minute. An early second half free by Sean Quigley for Fermanagh was answered with two fine points from Philip Austin and Liam Casey. 

The Premier then suffered a setback when Steven O’Brien was very unfortunate to be black carded after tripping awkwardly on an advancing Fermanagh player, all the harsher perhaps when a few minutes earlier Garvan Jones had gotten away with a blatant pull-back on Tipp’s Jack Kennedy as he headed for goal.

In the 52nd minute Tipp managed to cut through the Fermanagh defence, something they weren’t having much success with all day. A move worked through Kevin O’Halloran, Jack Kennedy and  Kevin Fahey put Philip Austin in goal scoring territory, but the Borrisokane man went for another pass to Kevin Fahey. It was to prove one pass too many though, the Commercials man unable to get good contact with the goal at his mercy. It was a miss Tipp would greatly regret.

Despite this and just when it looked as if they might be able to hold out Fermanagh, the Ulster side struck with a goal of their own in the 58th minute. A move linking Aidan Breen and Ultan Kelm was finished superbly by Conal Jones past Evan Comerford to tie the scores at 1-3 each.

A point from a mark by Conor Sweeney was cancelled out by a good effort from Sean Quigley before Rory Gallagher’s side hit the front for the first time in the 68th minute with a fisted point from Ciaran Corrigan.

Then came Brian Fox’s second goal of the day, the Eire Og Annacarty man finishing a move begun by Liam Casey and worked through Liam McGrath. With only the four minutes added-time left to play and two points to the good it looked promising for Tipp. Unfortunately the late Fermanagh penalty reversed that advantage before Liam McGrath stepped up to bring the day’s proceedings to a close at 2-5 apiece.

Hard to know what way to look at the point at the end of the day though.