By Michael O Connor.
The premier county captured their third Waterford crystal title since the competitions inception with a six point win over Clare at Sixmilebridge on Sunday afternoon. Following a humbling opening round defeat in the league at the hands of Kilkenny as Clare sauntered past a hapless Limerick side the two sides facing up to each other had different mindsets entering this game.
Clare rang the changes with only two of the starting forwards from the league in action against Tipperary with Donal Touhy replacing Patrick Kelly in goal amongst the changes enforced or otherwise. Tipperary hit the ground running and were three points to the good before Caimin Morey playing on his home patch opened the Clare account. Aaron Cunningham hit for the Clare goal to put the home side into a short lived lead. This goal prompted Tipperary into action and a fistful of scores from the premier side restored a comfortable lead as Clare on a number of occasions lost possession due to one pass too much with Tipperary capitalising that led to four first half Tipperary scores and two in the second half. James Woodlock, Gearoid Ryan, Conor O Mahony (65 and free), John O Neill and a goal from Brian O Meara in the 18th minute. Tipperary were now (1-8) to (1-2) clear and Clare who scored at will against Limerick were now under pressure with their shooting hitting 11 against the wind and 5 with the wind in the second half. Daire Keane and John O Neill exchanged scores as Clare outscored Tipperary (0-4) to (0-3) in the final ten minutes of the first half. Pat Donnellan and Nicky O Connell (2 each) and Noel McGrath with a hat trick left Tipperary (1-12) to (1-7) in front at the break.
The Clare full back had a number of shaky moments as the line in front of them got caught in possession a number of times throughout the seventy minutes as the physicality of Tipperary was upsetting Clare’s plans somewhat. Pat Donnellan struck early for the Bannermen in the new half to reduce the margin to four but that was shortlived as Conor O Mahony, James Woodlock and John O Neill responded with three points to a sole effort from Colin Ryan as the Clare forwards were too far out from goal to offer a consistent threat to the Tipperary rearguard. Clare’s best spell in the second half yielded (1-2) in four minutes with Daire Keane grabbing the goal following a huge long ball clearance from Domhnall O Donovan and minors from Colin Ryan and O Connell once more. The Clare midfield partnership struck for 6 points from play and frees over the duration of the game. The Clare revival brought them straight back into contention to be only (1-15) to (2-11) in arrears entering the final seven minutes.
Tipperary, however hit the emergency reserve button with Eoin Kelly, Shane McGrath and John O Brien entering the fray between the 48th to 59th minutes and they added untold experience to the Premier side. Tipperary outscored Clare (0-6) to (0-1) in the remaining ten minutes of normal time with Eoin Kelly (2), James Woodlock (2), Noel McGrath and Gearoid Ryan on targe with once again just a sole Colin Ryan free in response.
Best for Tipperary were James Woodlock, Conor O Mahony, Michael Cahill, Brian O Meara early on, Gearoid Ryan, Jamie Coghlan, Noel McGrath and Donagh Maher. Clare worked hard, suffered the wides malaise and should improve from this outing against a real championship side. Their best included Patrick Donnellan, Nicky O Connell, Seadna Morey, Enda Barrett, Domhnall O Donovan and Daire Keane in patches.
TIPPERARY: Brendan Cummins, Conor O Brien, John Coghlan, Michael Cahill, Donagh Maher, Conor O Mahony (0-3), Shane Maher, David Young, James Woodlock (0-5), Gearoid Ryan (0-2), Noel McGrath (0-4), Adrian Ryan (0-1), John O Neill (0-3), Brian O Meara (1-0), Timmy Hammersley (0-1). Subs: Eoin Kelly (0-2), Shane McGrath, John O Brien
Clare: Donal Tuohy, Domhnall O Donovan, Cian Dillon, Conor Cooney, Seadna Morey, James McInerney, Enda Barrett, Nicky O Connell (0-3), Patrick Donnellan (0-3), Caimin Morey (0-1), Daire Keane (1-1), Fergal Lynch, Jonathan Clancy Colin Ryan (0-4), Aaron Cunningham (1-0). Subs: Eoin Hayes for Cunningham, John Conlon for Clancy
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).