NHL semi-final: Tipp topple Clare to book final ticket

April 20, 2014

Tipperary's Seamus Callanan is tackled by David McInerney, Brendan Bugler and Cian Dillon of Clare.
©INPHO/Cathal Noonan.
Tipperary will meet Kilkenny in the national hurling league final after beating Clare by 2-24 to 2-17 at the Gaelic Grounds today.

With a crowd of 20,452 watching the second instalment of this semi-final double-header in Limerick, Tipp looked sharper than the All-Ireland champions throughout and were fully deserving of their success.

The winners completely dominated the first half and were full value for their 1-14 to 1-7 interval advantage. Apart from a third-minute Cathal McInerney goal, the Banner didn't contribute much to a first half which was lit up by an exhibition of Seamus Callanan point-taking (he fired eight points before the break). Patrick 'Bonnar' Maher delivered Tipp's first-half goal in the 18th minute (and would also bag their second).

The sides were level after six minutes: Tipperary 0-4 Clare 1-1. The Premier County started purposefully with a John O'Dwyer point from the throw-in but this was cancelled out instantly by Podge Collins. A brace of Seamus Callanan points made it 0-3 to 0-1 but Cathal McInerney's scrambled third-minute major propelled the All-Ireland champions ahead for the first and only time; Callanan's second pointed free levelled the scores.

Niall O'Meara edged Eamon O'Shea's team back in front after Callanan's 20-metre free was blocked and further scores from Denis Maher and O'Dwyer - with a long-range free - stretched the gap to three, 1-7 to 1-1. Clare hadn't scored in twelve minutes but corner forward Conor McGrath righted that stat with a fabulous point on 15 minutes. Colin Ryan followed up with a converted free.

On 18 minutes, the match exploded to life again when Tipp centre forward Maher sprinted around the Clare defence before drilling an unstoppable shot into the bottom left corner of the net - 1-7 to 1-3. Full forward Callanan lofted over a brace of effortless points from play and Tipperary led by double scores after 21 minutes, 1-9 to 1-3.

Midfielder Colm Galvin had plenty of time and space to fire over Clare's fourth point of the match nine minutes from the break but Tipp wing back James Barry replied with a glorious finish from inside his own half.

A Ryan free for Clare was bookended by two more from Callanan as the Premier County increased their lead to seven and Tipp were visibly frustrated when the referee's whistle sounded for a free-in as Callanan bore down on goal with just Donal Tuohy to beat.

Callanan popped the free over from in front of the posts and Noel McGrath's lovely score made it 1-14 to 1-5 after 33 minutes. The Saffron & Blues mustered two points via Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly and McInerney before the interval but went in trailing by seven at the short whistle.

Manager Davy Fitzgerald possibly had a few choice words for his charges in the dressing room at half time and they came out in more purposeful mood upon the resumption. Midfielder and captain Patrick Donnellan lashed the sliothar first time to the roof of the net in the 39th minute, with Ryan having earlier opened the second-half scoring via a converted free. The nine-point gap was now down to three: 1-14 to 2-8.

On 43 minutes, history repeated itself as - for the second time in the game - 'Bonnar' Maher raced at the Clare defence before calmly despatching a low shot into the bottom left corner of the net. Corner back David McInerney showed the Clare forwards how it's done with an excellent point from play and No.11 Kelly followed up with an equally-impressive missile - 2-14 to 2-10 after twelve minutes of the second half.

No.9 James Woodlock added to Tipp's tally and Callanan's first score of the second half (from a central free) left six between them again. Galvin pulled back another Clare point before the end of the third quarter and Ryan (free) popped over his fourth point on 56 minutes.

Podge Collins hit Clare's third successive point to make it a three-point match with twelve minutes left but Tipperary went back on the attack and were awarded a penalty when full back Cian Dillon was adjudged to have fouled Noel McGrath after Tuohy had saved brilliantly from Callanan. The Tipp full forward opted to take his point from the penalty - 2-17 to 2-13 with nine minutes of normal time to play.

John Conlon and McGrath pointed for Clare either side of a Niall O'Meara effort and a routine Callanan from in front of the posts was cancelled out by Donnellan as three points still separated these Munster rivals with five minutes left: 2-19 to 2-16.

It was end-to-end stuff now but points from substitute Gearoid Ryan and Callanan (free) ensured that the winners carried a five-point cushion into the closing two minutes. O'Meara pointed via an upright in the 70th minute and substitute Shane Bourke tagged on two more late Tipp points either side of a Ryan reply.

Tipp had repelled everything Clare could throw at them in the second half and the league final line-up on May 4th will have a very familiar look to it...

Tipperary - D Gleeson; C Barrett, Padraic Maher, M Cahill; J Barry (0-1), B Maher, C O'Mahony; K Bergin, J Woodlock (0-1); N McGrath (0-1), Patrick Maher (2-0), J O'Dwyer (0-2, 1f); D Maher (0-1), S Callanan (0-12, 6f, 2'65, 1pen), N O'Meara (0-3). Subs: G Ryan (0-1) for D Maher, S McGrath for N McGrath, S Bourke (0-2) for J O'Dwyer, M Breen for J Woodlock.

Clare - D Tuohy; J Browne, C Dillon, D McInerney (0-1); B Bugler, Conor Ryan, P O'Connor; P Donnellan (1-1), C Galvin (0-2); J Conlon (0-1), T Kelly (0-2), Colin Ryan (0-5, 4f); C McInerney (1-1), C McGrath (0-2), P Collins (0-2). Subs: P Duggan for C McInerney, S Collins for C Galvin, A Cunningham for J Conlon.

Referee - C Lyons.

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