Munster SHC, Round 1: Clare 3-23 Tipperary 5-22
The elastic snapped mid-way through the second half, but until then it had been wild. It was one of those chaotic, mesmerising matches that illustrates the difference between the seasons. There will be a computer program somewhere to make quick sense of it, but one of the great pleasures of the championship is leaving a ground in a head-shaking daze.
As a first draft, there is a simple explanation in the numbers. Throughout his career in management Liam Cahill has placed a massive emphasis on goal scoring, and that was the crude difference; goals put Tipp in command in the opening 25 minutes, and refreshed their advantage at the beginning and end of the second half.
It meant that Clare spent too much time and energy bailing water. Having fallen nine points behind at one stage in the first half they brought the deficit back to a goal, briefly, before half-time, but even with the breeze at their backs in the second half they couldn’t reduce Tipp’s lead to any less than a goal at any stage. By the end they had committed 15 wides which, given Tipp’s heavy scoring, was an unsustainable fault in their performance.
This was a performance full of promise. In Tipp’s starting team was five debutants and by the end Tipp had used nine players that had won under-age All-Irelands under Cahill’s leadership. Cahill was pleased about the performance of the rookies, and thrilled about the goals.
“When the opportunities arise we have to able to convert them,” said Cahill. “We have players who are good opportuntists and will put away a chance. I think from an entertainment point of view too, I think it’s nice that you have games with goals in them. Spectators need that. While it’s lovely to watch fellas picking off points from 70 or 80 yards it can become a bit monotonous at times. We practice it. I won’t tell you any different, we do practice it.”
Jake Morris produced his best performance yet for Tipp and Clare didn’t put a brake on him until Rory Hayes came on 10 minutes into the second half; by then he had scored 2-4 and torched two other markers. Alongside him, Jason Forde scored eight times from nine attempts.
One of the pivotal moments of the game came seven minutes into the second half when David McInerney brought down Morris going through, preventing a clear goal scoring chance and resulting in a black card for McInerney. Forde buried the penalty.
Brian Lohan made the legitimate point afterwards that the black card had been in hibernation, and he was certain that no team had received a black card in the championship since Clare were penalised two years ago. Ultimately, though, Liam Gordon made a good call.
The problem for Clare was some destructive errors in defence that contributed to at least three of Tipp’s goals. “So hard to get scores at the opposite end of the field when you are conceding so soft,” said Lohan. “They really were gifts of scores.”
The first half was breathless. Tipp were 1-3 to 0-0 in front after just four minutes, and Clare were level eight minutes later, rattling off six points without reply. But just when it looked like the ground was solid under their feet, another earthquake.
Morris robbed Eamonn Foudy – the Clare goalie making his first championship start – and despatched the ball to an unguarded net. Morris struck again after 23 minutes, feasting on a turnover from a Clare puck-out, and his second goal put Tipperary nine points clear, 3-7 to 0-7.
Clare steadied themselves again. Tony Kelly, who had been anonymous for most of the first half, and made no impression in the second half, managed to get on the ball three or four times, enough to play a significant role in both of Clare’s first half goals.
For the first he sent in a long ball that was fielded and finished by Mark Rodgers, two minutes before the break. For the next he was the hinge in an end-to-end passing move that led to Rodgers’ second goal.
By half-time Clare had reduced the deficit to four points, 3-12 to 2-11, but Forde’s penalty gave Tipp a six-point lead, and some comfort. Despite spurts of pressure, Clare never really looked like breaking Tipp down, and Tipp added a fifth goal through subsitute Sean Ryan, after a neat flick by Mark Kehoe. The excellent Aidan McCarthy came up with their third goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time, but by then it was far too late.
Clare: E Foudy, A Hogan, C Cleary, P Flanagan, D Ryan (0-1), J Conlon (0-1), D McInerney, C Malone, R Raylor (0-2), S O’Donnell, P Duggan, R Taylor (0-2), A McCarthy (1-13, 0-7 frees, 0-2 65s), I Galvin (0-2), T Kelly (0-1), M Rodgers (2-0). Subs: R Hayes for Hogan 45 mins; S Meehan 0-2 for Galvin 52 mins; A Shanagher for Rodgers 62 mins; R Mounsey 0-1 for Taylor 66 mins; J Kirwan for Duggan 70 mins.
Tipperary: B Hogan, C Barrett, M Breen, J Ryan, B McGrath (0-1), B O’Mara, R Maher, D McCormack, A Tynan (0-1), N McGrath (0-4), G O’Connor (0-2), S Kennedy (0-1), J Morris (2-4), J Forde (2-6, 1-1 sidelines, 1-0 pen, 0-5 frees), J McGrath (0-1). Subs: C Stakelum for Tynan 45 mins; M Kehoe (0-1) for John McGrath 59 mins; S Ryan (1-1) for O’Connor 63 mins; C Bowe (0-1) for N McGrath 70 mins; E Heffernan for B McGrath 72 mins.
Referee: Thomas Walsh (Waterford).