- Listen: Clare selector Danny Chaplin tells RTÉ's Martin Kiely that a few 'small errors' cost his side and he is very proud of his players.
- Listen: Tipperary's Eoin Kelly tells RTÉ's Martin Kiely that the goals came at the right time.
- Listen: Tuairisc ó Seán Bán Breathnach ar Tiobraid Árann 4-19 An Clár 1-19.
By Séamus Leonard
Tipperary secured a Munster SHC final clash against Waterford but were made to work all the way for it by a brave Clare side at the Gaelic Grounds this afternoon.
A Conor McGrath goal inside the first minute gave Clare the perfect start but Tipp hit back with majors from Eoin Kelly, Patrick Maher and Lar Corbett as they engineered a 3-07 to 1-10 interval lead.
The Banner never stopped battling and a late Séamus Callanan goal put a gloss on the scoreline the All-Ireland champions scarcely deserved.
Clare had been widely written off before throw-in and perhaps Tipperary had listened too intently to the pundits as they were caught napping in the first ten minutes of a typically frenetic Munster encounter.
It took Conor McGrath, who finished with an impressive tally of 1-06 on his Championship debut, just 39 seconds to find the back of the Tipp net. The corner-forward turned his marker John O’Keeffe and showed a clean pair of heels to the Tipp defence before rifling his shot past Brendan Cummins.
Points from Diarmuid McMahon, McGrath and Fergal Lynch had the underdogs 1-03 to 0-00 ahead before a point by Eoin Kelly in the tenth minute finally got Tipp on the scoreboard.
Clare continued to dominate proceedings before a self-inflicted blow allowed Tipperary gain a foothold in the game in the 16th minute.
Banner goalkeeper Philip Brennan made the ill-advised decision to come for a high ball in, but he failed to claim it and Kelly was on hand to latch onto the breaking ball and notch his 19th Championship goal and cut the deficit to three points.
Just three minutes later Brennan was beaten again when Patrick ‘Bonnar’ Maher found himself through on goal and calmly placed his shot between the legs of the onrushing Clare stopper.
And a minute later the Premier men were in front for the first time in the match when Hurler of the Year Corbett flashed a trademark bullet to the net to put his side 3-03 to 1-07 ahead.
But Clare didn’t panic and two converted frees from McGrath levelled the game by the 24th minute.
Clare had the chance to record their second goal two minutes before the break but Cummins spread himself expertly to deny wing-forward Cathal McInerney, who also making his first Championship start.
The second half began evenly enough before Tipperary were dealt a blow by a poor decision by referee James Owens. Noel McGrath kicked the ball to the Clare net but Owens whistled to call play back for a foul.
Clare centre-back James McInerney was booked for pulling the hurley from McGrath’s hand. Eoin Kelly stepped up to take the resulting penalty but his powerful effort smashed off the crossbar and the Clare defence scrambled to clear.
Callanan began to find his range for Tipp and it was his accuracy that the Premier men had most to thank for the 3-14 to 1-12 lead they had built up the 53rd minute.
It would have been easy for Clare to fold at that stage but two frees from Conor McGrath and another brace of overs from Jonathan Clancy, with a magnificent effort from Tipp’s Callanan sandwiched in-between, saw the Banner draw back to within five points.
Tipperary’s shooting had become a problem by that stage and it took a point from substitute Pa Bourke to settle their nerves and stretch their lead to six points – 3-17 to 1-17.
Padraic Maher produced a man-of-the-match performance and he capped it off with a sublime long-range point – his second of the day – five minutes from time.
Callanan brought his personal tally to 1-05 (all from play) when he followed up Corbett’s effort to goal before Tipp midfielder Shane McGrath’s second point brought the scoring to a conclusion.
A nine-point defeat was more than a little harsh on Clare, but there a number of positives manager Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin can take from the game – not least Conor McGrath’s explosion onto the national stage.
Tipp will be pleased that the latest hurdle in their quest to retain the Liam MacCarthy Cup has been cleared, though there are still plenty of aspects of their game they can work on. Shooting is sure to be one of them after they hit a total of 13 wides.
Tipperary: B Cummins; J O'Keeffe, P Curran, M Cahill; D Young, C O'Mahony, Padraic Maher (0-02); G Ryan (0-02), S McGrath (0-02); S Callanan (1-05), N McGrath (0-03), Patrick Maher (1-00); E Kelly (1-03, 2f), J O'Brien, L Corbett (1-00).
Subs: S Lillis for O’Keeffe (ht), P Stapleton for D Young (ht), P Bourke (0-02) for O’Brien (45), J Woodlock for Ryan (63), J Coughlan for Curran (70).
Clare: P Brennan; P Vaughan, C Cooney, C Dillon; P O'Connor, J McInerney (0-01, f), P Donnellan; N O'Connell (0-01), J Clancy (0-02); J Conlon (0-03), F Lynch (0-01), C McInerney (0-02); D McMahon (0-02), D Honan (0-01), C McGrath (1-06, 4f).
Subs: C O’Donovan for O’Connell (55), C Ryan for Honan (68).
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).