Tipperary 3-23 Clare 2-22
A memorable weekend’s hurling concluded in controversy at the LIT Gaelic Grounds on Sunday when an impressive looking Clare challenge was derailed by a contentious refereeing decision just after half-time.
Aidan McCarthy was sin-binned under the new rule on cynical fouling and a penalty awarded to Tipperary. That Jake Morris had been pulled down within the 20-metre line wasn’t in dispute but there were raised eyebrows at whether it deprived the Tipp man of a goal scoring opportunity, as the foul took place around five metres from the sideline with a defender covering the goal.
Clare had just extended their half-time lead to two 2-12 to 1-13 but Jason Forde’s penalty hit the net and in the 10 minutes of McCarthy’s absence Tipperary outscored their opponents 2-4 to 0-2.
The second goal proved that when your luck is out, it's out as seven minutes later Séamus Callanan mishit a shot under pressure from Conor Cleary, which deceived Eibhear Quilligan in the Clare goal. This made it 3-14 to 2-12 and the promising half-time position had been demolished.
Clare lost their composure, trying to retrieve the deficit and their wides' total shot up and effectively the match ran away from them. Their manager Brian Lohan was furious afterwards, attributing his team's defeat to the sin binning.
“I don’t know where the referee got his interpretation. I’d say (he was) the only man that saw a goal-scoring opportunity out of that. Aidan, I thought, went for the ball, mistimed the tackle but how he called it a penalty and sent one of our men off - just very frustrated with it.
“It gives me no pleasure; it gives anyone here no pleasure to see a referee booed off the field at the end of the game but it’s his own fault.
"Two-four to two points was the score in that period of time. Just very frustrated with it. Our lads don't deserve that. They trained hard, trained well, came down and gave their all and just so disgusted with that decision. It's not the first time that James Owens has been involved in a decision like that. Last year, David McInerney was sent off, James Owens was involved in that, just very frustrating."
Owens had been the linesman who drew referee Thomas Walsh’s attention to an incident that resulted in McInerney being dismissed.
It was easy to understand Lohan’s frustration because his team had built on the previous week’s defeat of Waterford and from the start they hurled with purpose and in a dramatic turnaround for a side that had hit 22 wides, great accuracy, recording just two wides in the first half even if three further attempts had dropped short.
Scoring ran tit-for-tat at a frantic pace with the first free not awarded until the ninth minute. Ian Galvin was an early stand-out, running onto a long ball from Paul Flanagan, which had overshot Aron Shanagher and picking up for a cool finish in the sixth minute.
In the space of four minutes, Galvin scored 1-2 and by the 11th minute, Clare had a healthy lead of 1-7 to 0-4. Tipp were bewildered by the movement and penetration of the opposing attack. Only Tony Kelly was a bit subdued but so much else was happening that there was little respite for defenders.
Eventually they got to grips with the threat and began to rebuild their challenge, helped by Michael Breen’s ground stroke for a goal, set up by Forde breaking the ball into his path.
Clare stayed with them. Ryan Taylor and McCarthy were energetic and accurate and counteracted John O’Dwyer with points. On the stroke of half-time, Kelly scored a goal to put his team up 2-11 to 1-13.
If he executed the goal with style - one touch and bang! - David Reidy had the copyright, just beating Cathal Barrett to the ball as he rushed out of defence and reverse flicking it to the now unmarked Kelly.
It was now a more serious challenge than Tipperary had probably expected and although Forde rose to the challenge, as did Dan McCormack at centrefield and an ultimately solid defence, both the McGraths Noel and John weren’t at their best and the latter’s form must be a concern for manager Liam Sheedy.
Their accuracy disintegrated by the end of the match but it had already been won in the third quarter. Séamus Callanan may have been lucky with his goal but his distribution was high-quality in bringing others into the attack.
Sheedy said afterwards that playing against the breeze had been easier for his forwards.
“They got the goal just before half-time, again (we were) a point down and they were playing with all the breeze. The character of the dressing-room was going to be tested in that second-half. I just couldn’t be more pleased with the reaction we got from the group. Some of our hurling I thought was as good as we’ve ever played.
“The bench came in and really delivered. Look we were probably sucking for air in the last 10 or 15 minutes, Clare came back and got on top again and pushed us tight but overall a good performance. We knew Clare were going to be formidable opposition and we’re just delighted to be over the line.”
He naturally had a different view of the McCarthy incident, saying that defenders were at risk inside 20 metres and that the rule would trigger plenty of arguments before the season was out.
“Look we got the break today, we got the penalty and no better man than Jason Forde to stand up and put it in the back of the net.
“In fairness, I think the referees over the weekend have done a fine job overall in officiating matches. This game is moving at pace, it’s not an easy thing to do. And there’s great credit due to anyone who steps out into the middle of it.”
TIPPERARY: 1. B Hogan; 2. C Barrett, 3. P Maher, 4. B Heffernan; 5. B Maher, 6. S Kennedy, 7. R Maher (0-1); 8. N McGrath, 12. D McCormack (0-2); 9. M Breen (1-1), 13. J O'Dwyer (0-4), 15. J Morris (0-3); 11. J McGrath, 14. S Callanan (1-1), 10. J Forde (1-8, 1-0 penalty, 0-3 frees, one sideline and one '65'). Subs: 20. W Connors (0-1) for J McGrath (half-time), 21. A Flynn (0-2) for N McGrath (48 mins), 26. D Quirke for O'Dwyer (66 mins).
CLARE: 1. E Quilligan; 2. R Hayes (0-1), 3. C Cleary, 4. P Flanagan; 5. D Ryan, 6. J Conlon (capt; 0-1), 7. P Fitzpatrick; 8. C Galvin (0-1), 9. C Malone (0-2); 15. R Taylor (0-2), 11. T Kelly (1-9, 0-8 frees), 12. A McCarthy (0-1); 10. A Shanagher (0-1), 14. I Galvin (1-3), 13. D Reidy (0-1). Subs: 18. D McInerney for Fitzpatrick (54 mins),
Subs: 22. D Fitzgerald for (58 mins), 19. M Rodgers for (61 mins), 20. D McMahon for (67 mins), 25. S Golden for (71 mins).
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).