Minor win a Premier success

January 02, 2007
Having watched their fiercest rivals Cork and Kilkenny dominate the hurling landscape in recent years, Tipperary supporters are becoming increasingly impatient at the county's failure to mount a serious Liam McCarthy Cup challenge. Whatever progress was made in reaching the Munster final and giving Cork a run for their money seemed to be undone by the All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Waterford, a team they had already beaten in the Munster championship. But just when the county needed a lift, it came courtesy of Liam Sheedy's minor team who recovered from a traumatic provincial final loss to Cork to win only the county's third All-Ireland in the grade in a quarter of a century. "It was a big boost for Tipperary, and for underage hurling in particular," Sheedy enthuses. "2006 will go down as a very good year for underage hurling in the county. We won the minor All-Ireland, were only beaten after a replay in the under 21 final and won the Arrabawn Co-Op under 16 All-Ireland as well. "We badly needed to win a minor All-Ireland, it was 10 years since we last won and that simply isn't good enough for a county like Tipp. Hopefully, we can build on this and challenge for an All-Ireland senior title in the next few years. What this year's results at minor and under 21 level show is that there is good young talent in the county," the Portroe man adds. Sheedy, who was wing back on the Tipperary team that lost the 1997 All-Ireland final to Clare, acknowledges that his team's comprehensive defeat of three-in-a-row chasing Galway had taken most people by surprise. "You would have got long odds on us winning the All-Ireland after our defeat to Cork on June 25. We had a terrible last 20 minutes that day, but we promised ourselves in the dressing room afterwards that we'd never drop our heads again. "We learned a lot from the Cork game and regrouped fairly well. We showed real character to come from four points down to beat Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final and were well on top in the final against Galway. "We went into the final in an ideal situation because all the talk had been about Galway and Joe Canning's bid to win a third All-Ireland minor medal. I felt sorry for Canning because he was under a lot of pressure and it might have affected his performance. "But we badly needed this All-Ireland. Galway, Kilkenny and Cork have had their fair share and it was our turn to win it." This was Sheedy's second year at the helm. Along with his selectors Gerry Maguire, Martin Gleeson and Noel Russell, he could call on three players from last year's team which lost to eventual All-Ireland finalists Limerick in the Munster semi-final - Tommy Stapleton, Niall Bergin and Joey McLoughney. Pa Bourke, Gearoid Ryan, John Ryan, Brendan Maher and Timmy Dalton were also panelists in 2005. Tipp opened this year's campaign way back on April 2 when they accounted for Clare by 2-13 to 1-8 in the first round of the Munster championship. They followed up that win with a 2-23 to 3-8 trouncing of Limerick in the semi-final. Limerick got off to the perfect start with a goal by Shane O'Donnell in the first minute, but Tipp hit back two minutes later as Niall Bergin rifled to the net. The home side continued to dominate, although Michael Ryan scored a goal for Limerick to keep them in touch. However, two minutes before half time, Tony Dunne scored Tipp's second goal to leave the score 2-15 to 2-8 at the interval. Tipp always looked in control throughout the second half, but Limerick kept battling away and Michael Ryan's second goal of the evening gave them a glimmer of hope. Nonetheless, the Premier County held on to win by 12 points and set up a meeting with Cork in the provincial decider. Against the Rebels, Tipp were overpowered by a second half rally after leading at the break. An 11th minute goal from full forward Tony Dunne helped them to a 1-9 to 0-9 interval lead, but a couple of shrewd second half substitutions by Cork manager Ger Fitzgerald turned the game in their favour. Cork never looked back after Colm O'Neill burst through for a 46th minute goal and Robert White added a second seven minutes from the end to see the Rebels home by 2-20 to 1-15. Tipp began their rehabilitation with a big win over beaten Leinster finalists Carlow in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Corner forward Pa Bourke hit 1-12 as they overwhelmed the championship's surprise packets by 4-19 to 0-12. The sides were level on 0-3 each at the end of the first quarter, but goals from Timmy Dalton, Tony Dunne and Brendan Maher left the Munster side 11 points clear at half-time, and there was no way back for Carlow after that. The Premier County lads produced a brilliant performance against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park. The Cats entered the tie as favourites, but were outplayed by a Tipp side that should not have had to rely on a late point from Seamus Callinan to claim a 0-19 to 3-9 victory. Tipp dominated the first half but a Michael Murphy goal left Kilkenny just two points adrift at the break, 1-4 to 0-9. A second goal from John Mulhall brought the Cats level shortly after the restart and they took the lead through Richie Hogan. When substitute Shane Brennan crashed home a third goal to put the Leinster champions four points clear, Tipp looked dead and buried. But a fine comeback culminated in Callinan's match-winning point. Tipperary pulled off another surprise to record a facile 2-18 to 2-7 victory over Galway in the All-Ireland final. The Premier County dominated the match from start to finish to complete a remarkable voyage through the back door. They got off to a great start when Pa Bourke caught the Galway defence unawares by blasting a 30-metre free to the roof of the Davin Stand net, a score which immediately put the holders on the back foot. Ger Hennelly got Galway up and running with a point in the eighth minute, but his opposite number Timmy Dalton responded four minutes later. Joe Canning hit a brace of points to reduce the deficit to the minimum before Bourke made it 1-2 to 0-3 after 19 minutes. Tipp should have added a second goal three minutes later, but Seamus Hennessy's effort struck the inside of the post and rolled agonisingly along the goal line and Timmy Dalton failed to capitalize. Canning scored his third point before Bourke and McGrath registered points inside 30 seconds to put the underdogs three clear. Tipp survived two blistering Canning goal efforts from close-in frees at the end of the half and were 1-4 to 0-4 in front when the short whistle sounded. Bourke and full forward Tony Dunne extended the Premier County's advantage on the restart, only for Hennelly and Canning to reply for the Tribesmen. But Tipp then moved up a gear and after Bourke, McGrath and Hennessy had found the range, Dalton scored a second goal to put them 2-9 to 0-6 in front and effectively end the game as a contest. Midfielder Gearoid Ryan stretched Tipp's lead to 10 points before a deflected goal from Enda Concannon handed Galway a lifeline. But Sheedy's charges replied in impressive fashion and led by 2-15 to 1-6 with seven minutes remaining. Galway managed a late goal, but it mattered little as Tipperary coasted to their 17th Irish Press Cup triumph. Sheedy, who previously managed the Tipperary intermediate team, is convinced that many of this year's minors will make it at senior level. But he adds: "It's up to them to decide what they want to do. They've got to ask themselves: I am happy with winning a minor All-Ireland or do I want to take it to the next level? "They're all good hurlers - they've good pace, stick-work and each of them have the ability to win their own ball. Hopefully, the majority of them will go on to achieve bigger things." Tipp also contested this year's All-Ireland under 21 final, but lost to Kilkenny by 1-11 to 0-11 after a replay at Thurles. The drawn match at Croke Park was one of the games of the year and Tipp were only denied victory by a last-gasp goal from Kilkenny substitute Richie Hogan. Afterwards, Tipp under 21 manager Fr Tom Fogarty argued that the county would need to be contesting All-Ireland under 21 and minor finals on a more regular basis if success is to be achieved at senior level, but Sheedy feels it's asking a lot. "Obviously we'd love to be contesting All-Ireland finals every year but that's not going to happen. The Munster championship is just too competitive. By contrast, Galway go straight into the All-Ireland series and Kilkenny have a handy enough run through Leinster. "Nine out of 10 times those counties will be there at the end of the year, but you can never be sure who is going to come out of Munster," he concludes. The Tipperary team which claimed the All-Ireland MHC was: J Ryan; M Cahill, P Maher, B Maher; E Hogan, T Stapleton, J O'Keeffe; J McLoughney, G Ryan; S Hennessy, T McGrath, N Bergin; P Bourke, T Dunne, T Dalton. Subs - M Gleeson for Bergin, S Callinan for Dunne.

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