Munster SHC final: Tipp end seven-year wait

13 July 2008

Tipperary’s duo Shane Maher and Conor O’Brien contest the dropping ball with Clare’s Tony Griffin during the Munster SHC final
Tipperary are Munster hurling champions for the first time since 2001 following a 2-21 to 0-19 defeat of Clare in front of 48,000 spectators in Limerick.

Seamus Callinan (1-3) and John O’Brien (1-4) were amongst the Premier County heroes as Liam Sheedy’s charges maintained their spectacular winning streak in ’08 to claim a 37th provincial crown. Clare were out of sorts for much of the game but they never surrendered to the inevitable and mustered a brave fightback in the middle of the second half only to be stopped in their tracks by O’Brien’s decisive solo goal.

The league winners bossed the first half and took their scores with impressive economy to lead by 1-11 to 0-6 at the interval. Their opponents endured a frustrating opening period and registered ten wides during that period as well as dropping numerous shots short into Brendan Cummins’ hands. The veteran Tipp custodian then launched immediate attacks with long, dangerous pocs forward.

Tony Griffin’s first-minute shot set the tone for the losers when it went wide and Mark Flaherty added the underdogs’ second wide from a free after James Woodlock had opened the scoring. Lar Corbett and Eoin Kelly had the Premier men three to the good within five minutes of the start and Flaherty opened the Banner account with a sixth-minute free.

Toomevara’s O’Brien hit an excellent strike from the wing and Flaherty added another Clare free before Niall Gilligan and Diarmuid McMahon both missed simple chances to bag the Banner County’s first score from play.

On ten minutes, who else but Colin Lynch popped up with a Clare point and Tony Carmody fired the equaliser on the run before Shane McGrath stole forward to restore Tipp’s lead. Corbett got his second point to make it 0-6 to 0-4 with 13 minutes gone.

Kelly and Jonathan Clancy both missed the target and McMahon hit his county’s sixth wide after Callinan’s effort found a post. Gerry Quinn became the latest Clare man to send a shot wide and Pat Kerwick grabbed the first score in seven minutes to put three in it with 20 played.

Flaherty’s third point made it a two-point game but Gilligan’s shot went awry before Callinan capitalised on Frank Lohan’s error to notch Tipperary’s eighth score. O’Brien made it 0-9 to 0-5 in the 25th minute and it was double scores when Kelly converted a free after Pat Vaughan’s foul on Corbett.

Tipperary’s first nine scores had come from open play and their eleventh was an exquisite Callinan goal. The 20-year-old centre forward from Drom & Inch gave Philly Brennan no chance with a stunning drive after a swashbuckling run in the 27th minute. Sixty seconds later, Lohan was on the line to deny Callinan a second major. Corbett should have netted the rebound but mis-hit his shot.

Kelly replied after over-awed Clare scored for the first time in 23 minutes through Gilligan, but the normally-ruthless Banner County forward squandered another glorious scoring opportunity for Mike McNamara’s side. A tenth wide two minutes into injury time summed up Clare’s nightmare first half and the short whistle sounded with Tipp eight points ahead - as they would be at the end.

Picked out by Seamus Butler, Callinan added to Tipperary’s tally within seconds of the resumption and Kelly’s 40th-minute free followed an exchange of points between McGrath and Carmody. Clare fashioned a goal opportunity but Carmody didn’t get enough purchase on his strike; at the other end, Kelly bagged his fifth point - this time from play - as the gap went up to a massive eleven points: 1-15 to 0-7.

It was a procession as O’Brien pointed at the second attempt. Quinn and Lynch showed the Clare forwards how to score and Tony Carmody took the work ethic on board as he got back to produce some impressive defending culminating in a free, which Gilligan converted for his side’s third consecutive score.

Gilligan brought the scoring run to four with an amazing point from long range and the imperious Lynch notched his third of the match on 54 minutes. The twelve-point margin was now down to seven. When Gilligan blasted over a sixth successive Clare point, the huge leeway had been halved, 0-13 to 1-16.

Clancy hammered over a 57th-minute score and all of a sudden Clare looked more newborn than dead and buried. But, incredibly, on 58 minutes, all Clare’s marvellous revivalist work came undone when O’Brien rose falcon-like to grab possession, showed the Banner defence a clean pair of heels and smashed his shot beyond Brennan to the net. When the wing forward followed up with an instant point, bringing his tally to 1-4, Tipp’s 100% record in 2008 looked safe at 2-17 to 0-14.

A Gilligan free had the margin at eight with nine minutes left. Callinan and substitute Hugh Maloney were on target for Tipp before the Clare No.13 tapped over another free and McGrath produced a late moment of magic when slicing a sideline cut over the bar for his side’s 20th point. A Kelly point was sandwiched between Gilligan’s seventh and eighth scores and Cummins saved Fergal Lynch’s late goal attempt and the Tipp ’keeper kept his net intact when diving agilely to divert Gilligan’s low free over the bar for the last score of the match.

Tipperary - B Cummins, E Buckley, P Curran, C O’Brien, E Corcoran, C O’Mahony, S Maher, J Woodlock 0-1, S McGrath 0-3, P Kerwick 0-1, S Callinan 1-3, J O’Brien 1-4, E Kelly 0-6, 2f, L Corbett 0-2, S Butler. Subs - D Fanning for Curran, M Webster for Kerwick, H Moloney 0-1 for Butler, B Dunne for Woodlock.

Clare - P Brennan, P Vaughan, F Lohan, G O’Grady, G Quinn 0-1, C Plunkett, P Donnellan, B O’Connell, C Lynch 0-2, T Carmody 0-2, D McMahon 0-1, J Clancy 0-2, T Griffin N Gilligan 0-8, 5f, M Flaherty 0-3, 3f. Subs - D O’Rourke for Flaherty, G O’Connell for Plunkett, F Lynch for O’Rourke, B Nugent for Griffin, M Murphy for McMahon.

Ref - D Kirwan (Cork).