Clare make late run to surge to league semi-finals
Tipp again fail to make winningposition count in one point loss at Cusack Park
Clare’s David Reidy tackled by Seamus Callanan of Tipperary during their Allianz League clash. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Clare 2-13 Tipperary 0-18
The ground doesn’t really shake at AHL quarter-finals but Sunday afternoon in Cusack Park, Ennis came close, as the home side rallied in the final minutes to beat Tipperary by a point in an ultimately gripping contest.
The key score was a goal by replacement Aaron Shanagher, who galloped through the defence from about 45 metres out, drew a free and an advantage, kept going until he could see the whites of goalkeeper Darragh Mooney’s eyes and batted the ball into the net.
This put Clare a point in front, 2-12 to 0-17 and in the ensuing adrenalin rush John Conlon drove over the score that was the difference, as Pádraic Maher’s reply going into injury-time was all Tipp could muster and when Jason Forde off a long-range free and in the dying seconds Noel McGrath went for an equaliser, their efforts drifted wide.
Yet again this was a league match Tipperary looked to have won only to surrender the initiative at the death.
Going into the match, four of the most recent matches between Division One A and One B teams had been won by the county from the lower division. The meeting of Clare and Tipperary appeared to offer further possibilities for the underdog but injury to key Clare players and the visitors’ experience at the top level suggested the natural order would hold.
Clare though played with energy when the match needed to be won at the end and a good start had left them sufficiently well placed to be able to execute the late recovery.
Conlon’s goal in the 19th minute, getting in behind the defence onto Aaron Cunningham’s pass, put early distance between the sides and was followed by two points in little over a minute but for all Clare’s merits, Tipperary had a hand in their own downfall – 18 wides, 11 in the second half bearing the most eloquent testimony to this.
Early on their main malfunction was in the usually reliable area of free taking. Callanan missed three - two of them entirely straightforward - whereas O’Dwyer’s three wides included two from the placed ball.
It was Callanan’s first start of the campaign but marked by Patrick O’Connor, with Cian Dillon sweeping, the Drom and Inch hurler was out of sorts, as was his free taking colleague, O’Dwyer. Neither scored from play and it was left to John McGrath to do the heavy lifting on the scoreboard, with six points from play.
The most impressive period for Tipp was probably the second quarter when they reduced a six-point deficit to a more manageable two before half-time, 0-8 to 1-7, and chased it down in the second half.
They couldn’t get away from Clare, though, and Conor McGrath and Darach Honan both provided immediate ripostes to Tipperary scores as the half progressed.
Forde’s 62nd-minute point put Tipp three clear, 0-17 to 1-11, but another replacement Cathal O’Connell pointed a free for Clare to set the stage for Shanagher’s critical goal.
Clare will now play Kilkenny in the semi-finals the weekend after next whereas Tipperary have plenty of thinking to do before they face Cork in the Muntsre championship on 22nd May.
Clare: P Kelly; P Flanagan, P O’Connor, C O’Doherty; C Cleary, C Ryan, B Bugler; D Reidy, C Galvin (0-2); A Cunningham, B Duggan (0-3, two frees), C McGrath (0-2); D Honan (0-3), J Conlon (1-1), C Dillon. Subs: G O’Connell for O’Doherty (31 mins), C O’Connell (0-2, frees) for Duggan (42 mins), Colin Ryan for Galvin (52 mins), A Shanagher (1-0) for Cunningham (54 mins), D Fitzgerald for Reidy (61 mins).
Tipperary: D Mooney; C Barrett, J Barry, C O’Brien; B Heffernan, R Maher (0-1), P Maher (0-2); B Maher (capt.), M Breen (0-2); N McGrath (0-1), D McCormack, N O’Meara; J O’Dwyer (0-3, frees), S Callanan, (0-2, frees), J McGrath (0-6). Subs: K Bergin for O’Meara (half-time), J Forde (0-1) for Callanan (51 mins), T Hamill for O’Brien (59 mins), G Ryan for McCormack (65 mins), S O’Brien for O’Dwyer (70 mins).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).