By Michael O Connor.
Tipperary are back in contention for a knockout league spot and their ability to open up the Clare defence for two goals proved the match winning difference. The unlucky defeat at the hands of Galway was forgotten when the Clare side looked and played second rate against Cork by Leeside.
Tipperary were coming from a different viewpoint. Defeated All Ireland finalists and the spin was the league was a necessary irritant that they had to just avoid relegation and move on to the summer hurling.
Tipperary started the better with points from John Bubbles O Dwyer after ninety seconds, Seamus Callanan (Free) and a smart effort from John McGrath. Indeed the long ball sent by the Tipperary goalie Darren Gleeson was causing problems for a Clare defence who for their part were often losing the ball in short play, getting turned over and conceding frees. After six minutes Colin Ryan (free) had the home side on the scoreboard. Five minutes elapsed of Tipperary pressure before a Callanan free left Tipperary three ahead after 11 minutes of good entertainment.
The following interval was dominated by Clare as they struck three in a row from Conor Ryan, John Conlon and Shane O Donnell to draw the sides level by the 15th minute. Indeed it was Conor Ryan who sent Clare ahead with his second effort from play after 20 minutes. Seamus Callanan was booked for a high challenge on Pat O Connor at this stage. The tempo of the game was now being controlled by Clare without scores being tagged on. The stiff breeze favouring the visitors was a help but when Seamus Callanan equalised in the 22nd minute it was of little consolation to Eamonn O Shea's men. Shane O Donnell was being left isolated on his own as Clare were dragging out their forwards against the breeze.
Whatever happened to Clare in the next five minutes summed up their season to date. Without doing anything wrong they let in John O Dwyer for two points before Tony Kelly who had being off target earlier had a fine score. John McGrath, Seamus Callanan and Conor Ryan were all point scorers by the 27th minute as Tipperary had now built up a (0-9) to (0-7) lead after the mid half. A large volume of scores were created and excuted in the last seven minutes of the first half with six points added to the tallies to leave Tipperary (0-13) to (0-9) up at the interval. Michael Breen, Seamus Callanan (2) and John O Dwyer were the Tipperary sharpshooters as Tony Kelly and Colin Ryan responded for Davy Fitztgerald's men.
The spectre now faced Clare for the second half knowing that they had to outscore Tipperary by five points or else they were entering the final 35 minutes of competitive fare in the league. The omens were poor for Clare as they allowed Tipperary a six point cushion two minutes into the new half as Michael Breen and John McGrath tagged on minors. A hat trick of scores from Colin Ryan, all frees halved the Tipperary lead in the space of four minutes. The Clare crowd grew in confidence but this was burst into bits with Noel McGrath who got in behind the Clare full back line and his low effort evaded Patrick Kelly. When John McGrath who finished the game with five points added a score from play Tipperary were now (1-16) to (0-12) ahead. Conor McGrath who was well curtailed all afternoon hit a great effort from play that was added to by another Ryan score before Seamus Callanan was on the mark to restore a six point lead for the premier men.
The reality was now visible that Clare needed goals to stay alive and whilst the effort was noticeable and admirable the zip and movement of recent seasons was replaced by huff, puff and hope. The one man full forward line was not working and with Conlon, McGrath and O Donnell curbed the avenue to claw back the deficit was now dependant on long range scores and frees. Colin Ryan (free) and Colm Galvin gave hope with two scores before Tony Kelly's goal effort from 30 metres was tipped away by Darren Gleeson and Conor McGrath's second effort was snuffed out.
This was the closest that Clare got and despite scores from Conlon, McGrath and Ryan (2) it was not enough especially when a skilful lob over the Clare full back line from Seamus Callanan set off James Woodlock who raced through to net the net. John McGrath and Jason Forde rounded off the scoring as a bitterly disappointed Clare support trundled out of headquarters wondering when the first win for a year will appear. Dublin visit Ennis next week and if results continue as expected this could be the relegation final at the end of the month.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly, Paul Flanagan, David McInerney, Cian Dillon, Brendan Bugler, Conor Ryan (0-5), Patrick O Connor, Pat Donnellan, Colm Galvin (0-1), Colin Ryan (0-8), Tony Kelly (0-1), Shane Golden, Conor McGrath (0-1), Shane O Donnell (0-1), John Conlon (0-2). Subs: Aaron Cunningham for Golden, Seadna Morey for Donnellan, Conor Cleary for Bugler,
TIPPERARY: Darren Gleeson, Cathal Barrett, Conor O Mahony, Conor O Brien, Michael Breen (0-2), Padraic Maher, Ronan Maher, Kieran Bergin, James Woodlock (1-0), Conor Kenny, John O Dwyer (0-4), Niall O Meara, Noel McGrath (1-0), Seamus Callanan (0-7), John McGrath (0-5). Subs: Jason Forde(0-1) for Kenny, Gearoid Ryan for N O Meara, Shane McGrath for Noel McGrath, Shane Bourke for J McGrath, Thomas Stapleton for Woodlock,