SPORT

14 man Tipp dig deep in exciting league opener with Down

Battling Tipperary earn deserved draw

Jeddy Walsh

Reporter:

Jeddy Walsh

Email:

jeddy.walsh@nationalist.ie

Tipperary v Down

Bill Maher's attempt at a second half goal is blocked by Down keeper Rory Burns.

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 3


TIPPERARY 0-10 DOWN 0-10


A battling 14-man Tipperary were fully deserving of a share of the spoils with Down in the opening round of the National Football League Division 3 at Clonmel Sportsfield this afternoon.


When reduced to 14 men just five minutes into the second half it seemed the Premier County were in big trouble. At that juncture Tipp led by just a point, and with the extra man and a slight breeze favouring Down, the odds seemed stacked in favour of the Mournemen. However, David Power’s side put in a tremendous effort over the remaining half hour and might even have sneaked an unlikely win with a little more composure in front of goals.


If anything it seemed that Tipp improved when reduced to 14 men after Jack Kennedy’s yellow card in the 41st minute (he was blackcarded in the first half, which seemed harsh enough) and they gallantly took the game to the visitors. Tipp were two points to the good (0-10 to 0-8) by the 56th minute after Conor Sweeney put over a mark, but thereafter they were not to score again in 18 minutes of football.


In what was an exciting finish to a very enjoyable game both sides had opportunities to claim an opening victory but in the end the draw was the fairest result and both managers were happy to take it. 


A fairly lacklustre opening quarter had Down leading 0-2 to 0-1, with all three points coming from frees - Donal O’Hare (2 for Down) and Conor Sweeney replying for the hosts. In that period Down looked the livelier and had a couple of half chances at goal, Cory Quinn almost getting in around the Tipp keeper Evan Comerford in the eighth minute.


Tipp midfielder Jack Kennedy was then blackcarded in the 16th minute and Down utilised that numerical advantage to go 0-4 to 0-1 up following two excellent points from Cory Quinn and Barry O’Hagan. 


Swopped frees from Sweeney and O’Hare left the Mournemen still three to the good after 27 minutes before Tipperary finished the half strongly with four unanswered points to lead by one at the break. 


Goalkeeper Evan Comerford slotted over a free in the 29th minute followed by a fine move that saw Steven O’Brien score Tipp’s first from play after 33 minutes. A point from a Liam Boland 'mark' was quickly followed by a well-taken point from Conor Sweeney just on the half-time whistle to send Tipp to the dressingrooms well pleased with their revival.

Tipperary's Steven O'Brien and Down's Sean Dornan contesting a kick-out in the National Football League Division 3 game at Clonmel Sportsfield this afternoon.


Within 90 seconds of the re-start the Down goalkeeper Rory Burns kicked a 45 to level matters for the third time before local clubman Jack Kennedy replied with a sweet point to edge his side ahead again.


However it was to be Kennedy’s last real action as just minutes later Wicklow referee Anthony Nolan brandished a yellow card and added to his first half black card caution Tipp were now down to 14 men and left with a huge task.


Points from Owen McCabe and Pat Havern, separated by a Conor Sweeney free saw the sides still all-square at the three-quarters stage. On a soft pitch it was always going to be a case of fitness prevailing and credit to the home team they never wilted as Down tried everything to pull them apart.


Keeper Evan Comerford kicked his second free of the day in the 52nd minute and when Conor Sweeney added a mark four minutes later David Power’s charges were leading by two and suddenly looking likely winners.


Paddy Tally’s side though were determined to make the long journey from Ulster reap some reward and they inched closer with Rory Burns’ second 45 seven minutes from time. The game’s final score - which tied things up for the sixth time - came in the 64th minute when a long ball in from the pacey Liam Kerr was fielded by McCabe and while for a second a goal looked on the young corner forward accepted the point.


Another nine minutes of actual playing time followed but neither side managed a winner, truth be told Down probably had the better chances. In what was the first National Football League game in Clonmel in almost four years both sets of supporters went home reasonably happy with the fairest result.

FOOTNOTE: Just as Liam Kearns' reign as Tipperary manager began in Division 3 in 2016 with a draw away to Limerick in Kilmallock, so too does that of his successor David Power. Very unusually Tipp recorded three draws in that 7-game campaign, finishing level also away to Westmeath and away to Sligo. It was in that same campaign that Tipperary played their last home game in Clonmel, losing heavily to Kildare. At least last Sunday's result was much more positive than that March day four years ago.

FOOTNOTE: A word of congratulations also to the host club Clonmel Commercials, under chairman Anthony O'Dwyer,  who pulled out all the stops on Sunday last for the visit of Down to Clonmel Sportsfield.

Everything was very well organised, parking, stewardship, public address, Amhrán na bhFiann, etc., and great to see all the flags flying over the Western Road venue to welcome Down to the county capital. The welcome hospitality at half-time towards journalists who had made the long trip down from Ulster was well appreciated. And the sun came out shining too.

So 'bualadh bos' to Na Trachtálaithe, and hopefully we won't have to wait another four years for a National Football League game at Clonmel Sportsfield.


TIPPERARY:

Evan Comerford (Kilsheelan/Kilcash, 0-2), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers), John Meagher (Loughmore/Castleiney), Colm O’Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan), Emmet Moloney (Drom & Inch), Robbie Kiely (Carbery Rangers), Dáire Brennan (Kilsheelan/Kilcash), Steven O’Brien (Ballina, 0-1), Conal Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials), Bill Maher (Kilsheelan/Kilcash), Jack Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials, 0-1), Kevin Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), Liam Boland (Moyle Rovers, 0-1* Mark), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen, 0-5, 0-3F, 0-1*Mark), Brian Fox (Eire Og, Annacarty).

Subs: Kevin O’Halloran (Portroe) for Fahey (HT), Jason Lonergan (Clonmel Commercials) for Boland (58); Tommy Nolan for Conal Kennedy (65); Colman Kennedy for Maher (66).

DOWN:

Rory Burns (0-2, 45x2), Peter Fegan, Kevin McKernan, Ryan McAleenan, Gerard Collins, Darren O’Hagan, Shane Annett, Conor Maginn, Sean Dornan, Barry O’Hagan (0-1), Conor Poland, Daniel Guinness, Owen McCabe (0-2), Donal O’Hare (0-3F), Cory Quinn (0-1).

Subs: Pat Havern (0-1) for Dornan (HT); Liam Kerr for Maginn (42 mins); Niall Donnelly for Poland (47); Ross McGarry for Guinness (52); Johnny Flynn for B. O’Hagan (68).


Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).