Ronan Maher makes the difference in Tipp escape
Allianz NHL Div 1A: Tipperary 1-19 Dublin 0-19
MARTIN BREHENY – PUBLISHED 24 MARCH 2014 02:30 AM Irish INDEPENDENT
The gods chose to mock Dublin and reward Tipperary for their persistence in a Semple Stadium shootout that left the counties heading in very different directions.
O’Shea still chasing ‘rhythm’ in shadow of old maestros
Tipperary fitted the stability apparatus in a season that had lurched unsteadily over recent weeks and, in the process, despatched Dublin into a second 1A relegation play-off in three seasons.
As Tipperary celebrated a victory that did just enough to book a quarter-final clash with Cork next Sunday, Dublin were left cursing their bad luck after being edged out of the top four on the tightest of calls.
Level with Tipperary on four points and also equal on scoring difference, Dublin lost out on the ‘score for’ column, coming in 17 points behind Eamon O’Shea’s relieved crew.
A point by sub Ronan Maher in the 72nd minute gave Tipperary the required advantage, but Dublin had a late opportunity to cut the margin to two points, which would have been enough to book a quarter-final slot, only to have sub Niall McMorrow drop his shot short of goal from 45 metres.
Whether he mis-hit the ball or opted to drop it short was unclear but, either way, it was a let-off for Tipperary as a Dublin point would have earned them a fourth-place finish.
McMorrow’s attempt was met with delight among the Tipperary supporters in a crowd of 4,768 on a day which they must have thought was headed for more misery when Dublin’s sprint start took them six points clear after 21 minutes.
Dublin’s early dominance was built on a variety of platforms, including slicker touch, quicker reactions and a high-tempo work rate. Dublin thrived tactically too, with Alan McCrabbe operating intelligently in open spaces all over the field. His colleagues picked him out with impressive regularity, adding to the pressure on a Tipperary defence whose confidence had to be fragile after a series of big giveaways in recent weeks.
Leading by 0-9 to 0-3 after 21 minutes, Dublin had a great chance to move nine points clear when Ryan O’Dwyer bore down on goal. However, he took a step too many and was whistled back, much to the relief of the Tipperary defence.
That let-off had an energising effect on Tipperary, who outscored Dublin by 0-6 to 0-1 from then until half-time. Seamus Callanan – both from frees and open play – was very much Tipperary’s main reference point in an attack that gradually grew in confidence as they cut the deficit to a single point (0-10 to 0-9) just before the break.
With the wind behind them in the second half, Tipperary appeared well set to press on but, as had happened in the first half, they started slowly, conceding three points in the opening six minutes.
It was character-testing time for Tipperary and, to their credit, the response was defiant and efficient.
It sparked to life in the 42nd minute when ‘Bonner’ Maher poked the ball to the Dublin net after goalkeeper Gary Maguire had made an outstanding save from Callanan.
It was sweet revenge for Maher, who had been been denied a first-half goal when Maguire made an excellent stop from a close-range drive. A McCrabbe free put Dublin two points ahead (0-14 to 1-9) after 44 minutes but the momentum swung very much Tipperary’s way over the next 10 minutes, during which they hit 0-6, countered only by a Michael Carton.
Conscious, no doubt, of the scoring difference reality, Dublin went for goal from a 20-metre free in the 56th minute but Paul Ryan (on as a blood sub for Conal Keaney) had his effort saved. It was a deflating moment for Dublin but they battled back with real courage, pointing twice.
However, Callanan quickly restored the three-point advantage from frees, but Dublin twice pared it back to two in the closing minutes before Ronan Maher’s priceless point steered Tipperary into the quarter-finals.
It was all so desperately disappointing for Dublin. And while they will regret some missed chances yesterday, even more damaging was their first-round hammering by Galway and a failure to fully exploit their advantages over Clare in the second round. They beat the All-Ireland champions by six points but Anthony Daly remarked afterwards that they should have improved their scoring difference by significantly more and expressed concerns that it might come back to haunt them later on. Prophetic words indeed.
It was also Dublin’s bad luck that they had three away games. Thirteen of 15 games in the group were won by the home team, with Clare’s win over Tipperary in Thurles the only away success, while Galway took a point out of Cusack Park yesterday.
The mood in Tipperary will be much lighter after a win which could ignite their season. Apart from the opening quarter when they struggled to close down the opposition, they were much more compact and aggressive than in previous weeks.
Conor O’Mahony brought a calming influence at full-back in front of goalkeeper Darragh Egan, who was rarely tested against a Dublin team that favoured long-range shooting, usually with a high degree of accuracy.
Kieran Bergin and Shane McGrath were steady at midfield, while Callanan, Noel McGrath and John O’Dwyer impressed in attack. Callanan was on his game from the start while McGrath scored three points in the third quarter and continued to be a creative presence all the way to the end.
McGrath’s improvement presented Dublin with a problem they never quite solved on a day which took them through so many emotions before settling on a depressing note with a relegation play-off date.
They lost to Waterford a few weeks ago but are now likely to be in better frame of mind than the Deise men, who were demolished by Kilkenny. For while it was extremely disappointing for Dublin to be edged out in such a close call, there was a lot to admire about much of their game.
Scorers – Tipperary: S Callanan 0-11 (8fs), N McGrath 0-3, P Maher 1-0, J O’Dwyer 0-2, M Cahill, K Bergin, R Maher 0-1 each.
Dublin: A McCrabbe 0-10 (8fs), R O’Dwyer, D Sutcliffe 0-3 each, M Carton 0-2, J Boland 0-1.
Tipperary – D Egan 6; P Stapleton 7, C O’Mahony 8, C Barrett 7; M Cahill 7, B Maher 7, C O’Brien 7; K Bergin 7, S McGrath 7; J O’Dwyer 7, N McGrath 8, P Murphy 5; J Forde 6, S Callanan 9, P Maher 7. Subs: D Maher 7 for Murphy (h-t), J Barry 7 for Cahill (38), E Kelly 6 for Maher (52), R Maher 7 for S McGrath (62), M Heffernan for Forde (69).
Dublin – G Maguire 8; N Corcoran 7, P Kelly 7, C O’Callaghan 6; M Carton 7, L Rushe 6, S Durkin 6; J Boland 7, J McCaffrey 6; R O’Dwyer 7, A McCrabbe 8, C Keaney 7; C Cronin 5, D Sutcliffe 7, D O’Callaghan 6. Subs: M Schutte 6 for Cronin (45), N McMorrow 6 for O’Callaghan (55), P Ryan 6 for O’Callaghan (62).
Ref – B Gavin (Offaly)
Draw to decide home quarter-final venues
As Wexford prepare to host Kilkenny at Wexford Park in the Allianz NHLquarter-final next Sunday, the other six counties will learn their fate today when the draw for home venues takes place.
Quarter-finalists who had only two of five games at home in the group stages were entitled to stage a game if they were paired with opposition who hosted three games, but that arrangement only held good in the case of Wexford v Kilkenny.
The other three pairings require draws as both teams had the same home/away sequence in the group games. A draw will also be required in the 1A relegation play-off as both Dublin and Waterford had two home and three away games.
The fixtures for the closing stages of the league are as follows:
Division 1 quarter-finals
Wexford v Kilkenny, Wexford Park; Cork v Tipperary (TBA); Clare v Laois (TBA); Galway v Limerick (TBA)
1A: Dublin v Waterford (TBA). 1B: Antrim v Offaly, Ballycastle. 2B: Armagh v Fingal.
SATURDAY, April 5
Finals – Div 2A: Carlow v Kerry. 2B: Down v Wicklow. 3A: Donegal v Roscommon. 3B: Leitrim v Tyrone.
SUNDAY, April 13
Division 1B/2A promotion/relegation play-off: Antrim/Offaly v Carlow/Kerry.
SUNDAY, April 20
Division 1 semi-finals
Clare/ Laois v Cork/Tipperary; Wexford/Kilkenny v Galway/Limerick.