Tipperary’s sucker-punch goals bring Wexford’s run to an end

John and Noel McGrath grab two goals apiece at Nowlan Park

Tipperary 5-18 Wexford 1-19

This was a game for a while. Until it wasn’t. Wexford gave Tipperary their fill of it up until the hour mark and were only two points down with the wind behind them heading into the endgame. That they ended up losing by 11 says everything about the array of scoring power at Tipperary’s disposal.

The killer for Wexford was that they were well in touch in general play but sucker-punch goals cost them dear. John McGrath had one in the net as early as the sixth minute after corner back James Breen failed to deal with a regulation pick-up 30 metres from goal. The ball skittered under his stick, McGrath pounced and went on to finish with customary ruthlessness.

The second Tipp goal was just as avoidable from a Wexford point of view, although this time the crucial error wasn’t theirs so much as the referee’s. Again, Breen was involved but was unlucky this time not to be awarded a free out by Diarmuid Kirwan who seemed an awfully long way from the action in the Wexford corner back position.


Breen was fouled by Noel McGrath in possession, John McGrath nipped in to flick the ball away, Niall O’Meara handpassed to Noel McGrath, who had drifted into space in front of goal and from there it was an easy finish.

The goal sent Davy Fitzgerald into a frenzy, the Wexford manager striding out to the middle of the pitch to remonstrate with referee Kirwan. The Cork whistler waved him away and on his way back to the sideline, Fitzgerald bumped shoulders with Tipp players Jason Forde and Niall O'Meara. The smoke wasn't overly long clearing but it was all pretty unedifying nonetheless.

That second goal made it 2-2 to 0-2 after 18 minutes and it was a measure of Wexford’s intent that they outscored Tipp for the rest of the half even though they were playing into a stiff wind. The score at the break was 2-6 to 0-8 and with the breeze to come, Wexford’s day had plenty to recommend it.

They plugged on through the second half and looked to have Tipp in their sights entering the final quarter. David Redmond and Lee Chin dominated around the middle and when Chin sliced the posts from the out on the left sideline on 57 minutes, Wexford had it back to two points, 2-12 to 0-16.

But then Tipp detonated on them. The McGrath brothers filled their boots with another goal apiece, first John followed two minutes later by Noel. Brendan Maher ran in another five minutes after that, meaning that Tipp had turned a two-point margin into 14 in the space of just nine minutes.

Only Tipperary can do that to you. For all of Wexford’s gumption, they have nothing to compare with that firepower. It’s fair to say nobody does.

TIPPERARY: 1 D Gleeson; 4 M Cahill, 3 J Barry, 2 C Barrett; 5 S Kennedy, 6 R Maher, 7 P Maher (capt; 0-1); 8 B Maher (1-2), 9 J Forde (0-2); 10 D McCormack, 11 N O'Meara, 12 S O'Brien; 13 N McGrath (2-2), 14 J McGrath (2-2), 15 S Callanan (0-3, one 65).

Subs: 18 M Breen (0-4) for O'Meara (half-time), 24 J O'Dwyer (0-1) for O'Brien (48 mins), 26 D Quinn (0-1) for Forde (66 mins), 21 T Hamill for Barry (68 mins), 22 B Heffernan for Kennedy (68)

WEXFORD: 1 M Fanning; 3 L Ryan (1-0), 4 J Breen, 5 D Reck: 2 W Devereux, 6 M O'Hanlon (capt), 7 D O'Keeffe (0-1); 8 A Nolan, 12 J O'Connor (0-1); 9 S Murphy, 11 D Redmond (0-3), 14 L Chin (0-4, one 65); 13 P Morris (0-1), 10 C McDonald (0-7, six frees), 15 D Dunne (0-1).

Subs: 23 J Guiney for Reck (49 mins), 22 H Kehoe for Redmond (54 mins), 25 K Foley (0-1) for Morris (54 mins), 18 S Donohoe for Nolan (63 mins).

Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times