Goals galore as dominant Tipperary reeled in but still win by five
Premier County blow huge lead but manage to find their second wind
Tipperary’s Barry Grogan (left) celebrates scoring a late goal with Peter Acheson in the All-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier Series Round 3A game at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
When the last tale is told of Championship 2014, make sure there’s room for a mention of a manic night in Portlaoise. Let the people know that whatever happened in Croke Park or Clones or anywhere else had to go some to match the sheer eccentricity of what played out between Tipperary and Laois under teeming July rain.
Tell them of a game that contained seven goals but could easily have finished up with a dozen on the board. A game where Tipperary led by 10 points at half-time, were reeled in and caught with nine minutes to go and still managed to win by five. A night when Laois were outclassed, saw three black cards and finished out the game with 14 players on the pitch – yet still looked favourites as the walls closed in late on.
To make sense of it all, a few numbers. Tipp scored 3-17, all but two late points of it from play. Their first score of the day was a Conor Sweeney goal after two minutes, their last a Barry Grogan goal after 72.
In between, they played, by a distance, the better football – a smart, composed, structured game that bamboozled Laois at times. They led 2-10 to 1-3 at half-time and had Michael Quinlivan, George Hannigan or Philip Austin been more dead-eyed when through on goal, it could have been a massacre.
Laois actually started quite brightly, John O’Loughlin matching Sweeney’s goal after seven minutes. It could have been more, but Niall Donoher blazed over an open goal having rounded Paul Fitzpatrick in the Tipp goal.
Yet that was to be Laois’s last score of the half. Tipp took over at midfield, with half-forwards Quinlivan, Austin and Brian Fox the main beneficiaries. Rising star Colin O’Riordan fashioned two towering points from wing back and the drip-drip of scores started to rise the waterline right up to Laois’s nose. Sweeney’s second goal before half-time looked like it would overwhelm them altogether.
But this game had plenty left in it. Laois came out and stuck two goals on the board upon the restart. Half-time sub James Finn nailed the first, albeit after taking plenty of steps. Conor Meredith palmed home the second three minutes later.
It was a cracking game now. Tipp kicked the next three points, Laois the three after that. Austin, outstanding all game, pushed the lead out to five with 15 minutes to go but the tide was undeniably turning. Laois were keeping them pinned back in their own half for long stretches and the free count – 12-6 in Laois’s favour in that second half – was starting to stack up against them.
DraggedDavid ConwayEvan Costello
But Peter Creedon’s side found a way out. Laois were fouling with desperation now and lost Robbie Kehoe, Pádraig McMahon and Conor Meredith to black cards. Meredith’s foul gave Barry Grogan a chance to stop the Tipp bleeding and Sweeney followed up with a free of his own soon after.
Tipp were two up with three to go and given the madness that had gone before, it would have been no surprise to see Laois steal it with a late goal. But instead Tipp were the ones who got it, Grogan popping up on the end of a swarm attack to end a stunning game and secure a stunning result. LAOIS: G Brody; P McMahon, P Begley, P O’Leary; D Strong, R Kehoe, C Begley; K Meaney, J O’Loughlin (1-0); C Meredith (1-0), B Sheehan (0-1), N Donoher (0-1); R Munnelly, D Kingston (0-4, three frees), D O’Connor. Subs: J Finn (1-0) for Munnelly (29 mins); D Conway (1-1) for O’Connor (half-time); S Attride for Meaney (half-time); MJ Tierney (0-1, 45) for Kehoe (black card,42 mins); E Costello (0-1) for C Begley (51 mins); Meaney for McMahon (black card, 65 mins) TIPPERARY: P Fitzgerald; J Coghlan, P Codd, C McDonald; C O’Riordan (0-2), R Kiely, G Mulhair; S O’Brien, G Hannigan; M Quinlivan (0-3), B Fox (0-2), P Acheson (0-1); C Sweeney (2-2, 0-1 free), P Austin (0-4), B Grogan (1-3, 0-1 free). Subs: I Fahey for Mulhair (47 mins;) C Kennedy for Austin (70 mins); B Mulvihill for Grogan (71 mins) Referee: D Gough (Meath)