Clare 1-21 Tipperary 0-19
Two hard-earned but deserved league points were the reward for Clare in the opening round of the league against Tipperary at Cusack Park. Played in front of a crowd of 6,227, this game reprised the All-Ireland quarter-final pairing of last July when Tipp ran out 0-28 to 3-16 winners. Played on a good surface, yesterday’s game didn’t quite match up to the intensity of last summer’s clash but it did produce some good passages of play on a grey but relatively dry January afternoon.
Tipperary fielded a somewhat experimental side with only six of those who lost to Galway in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. Clare for their part had a much more familiar look to their starting line-up.
Clare elected to start with the wind at their backs and it proved to be a good call, as they led by 0-13 to 0-10 at half-time. Tipperary midfielder Ronan Maher opened the scoring with a point from play inside half a minute. Clare replied with a Tony Kelly point before David Reidy put the Banner in front with a well taken score after some good work by centre back David McInerney.
Jason Forde proved to be the Premier county's talisman on the day and he got the first of his 10 pointed frees in the fifth minute, to level matters at two apiece. The nip-and-tuck nature of the half was symbolised by the fact that the teams were level on no fewer than seven occasions. Clare, though, did use the wind to their advantage and picked off some fine scores from play whereas Tipp relied much on the free-taking of Forde. He sent over a 45-metre free in the 21st minute to put his team 0-8 to 0-7 ahead, but Clare rallied and points from John Conlon and the excellent Conor Malone restored their lead.
The sides were level again by the 27th minute but scores by Peter Duggan, Malone and David Reidy put daylight between them at the break.
Malone had his fourth point of the afternoon shortly after the restart but Tipperary kept nipping at their heels for the remainder of the contest. Reidy added two pointed frees to the Banner’s tally but Tipp scores by Ronan Maher, Forde (three), Seán Curran and a big free by Noel McGrath saw the teams level (0-17 each) once more.
The hosts then hit three unanswered scores in as many minutes through Reidy (two) and a superb Tony Kelly effort. Forde landed two more frees for the visitors and as the game entered three minutes of injury time, Clare had the slenderest of leads, 0-20 to 0-19.
And to the delight of the home crowd, Clare whistled up a storming finish. The referee punished Tipp defender Donagh Maher for a foul on Ian Galvin and the in-form Reidy slotted over the resultant free from close to the left sideline. Then in the dying moments, Clare's John Conlon held up a ball before slipping a clever pass to Reidy, who made no mistake and rattled Paul Maher's net to settle matters.
Clare joint manager Gerry O’Connor was delighted with the strong finish. “From our point of view, sometimes it can actually work to your advantage, playing against the wind,” he said of the second half. “Because you are forced to play the ball out through the lines and that worked very well for us. Tipperary hit a lot of ball in that last 10 or 15 minutes down on top of our half back line. Tony Kelly went back and won two vital puck-outs.
“We were clever in the way we built the play in the last 10 or 15 minutes and I think John Conlon going in full forward - he held up the ball really well and he picked out a brilliant pass to David Reidy for the goal.”
Clare: D Tuohy, J Browne, C Cleary, P O'Connor (Capt.), S Morey, D McInerney, D Fitzgerald, C Galvin (0-1), T Kelly (0-2), C Malone (0-4), J Conlon (0-2), D Reidy (1-8, 0-6f), S O'Donnell, P Duggan(0-4, 0-2f), C McGrath. Subs: P Collins for McGrath (h/t), I Galvin for Duggan (65 mins), N Deasy for Malone (67), G O'Connell for C Galvin (68).
Tipperary: Paul Maher, A Flynn, T Hamill, D Maher, S Kennedy, Padraic Maher (0-1), T Fox, C Barrett, R Maher (0-2), C Kenny, N McGrath (0-5, 0-1f), S Curran (0-1), G Browne, J Forde (0-10, all frees), Patrick Maher. Subs: J O'Dwyer for Fox (35 mins), M Breen for Kenny (45), J McGrath for Browne (60), D McCormack for Patrick Maher (66).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway)