A dominant Tipperary maintained the perfect start to their national league campaign with a comfortable win over Clare in Thurles on Sunday. Going by this it will take a complete performance by any team to beat the reigning Munster and All-Ireland champions in 2017.
Allianz Hurling League Div 1A Round 3: Tipperary 0-28 Clare 0-21.
James Mulvihill reporting from Semple Stadium.
It was Tipp’s first competitive home game since winning the All-Ireland and they didn’t disappoint their supporters among the attendance of 7,254. Despite missing Seamus Callanan, Cathal Barrett, Michael Cahill and Jason Forde, they have incredible strength in depth.
In particular the Maher brothers, Ronan and Padraic, dominated defence as they plucked balls out of the air conceding very little to the Clare forwards. Up front the McGrath brothers, Noel and John, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, and Steven O’Brien got on the scoresheet regularly which would have pleased manager Michael Ryan. It will be interesting to see how they develop as they seek to win a third Munster title in succession for the first time since 1989 and become the first Tipperary team since 1965 to put All-Ireland titles back to back.
Clare were still without their Ballyea contingent as they prepare for the All Ireland Club Final against Cuala in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day. The Banner men also await the return of Pat O’Connor, Conor McGrath and David McInerney. If Clare are at full-strength team come championship they will be a match for any team in the country.
Against Tipp, Podge Collins, John Conlon and second half substitute Ian Galvin looked lively in attack while defenders Seadna Morey, Conor Cleary and Brendan Bugler fought hard despite an avalanche of scores. Joint managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor will know that there is still a good bit of work to be done ahead of that Munster championship clash with Limerick in June.
Tipperary started with five unanswered points through John McGrath (2), Steven O’Brien (2), and Brendan Maher before Podge Collins had Clare on the scoreboard after 9 minutes. ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer put over from 55 yards but points from John Conlon and Aaron Cunningham, sandwiched by a John McGrath free, left the score at 0-07 to 0-03 after 16 minutes.
David Reidy put over his first placed ball followed by John Conlon’s point from 45 yards out. John McGrath responded before Clare hit a purple patch scoring six points without reply in 11 minutes from David Reidy (2 frees), John Conlon (2), Cathal McInerney and Podge Collins. Tipperary got the last two scores of the half through Niall O’Meara and a John McGrath free to reduce the interval deficit to 0-11 to 0-10 in favour of Clare.
In the second half Noel McGrath got Tipp off the mark early. Centre-back Ronan Maher gave Tipp the lead with a long range free followed by another John McGrath free. Podge Collins responded for Clare but Tipperary were getting into their stride with points from John McGrath (free) and Noel McGrath (2) to lead by 0-16 to 0-12 lead after 47 minutes. Clare hit back through Podge Collins and David Reidy (free) but received a setback when Oisin O’Brien was stretchered off for a suspected cruciate knee ligament injury.
John McGrath slotted over another free and when Clare’s short puck-out didn’t work out Dan McCormack was on hand to split the posts. David Reidy’s free reduced the margin to three, 0-18 to 0-15 after 55 minutes. Four points in succession came from John McGrath, Steven O’Brien, ‘Bubbles’ and newcomer Paul Flynn.
Clare substitute Ian Galvin made an instant impact with two points reducing the gap to four after Seadna Morey split the posts from 45 yards. Tipp led by 0-23 to 0-20 heading into added time and sealed victory with points from ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer (2), John McGrath, Paul Flynn and Sean Curran. Jason McCarthy had Clare’s final point of the game on a day when they were totally outclassed by a Tipperary side that will take some beating this year.
Best for the winners were John McGrath, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, Steven O’Brien, Noel McGrath, Ronan Maher, Padraic Maher and Tomas Hamill. Clare were best served by Podge Collins, Seadna Morey, Conor Cleary and substitute Ian Galvin.