It may be an enthralling hurling season nationally but for Tipperary the year just drifts from drab to drabber. Our hopes that the U21s would lift our spirits were crushed by a raiding party from Clare at the Stadium midweek. Out-paced and out-played we failed to lower the Banner and now face into an autumn of reflection with the intermediates our sole survivors still chasing national honours.
Hopes were high heading into the Stadium on Wednesday evening especially after the emphatic nature of our semi-final disposal of Cork. Even with a large quota of the Clare seniors in action there was genuine optimism that we had a side with enough flair to do the business on home soil.
Alas many a Tipp head drooped in disbelief as the first half unfolded. A static, ponderous Tipperary was being outmanoeuvred by the sheer swerve and verve of a Clare outfit clearly singing from the Davy hymn sheet. Pacey and precise the Clare men were playing to a tempo we simply couldn’t match. Their work rate and link play was in sharp contrast to our individual efforts.
Jason Forde’s accuracy off frees kept us in tow before Peter Duggan’s overhead flick for the opening goal endorsed the adverse trend with goalie Mooney unwisely coming off his line. By break time the gap was six, a margin aided by a ridiculous call from an umpire on a late free. How a pair of umpires as well as a linesman and referee failed to see what was blatantly obvious to all in the Old Stand is baffling. Hawkeye needs to go countrywide.
Our failure to score from play in the first half reflected the poverty of our attack. In fairness matters did improve in the second half with Liam McGrath and Niall O’Meara stepping up considerably and substitute Colin O’Riordan adding a new dimension. Eventually we broke through for a goal when O’Meara fed Jason Forde and the ‘Mines man rammed home an unstoppable shot. Later he added a second from a penalty and we might have got a few more majors but for some timely blocks by the Clare defence as well as a referee who chose to ignore some blatant restraining of Liam McGrath.
Through it all though Clare continued to string together defence-splitting moves and their points kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely. They should have had a goal too before a prone Tomas Hamill somehow managed to scoop it off the line.
In the end there was no denying Clare’s superiority. Playing to Davy’s prescription, at times they ran us ragged with their pace and movement. From man of the match, David McInerney, at full back to the bouncy Cathal O’Connell at corner forward they had us stretched throughout. The Galvin-Kelly midfield partnership was another obstacle for Tipp as well as Podge Collins at half forward. The Banner is definitely flying at the moment.
There’s no doubt our substitutions improved matters in the second half, especially O’Riordan and John Meagher. Overall though it was a let-down night for Tipperary sending us into the autumn with plenty to ponder from a year of all round regression.
A parting comment on the game: most people agree that the pull down on Niall O’Meara’s helmet in the first half deserved a red card. Contrast that with the Pat Horgan sending off and you just wonder how so many referees are getting the big calls so spectacularly wrong this summer. And here’s another issue Croke Park is evading: if referees’ cards such as those delivered to Pat Horgan and Henry Shefflin can be rescinded then surely the reverse should also be done, namely, the upgrading of cards from yellow to red where a referee gets that wrong too?
Meanwhile the crowds flocked to Holycross on Friday evening for episode three of the Boherlahan/Golden relegation battle and they saw four red cards being flashed after a major melee early in the second half. It all took off as players trotted outfield following a Golden wide and at one stage twenty-eight of the thirty were involved in some capacity. When calm was restored referee Johnny McDonnell isolated two from each side and sent them packing.
The logic of all this, I’m afraid, escapes my simple mind especially since the initiators of the trouble went unpunished. How you could isolate four from a cluster of twenty-eight and deem them the biggest offenders while ignoring those who started the trouble is puzzling. And it’s particularly rough justice on Golden who now face Cashel in the final with a team depleted by suspensions and injuries.
Anyway Boherlahan took a marginal lead to half time and with the reduced numbers in the second half went on to build a six point lead at one stage before a late Golden goal led to a nervy finish. In the end full back John Dwyer went outfield to hit the clincher for the Mid side.
The story of the game was undoubtedly the performance of Conor Gleeson who came out of retirement to help his old club avoid the drop. Tipperary’s All Ireland captain of 1997 hit 1-3 from play and was the essential difference between these teams. Not bad for a forty-year old.
But of course it pales beside the late introduction of a man touching the half century in the West final on Saturday night. Twenty-seven years ago John Quinn wore the number thirteen jersey when Eire Og captured their last West title back in 1986 and here he was revelling in the moment once again as Annacarty and Donohill spectacularly unseated the seven-in-a-row-seeking Clonoulty\Rossmore.
It was an encore moment at the end of an exciting divisional final where Eire Og’s goals proved too much for record-seeking Clonoulty. A tight and swaying first half saw Eire Og start and finish strongly, Ronan O’Brien’s goal before half time a psychological tonic that gave them a three-point edge at the interval. They’d hit three more in the second half, O’Brien getting his second, Tom Fox and Eoin Kenned adding the others as Clonoulty came up well short of expectations.
It was a fine cohesive display from a very driven Eire Og side. The Fox brothers, Kevin and Brian at half back, were a major obstacle for the reigning champions, as was their cousin, Tom, at midfield and the O’Briens, Donal O’Dwyer and Eoin Kennedy in attack. Watch for them in the county series where, like last year, they seem well capable of a decent run.
By contrast Clonoulty looked well off the form of previous years, only John O’Keeffe delivering his customary consistency. Back to the drawing board I’m afraid.
That old clichéd drawing board will be busy in Loughmore and Castleiney too after their humbling by Seamus Callanan and Drom/Inch in the Mid decider. A tame opening quarter from the winners before Callanan and company struck for three devastating goals prior to the interval. Leading by fifteen at the interval it was effectively game over and the margin held to the very end.
The star performer was undoubtedly Callanan, leading many a fan to ponder why he can’t replicate such impact at county level. Loughmore had designated Eddie Connolly to police him but he wasn’t for taming on this occasion. This outcome will have endorsed Drom’s favouritism in the race for Dan Breen.
P.S. Show me the money! My piece last week about hurling money subsidising football has clearly irked a few. It’s an issue I will develop presently.