Tipperary finish a memorable campaign with silverware

Conor Sweeney leads from the front as Tipp secure Division 3 title

The Tipperary players celebrate after their win over Louth in the Division 3 final. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

The Tipperary players celebrate after their win over Louth in the Division 3 final. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Tipperary 3-19 Louth 0-19

Liam Kearns and his Tipperary footballers made a happy return to Croke Park on Saturday evening - as Conor Sweeney bagged 2-5 to help clinch Allianz Football League Division 3 honours.

Tipp returned to GAA HQ for the first time since last year’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final loss to Mayo, and turned in a big second half performance.

Sweeney, an All-Star nominee last year, netted in the 47th minute and again in the eighth minute of stoppage time, as Tipp won a national title for the first time since landing the Division 4 crown against Clare in 2014.

All-Star Michael Quinlivan was handed the man-of-the-match award but looked almost sheepish accepting it, after Sweeney led the way in the scoring stakes.

This win was sweet revenge for defeat to Louth in Thurles a fortnight ago, a win that ensured Division 2 football for the Wee County and a setback that looked to have blown a fatal hole in Tipp’s promotion hopes.

But after a stunning victory in Armagh last weekend, Tipp finished a memorable campaign with silverware.

In the first half, a devastating scoring burst turned this game on its head, Tipp hitting 1-5 without reply approaching half-time. Louth had been performing well up to that point and were 0-7 to 0-4 clear before Tipp opened up.

Sweeney and Kevin O’Halloran put over frees before Jack Kennedy and Sweeney pointed from play, moving Tipp into the lead for the first time in the game, 0-8 to 0-7.

The goal arrived on the half hour mark, Sweeney the creator with an excellent hand-pass that found Liam Casey in behind the Louth cover. The former U-21 midfield star held his nerve and crashed a shot past Craig Lynch.

Alan Campbell surged forward for a Tipperary point and the damage had been done in a five-minute spell.

Louth did steady before half-time as the sides shared the remaining four points and the Wee County did have the breeze at their backs in the second half, trailing by 0-9 to 1-11 as play resumed.

They started well, too, as cutting Tipp’s lead back to just two points, 1-12 to 0-13.

But the winners regrouped and the second goal was a knife in Louth’s hearts, coming in the 47th minute. It was a wholly avoidable concession from Louth’s viewpoint, as Bevan Duffy was turned over as he attempted to clear, allowing Sweeney to pounce.

Louth hung in grimly and while they did cut the margin back to four points down the home straight, Tipp made the game safe on the counter-attack in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

Sub Liam McGrath gathered possession inside the Louth half and picked out Sweeney, all on his own on the opposition’s 20 metre line. Sweeney turned inside a back-pedalling defender and slotted past Lynch to put the icing on the Tipperary cake.

Tipperary: E Comerford; A Campbell (0-1), P Codd, W Connors; R Kiely (0-1), S O’Connell, B Maher; L Casey (1-1), J Kennedy (0-2); J Keane (0-1), K O’Halloran (0-3, 2f), B Fox; C Sweeney (2-5, 0-3f), M Quinlivan (0-3, 2f), E Moloney. Subs: G Hannigan for Moloney (52), LBoland (0-1) for O’Halloran (61), C O’Shaughnessy for Connors (64), A Moloney for Kennedy (66), L McGrath (0-1) for Keane (70+1), J Hennessy for Quinlivan (70+6).

Louth: C Lynch; P Rath, P Reilly, A Williams; D Maguire (0-1), J Bingham, J Stewart; T Durnin (0-3), A McDonnell (0-1); D Byrne (0-2, 1f), P Smith (0-2), B Duffy (0-1); A Reid, E O’Connor (0-1), R Burns (0-5, 4f). Subs: K Murphy for Reilly (h.t.), R Moore for Reid (45), J McEneaney (0-3f) for O’Connor (48), G McSorley for Burns (57), C McKeever for Durnin (64), J Califf for Byrne (70).

Referee: A O’Connor (Wicklow)

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