All-Ireland hurling champions Tipperary are back in another SHC final, but they were pushed all the way by Dublin in a Croke Park thriller.
Lar Corbett’s early goal was the vital score which helped the Munster men shade a riveting contest in front of a crowd of 43,563 at Croke Park.
The Dubs were devastated at the end of a game which they could have won, but on reflection, they will see this immense display as another important step on their climb up hurling’s elite ladder.
Appearing in their first All-Ireland semi-final since 1948, Anthony Daly’s side came so close, and Tipp needed to dig deep, with Eoin Kelly and Noel McGrath hitting the second half scores which helped them survive and set up a repeat of last year’s decider against Kilkenny.
Tipp got off to the perfect start, with ace goal-poacher Corbett nipping in ahead of Peter Kelly to flick the ball to the net after just two minutes.
But Dublin quickly got their defensive system organised, deploying an extra man at the back, with Johnny McCaffrey and Liam Rushe both dropping deep in an effort to prevent quality ball going in to Corbett and Eoin Kelly.
Paul Ryan began to find his range from frees, and centre back Joey Boland drove over a long range effort, with Rushe also on target as the Dubs found their feet.
However, Corbett, even off limited possession, was able to punish every lapse with quality points.
Dublin struck a rich vein of form, with four points on the spin, the pick of them a David O’Callaghan gem, made possible by Paul Ryan’s delightful fetch and lay-off.
Now they were 0-9 to 1-3 to the good, but Tipp always threatened on the break, cutting the gap through Corbett and Seamus Callanan.
Ryan’s sixth point made it 0-11 to 1-6 with 10 minutes to play in the opening half, but Gearoid Ryan brought the sides level for the fifth time, and the All-Ireland champions almost had another goal, but Gary Maguire pulled off an excellent save from Callanan.
They were deadlocked at 1-8 to 0-11 at the end of a frenetic first half, but the Liam McCarthy Cup holders eased ahead early in the second period through Noel McGrath and Kelly.
Goalkeeper Maguire had to be at his best again to keep out a Corbett effort, but once again Dublin weathered the early storm, and went level again with two more Ryan frees.
The sides were level for the seventh time in the 49th minute and Tipp were still having difficulty in breaking down a stubborn Dublin defence in which Kelly and Boland were superb.
Nevertheless, they did go two clear when Kelly steered over his third ’65, but Dublin came again, with former Tipp player Ryan O’Dwyer hitting the target, along with sub Shane Ryan.
Tipp worked hard to create the late scores which finally killed off Dublin’s heroic challenge, with McGrath scoring from a majestic sideline cut, and Padraic Maher capping a fine display with his second point of the contest.
Tipperary: B Cummins, P Stapleton, P Curran, M Cahill, J O'Keeffe, C O'Mahony, Padraic Maher (0-2), G Ryan (0-2), S McGrath (0-1), N McGrath (0-3, 1 s/l), S Callanan (0-1), Patrick Maher, E Kelly (0-6, 2f, 3 ’65), J O'Brien, L Corbett (1-3).
Subs: B Maher for Callanan, P Bourke (0-1, f) for Patrick Maher, B O’Meara for Ryan, S Bourke for Kelly
Dublin: G Maguire, N Corcoran, P Kelly (0-1), P Schutte, M Carton, J Boland (0-1), S Durkin, A McCrabbe (0-1), J McCaffrey, C McCormack, R O’Dwyer (0-1), L Rushe (0-1), D O’Callaghan (0-1), L Ryan (0-1), P Ryan (0-9, 6f, 1 ’65).
Subs: M O’Brien (0-1) for McCormack, D Plunkett for McCrabbe, S Lambert for Schutte, S Ryan (0-1) for L Ryan.
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)