Brian Fox put in another magnificent game for Tipperary in their win over Donegal.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 2
TIPPERARY 3-9 DONEGAL 0-13
Tipperary footballers put in a magnificent performance at Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Sunday afternoon last to stun Donegal and in the process turn the National League Division 2 table on its head.
The Ulster side came south with the Division’s only 100% record intact after two games but had to face the long journey back home empty-handed after Tipp’s storming final quarter showing.
Last year’s Division 1 side looked to be heading towards another victory when they led by 0-11 to 1-4 midway through the second half but thereafter Liam Kearns’ side took control to outscore their opponents by 2-5 to 0-2 in the final quarter. It was a comprehensive and fully deserved win in the end for the home side, their first of the campaign which takes them away from the basement of the division and into the mix.
The Premier got off to a dream start with a goal after 90 seconds by the hugely influential midfielder Steven O’Brien after being put through by his fellow midfielder Jack Kennedy. Playing against the elements in the first half this was a huge boost for the home side and they remained there or thereabouts for most of the first half because O’Brien’s strike.
With the strong wind at their backs Declan Bonner’s side slowly edged their way back in front by the 11th minute with points from Oisin Gallen, Ciaran Thompson, Niall O’Donnell and Michael Langan (1-0 to 0-4). Tipp then came more into the game with a pair of fine points by the lively Philip Austin, cancelled by Michael Langan’s second point and another from a free by Ciaran Thompson.
A Conor Sweeney free in the 19th minute levelled matters for Tipperary but parity was brief, Tipp made pay for two turnovers with a pair of points by Jamie Brennan, both at the end of fast-moving counter attacks. Donegal were very capable of doing damage if given opportunities.
A slick Donegal move was then pointed by Thompson to stretch the visitors advantage to three after 26 minutes (1-3 to 0-9).
The inspirational Brian Fox produced a rallying point for Tipp on the half hour, working in from a sideline ball he took himself, Fox jinxed and jived his way through Donegal’s defence to point. It was as good as you would see anywhere.
However, Donegal responded immediately and another incisive move ended with Tipp full-back John Meagher being penalised for a challenge on Hugh McFadden in the square. Michael O’Reilly, making his first start for Tipperary in place of the injured Evan Comerford, dived to his right to deny Jamie Brennan’s penalty and Tipp followers rose to cheer the Clonmel Commercials custodian.
While Oisin Gallen did go on to kick the half’s final point for a 0-10 to 1-4 advantage for Donegal, there was no doubting at the break the significance of young O’Reilly’s magnificent save from the spot kick.
Three points up at the interval, Donegal faced into the Killinan End for the second half and into a significant breeze too. They seemed content initially to play the slow game and had the ball untouched for the first 2 minutes and 18 seconds of the half before shooting wide. Possession would be the key it seemed.
Eventually the first score of the second half came 15 minutes in with a Michael Langan free extending the advantage for the visitors to four points. It was hard to see where Tipp were going to get the scores to take down the table toppers.
If luck wasn't going the way of Liam Kearns’ charges of late, they got a massive massive slice of it in the 53rd minute when a long range Liam McGrath free fell short on the line only for Hugh McFadden to let it bounce off his thigh and into the net. Suddenly at 2-4 to 0-11 Tipperary were somehow back in a game that looked to be beyond them up to then.
Oisin Gallen and the recently introduced Tipp sub Liam Boland traded nice points, soon followed by a Ciaran Thompson free on the hour mark which would turn out to be Donegal’s last of the day. Brian Fox then produced another superb point from 40 metres to keep the Tipp momentum going.
Then came Tipp’s third goal when a poor kick-out was gathered by Liam McGrath whose pass sent Liam Casey through to blast low beyond the errant Shaun Patton. Tipperary had hit the front with six minutes left on the clock. Casey followed his goal up with a point two minutes later after Steven O’Brien won another kick out with a high catch. Everything was going Tipp's way now it seemed.
Steven O'Brien bookended the Tipperary scoring today with their first goal and their last point. Both excellent efforts by the Ballina clubman.
Last week also they had goaled late to lead only to end up with a draw. It was a lesson well learned it seemed, this time Tipp were in the ‘No Surrender’ mode and over the remaining six minutes and four of added-time they bossed proceedings. Steven O’Brien fielded well at midfield to deliver a fine pass to Conor Sweeney to point and then with the last score of the game O’Brien worked hard to dispossess Brendan McCole and point from 35 metres for a welcome and comprehensive victory for the delighted and loyal Tipperary supporters in an improved attendance 1,403.
It was a magnificent victory for Tipperary and one few would have expected taking into account the injury list at present.
There were some powerful displays all-round when the chips were down all helping to bring about the defeat of Donegal.
Michael O’Reilly had a superb game between the posts after a few early shakey kick-outs, with Alan Campbell, John Meagher and Kevin Fahey putting in big shifts in defence. Steven O’Brien was immense all day, he took his early goal cooly, but towards the end he was a leader. Brian Fox, yet again, was everywhere and delivered two outstanding points, and there were best-of-the-league showings from Conor Sweeney and Philip Austin also, with Liam McGrath and Liam Casey, who took his goal well, also hard-working on a day when graft was needed in spades.
PS: It was only Tipp’s second league win over Donegal, the last a 1-10 to 0-10 win in Emly back in 1981, on a day to remember when ‘Burncourt’ Benny Conway had Tipperary’s crucial goal in Michael Frawley Country. Today was another great one for Tipperary also.
Scorers for Tipperary: Steven O’Brien 1-1, Liam Casey 1-1, Liam McGrath 1-0 (f), Philip Austin 0-2, Conor Sweeney 0-2 (0-1f), Brian Fox 0-2, Liam Boland 0-1.
Scorers for Donegal: Ciaran Thompson 0-4 (2f, 1 sideline), Oisin Gallen 0-3 (0-1f), Michael Langan 0-3 (0-1f), Jamie Brennan 0-2, Niall O’Donnell 0-1
Michael O’Reilly (Clonmel Commercials)
Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers)
John Meagher (Loughmore-Castleiney)
Emmett Moloney (Drom/Inch)
Kevin Fahey (Clonmel Commercials)
Dáire Brennan (Kilsheelan-Kilcash)
Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule)
Steven O’Brien (Ballina)
Jack Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials)
Philip Austin (Borrisokane)
Liam Casey (Cahir)
Brian Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill)
Kevin O’Halloran (Portroe)
Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen)
Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney)
Liam Boland (Moyle Rovers) for O’Halloran (51); Colm O’Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan) for Feehan (58); Dan O’Meara (Kiladangan) for Austin (74); Paddy Codd (Killenaule) for Fahey (75); Conal Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials) for Jack Kennedy (66)
Shaun Patton (St Eunans)
Eoghan Bán Gallagher (Killybegs)
Brendan McCole (St Nauls)
Tony McCleneghan (Moville)
Stephen McMenamin (Red Hughs Killygordan)
Caolan Ward (St Eunans)
Ryan McHugh (Kilcar)
Hugh McFadden (Killybegs)
Jason McGee (Cloughaneely)
Ciaran Thompson (Naomh Conaill)
Caolan McGonagle (Buncrana)
Michael Langan (St Michaels)
Niall O’Donnell (St Eunans)
Jamie Brennan (Bundoran)
Oisín Gallen (Sean MacCumhaills)
Subs: Martin McElhinney (St Michaels) for Gallen (65); Leo McLoone (Naomh Conaill) for McGee (45); Paul Brennan (Bundoran) for McMenamin (60).
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).