By Michael O Connor.
Five rounds of the league now played and Clare have 70% of the possible points tally. Privately Clare will be happy with that return but still disappointed that a solid defensive unit in the opening four rounds coughed up three goals with the first coming after only 20 seconds and was a crucial score.
Caught napping would be a generous assessment of how Clare gave away the first goal as Conor Sweeny struck for the shock goal from 20 metres from the very first attack and this was a major body blow to take so early on. David Tubridy kicked Clare’s first score after two minutes from a free as Clare were very honest in their workrate in the first half but needed a goal to reward their efforts.
Michael Quinlivan responded with a Tipperary point before Tubridy struck from play after 6 minutes as the physically strong Tipperary defence were proving a handful for the Clare defence when the ball was in the air. Shane McGrath who did well for most of the game and Philip Austin swopped scores by the 11th minute. Kilmihil man Martin O Leary who is showing well for Clare in the national league to date kicked two in a row by the 15th minute as Clare drew level,(1-2) to (0-5). Tipperary wing forward Philip Austin with a 40metre and Shane McGrath after a fine three man movement were on target. Conor Sweeney.
Over the hour Clare’s kicking and passing let them down and dropped a number of free’s short that in other games were converted. A Barry Grogan goal helped Tipperary to a 2-5 to 0-9 lead at half-time. Tipperary’s Barry Grogan also had a first half penalty saved by Clare goalie Pierce DeLoughrey. Conor Sweeney struck for a great Tipperary point in the 20th minute . Clare appeared too reliant on Tubridy, O Leary and McGrath for scores and Tipperary realising this gave little space to the Clare trio when the ball was in their vicinity.
Clare levelled the scores midway through the second half. (0-12) to (2-6) but a 54th minute penalty goal by Barry Grogan after Michael Quinlivan was fouled put Tipperary back in control knocked the stuffing out of Clare and visibly they wilted. Tipperary defended in depth and Clare due to being a smaller side in key areas could not break through for a much needed goal. The visitors had a number of half chances in the remaining ten minutes but appeared to lack the extra player with a scoring touch on the day to score a goal that could have opened up the possibility of a draw. Tipperary added three more scores in the final 15 minutes as opposed to two from Clare so see home side ran out winners by four points in the end to go top of Division 4 after 4 rounds of play.
Clare have two league games left and need at least three points from the four available scores to be in the race for a qualification spot. Make no doubt about it this is Clare’s most important part of the season about to kick into play. With success in the championship measured by perhaps a qualifier win a place in the division four league and the promotion that brings is the only tangible reward for 2014 that Clare can aim at bringing home.
Best for Tipperary who will be in the league final were Barry Grogan, Brian Austin, Philip Austin, Robbie Kiely, Brian Fox, Conor Sweeney, John Coghlan and Philip Acheson.
Clare’s final pass let them down and a lack of potency in front of goal was their achilles heel as well as lack of power in the full back line.
Best for Clare were Martin O Leary, Shane McGrath, David Tubridy, Enda Coughlan and Gary Brennan.
TIPPERARY: P Fitzgerald; G Mulhair, J Coghlan, P Codd; R Kiely, P Acheson, D Leahy; S O’Brien, G Hannigan; P Austin (0-2), B Grogan (2-2), I Fahey, B Fox (0-2), M Quinlivan (0-2), C Sweeney (1-1).
SUBS: A Maloney for Fahey, C McCullagh for Maloney, L Egan for Hannigan, C Dillon for Austin, A Campbell for Codd, A Matassa for O’Brien.
CLARE: P de Loughrey, D Ryan, G Kelly, M McMahon, S Hickey, E Coughlan, M Óg Murphy, G Brennan, C O’Connor, S Collins, S McGrath (0-3), S Brennan, M O’Leary (0-4), D Tubridy (0-5), J Malone (0-1). Subs: K Hartnett for Murphy, P McMahon for O’Connor, R Donnelly (0-1) for McGrath.
Referee: Niall Ward (Westmeath)