By Michael O Connor.
Fortress Cusack park was in full force on Sunday last as Clare edged past Tipperary to set up a 17th April clash with Kilkenny in Semple Stadium. A more relaxed attitude appeared to exist within the environs of Cusack Park for this league quarter final tie than the all important league promotion game v Limerick the previous fortnight. Clare supporters 9,038 attendees at headquarters were a little anxious that with up to 10 of the panel including key starters injured that it might be a day to forget for Davy Fitzgerald's charges.
In the final analysis it was a day for remember for Clare. A one point win maybe in a tough uncomprising game but much more than that. Clare for the first time since 2013 won a hard game with determination and honesty. The opening action saw team captain Cian Dillon sent a great effort just wide before Seamus Callanan amazingly sent a free in front of goal inches wide. It was a tactical battle from the start with Cian Dillon operating as sweeper. The game was low scoring in the opening half with Colm Galvin on target after five minutes with Callanan sending over a response four minutes later. Bobby Duggan who was replaced in the second half sent over a long range free in the 11th minute was matched by Tipperary's top scorer John McGrath after 14 minutes. John O Dwyer and Ciaran O Doherty were booked as the Crusheen man was keeping the highly rated forward subdued.
One of the key defining moments of the game arrived after 19 minutes as Aaron Cunningham gave a perfect crossfield ball caught and finished to the net by John Conlon. Clare were now in high octane mood with Darach Honan and Bobby Duggan notching up long range scores to send the home side (1-4) to (0-2) clear after 21 minutes. Seamus Callanan sent a second close range free wide before John McGrath and Bobby Duggan swopped scores. Darach Honan, Seamus Callanan, Michael Breen and John McGrath ensured that the tempo of the game rallied considerably with scores by the 28th minute to see Clare (1-6) to (0-6) ahead
Ciaran O Doherty had a short lived league debut as he was replaced with five minutes to go in the first half after being booked and fortunate not to receive a second yellow for a late pull on John McGrath. Had referee Diarmuid Kirwan redcarded the Crusheen man it would have proved nigh on impossible for Clare to win the game. The referee decided that both players had been involved with each other. Ronan Maher and Colm Galvin were in scoring form as Clare following a John O Dwyer free went in (1-7) to (0-8) clear at the break.
Scores for either side were non existent for the first eight minutes of the new half. Michael Breen and Cathal O Connell who was introduced had the opening scores for both sides in the 43rd and 46th minutes. Noel McGrath and Conor McGrath from play were on target by the 49th minute. The sides were level by the 53rd minutes and Tipperary on the 55th minute courtesy of John McGrath who was now the potent Tipperary scorer in the game.
Multiple all star winner Seamus Callanan who had a day to forget on frees and in play generally was replaced with the game entering the final 20 minutes by Jason Forde. Clare to their credit rallied in some style as Darach Honan once again and Conor McGrath kept Clare in close contact with the visitors. A brace of scores from John McGrath appeared to put the premier side in the ascendancy once more but Clare finally with the astute introduction of Aron Shanagher and the late cameo of David Fitzgerald swung the game to Clare. Jason Forde who should have started for the Tipperary men sent over from play and Tipperary were now three clear. Cathal O Connell hit back in the 64th before Shanagher broke free and had the Clare support in raptures with a tremendous goal under pressure with four minutes remaining in normal time and a point clear.
John Conlon with a booming score had Clare two clear entering full time and whilst Padraic Maher had a late Tipperary score it was enough for a home win.
Scorers for Tipperary: John McGrath 0-6; John O’Dwyer (2f) 0-3; Seamus Callanan (2f), Michael Breen, Padraic Maher 0-2 each; Ronan Maher, Noel McGrath, Jason Forde 0-1 each
Scorers for Clare: John Conlon 1-1; Bobby Duggan (2f), Darach Honan 0-3 each; Aron Shanagher 1-0; Colm Galvin, Conor McGrath, Cathal O’Connell (2f) 0-2
TIPPERARY: Darragh Mooney, Cathal Barrett, James Barry, Conor O Brien, Barry Heffernan, Ronan Maher, Padraic Maher, Brendan Maher, Michael Breen, Noel McGrath, Dan McCormack, NIall O Meara, John O Dwyer, Seamus Callinan, John McGrath. SUbs: Kieran Bergin for Niall O Meara, Jason Forde for Callanan, Thomas Hamill for Conor O Brien, Gearoid Ryan for McCormack, Stephen O Brien for J O Dwyer,
CLARE: Patrick Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona),Paul Flanagan (Ballyea),Patrick O’Connor (Tubber), Ciaran O’Doherty (Crusheen), Conor Cleary (Kilmaley), Cian Dillon (Crusheen),Brendan Bugler (Whitegate),David Reidy (Éire Óg), Conor Ryan (Cratloe), Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones),Bobby Duggan (Clarecastle), Conor McGrath (Cratloe), John Conlon (Clonlara), Darach Honan (Clonlara), Colm Galvin (Clonlara).
Subs: Cathal O Connell for Bobby Duggan, Gearoid O Connell for O Doherty, Colin Ryan for Galvin, Aron Shanagher for Cunningham, David Fitzgerald for Reidy,
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork)