HL semi-final: McGrath goals see Tipp through
16 April 2017
Tipperary's Noel McGrath celebrates after scoring a goal against Wexford.
Tipperary were made work hard for their 5-18 to 1-19 win over Wexford in this entertaining NHL semi-final at Nowlan Park.
The game was very much in the melting pot for about 60 minutes as Wexford took the game to the All-Ireland champions.
The McGrath brothers, Noel and John were in top form scoring 2-02 each from play as Tipp scored 2-04 without reply between the 59th and 64th minute, which effectively ended the game as a contest.
By that stage, Wexford had closed the gap to two points, but Tipp’s class shun through as a further goal by Brendan Maher put a gloss on their victory.
Wexford will take many positives from the game as they battled tenaciously and with a huge crowd behind them, they were putting their bodies on the line all over the pitch.
In front of a full house, Wexford won the toss and decided to play into a stiff breeze during the first half. Both sides used a sweeper as Shaun Murphy dropped back for Wexford and Ronan Maher held his position for Tipp.
The early exchanges were frantic, but it was Tipperary that settled quickly as Wexford looked slightly out of sorts in the first few minutes.
Tipp set the tone for the game early on when Stephen O'Brien hit Damien Reck with a strong shoulder and Seamus Callanan pounced on the breaking ball to fire over the opening score.
They added 1-01 in the next five minutes as first Callanan converted a '65 after Noel McGrath's pointed effort was blocked out over the line. Then, James Breen failed to gather the ball and John McGrath turned smartly before firing past goalkeeper Mark Fanning.
Wexford looked very nervy during these opening exchanges, but Jack O'Connor settled them in the ninth minute when he used his strength to burst through and fire over a point.
Six minutes then passed before the next score as Conor McDonald pointed a straight forward free, but just two minutes later Tipp were in for their second goal.
Davy Fitzgerald was not happy with the tackling of the Tipp players and came out on the field to remostrate with the referee where he was met with disdain by Tipperary players Niall O'Meara and Jason Forde.
Tipp got the next score as the hard working Dan McCormack chased down a ball that was going over the sideline and fed a good ball to the onrushing Brendan Maher who evaded the challenge of two Wexford men and fired over the bar.
Wexford responded with two points as Chin received a pass from Paul Morris and the full forward drilled the ball over the bar, and this was followed by an excellent score by David Redmond who broke down the line and pointed on the run.
Callanan and Forde responded for Tipp to make it 2-05 to 0-04 after 29 minutes. Wexford were working tirelessly though and McDonald pointed two straight forward frees before a long range effort by Padraic Maher brought an end to the first half scoring as Tipperary went in leading by 2-06 to 0-08.
Wexford hit three out of the first four points of the second half as McDonald's two frees were sandwiched either side of scores by Brendan Maher and Paul Morris who fired over a fine effort from play.
Tipp had introduced Michael Breen and he make an immediate impression with two excellent scores before John McGrath showed his pace once again by turning smartly and firing over a point.
Redmond hit his second and third points of the game in quick succession to bring the gap back to 2-10 to 0-13 by the 46th minute, before Breen scored his third point in six minutes.
Chin hit two points either side of a Forde minor, while David Dunne also got on the scoresheet for the Model County.
However, in the 59th minute, the game turned on its head, as John McGrath stole in to fire home. His brother Noel added a point before man-of-the-match John was on target again and a fourth goal soon arrived as Noel kept the McGrath scoring spree going. Substitute Bubbles O’Dwyer then scored a point to make it 4-16 to 0-16 by the 64th minute.
Wexford kept battling away and Liam Ryan fired home a goal in the 73rd minute, but it was to be Tipp’s day as they meet Galway in the final next weekend.
Tipperary - D Gleeson; M Cahill, J Barry, C Barrett; S Kennedy, R Maher, Padraic Maher (0-1); B Maher (1-2), J Forde (0-2); D McCormack, N O’Meara, S O’Brien; N McGrath (2-2), J McGrath (2-2), S Callanan (0-3, 1'65). Subs: M Breen (0-4) for N O’Meara, J O’Dwyer (0-1) for S O’Brien, D Quinn (0-1) for J Forde, T Hamill for J Barry, B Heffernan for S Kennedy.
Wexford - M Fanning; J Breen, L Ryan (1-0), W Devereux; D Reck, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe (0-1); A Nolan, J O’Connor (0-1); S Murphy, D Redmond (0-3), L Chin (0-4, 1'65); P Morris (0-1), C McDonald (0-7, 6f), D Dunne (0-1). Subs: J Guiney for D Reck, H Kehoe for D Redmond, K Foley (0-1) for P Morris, S Donohoe for A Nolan.
Referee - D Kirwan.