Tipperary will meet Limerick in the Munster SHC final after they produced a strong second half to see off Clare at the LIT Gaelic Grounds.
A pair of third-quarter goals helped Tipp to seize the upper hand after trailing at half-time, but the first of those, a Jason Forde strike from a penalty, will be Clare’s primary source of disquiet in the analysis of the game.
Clare’s Tony Kelly, whose goal just before the half-time had put Clare in front, extended their lead to two but then, as Tipperary sub Willie Connors tried to find a route to goal from out left just inside the 20m line, he was taken out by an Aidan McCarthy challenge that looked clumsy more than anything else.
However, referee James Owens awarded a penalty and sent McCarthy to the sin-bin, with Jason Forde sticking the penalty away to give a Tipp that wouldn’t be lost thereafter. After points from captain Séamus Callanan and Ronan Maher, Callanan cracked home a goal when it appeared he might go for a point and Tipp were five in front. All told, by the time McCarthy resumed his place, they had outscored Clare by 2-4 to 0-2 and were comfortable winners in the end. The clearest evidence for this was the fact that they conceded the final five points and still won by four. While the attendance at the Ennis Road venue was sparse, the Clare faithful were still able to make their disapproval for Owens’ performance heard at the final whistle.
The game started at a break-neck speed and within the opening six minutes Clare had plundered a 1-3 to 0-4 lead. Trailing by the minimum after a point-taking exhibition in the opening stages, the Banner hit the front for the first time as Paul Flanagan’s ball from deep found its way through Ian Galvin, who was able to turn Cathal Barrett and fire past Barry Hogan in the Tipp goal.
Clare’s tails were up after that and four consecutive points followed from Colm Galvin, Ian Galvin, Tony Kelly and David Reidy, the latter after a good turnover forced by the industrious Ryan Taylor. Having shot 22 wides in their win over Waterford the previous week, Clare’s sights were in – it took until the 23rd minute for a wayward effort here.
That scoring flurry had them 1-7 to 0-4 to the good, but the pendulum swung back just as empahtically as Tipp drew level by the time of the first water-break thanks to an unanswered 1-3. After points from Jason Forde (two, a sideline and a free), they got back to within one as Michael Breen engineered a goal chance, which he took with a fine ground shot. Jake Morris levelled.
While Taylor put Clare back in front, Tipp struck for five of the next seven points, Forde with three of those while John O’Dwyer made his presence felt with a pair of nice scores. After Tony Kelly replied with a superb Clare score, they needed a good Eibhear Quilligan save to deny Callanan a goal. While Forde sent the resultant 65 over the bar, Clare would go in leading at the break.
There was an element of fortune as Tipp’s Barry Heffernan did well to half-block an Aron Shanagher point attempt but when the ball came loose, quick David Reidy thinking diverted the ball to Kelly, who flashed a shot beyond Hogan.
Kelly brought his tally to 1-4 with the first score of the second half, but then came the contentious penalty call, with Callanan’s goal following soon after that. By the time of the water-break, they were 3-18 to 2-14 to the good, with Clare’s shooting becoming more ragged as they chased the game, while Tipp weren’t offering up any goalscoring opportunities.
Subs Connors and Alan Flynn got on the scoresheet for Tipp, who could have another Forde goal but for Quilligan to save once more. Even so, their scoring-rate remained strong while Clare couldn’t find the goal to get themselves back into it. Sub Mark Rodgers had a chance but Barry Hogan saved from him while Shanagher’s follow-up was kept out by Barry Heffernan. A late penalty shout for a challenge under a dropping ball was not entertained.
Tipp advance, not without things to work on, but happier to have a final to look forward to rather than All-Ireland qualifiers.
Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde 1-8 (0-3f, 0-1 65, 0-1 sideline), J O’Dwyer 0-4, S Callanan, M Breen 1-1 each, J Morris 0-3, D McCormack, A Flynn 0-2 each, W Connors, R Maher 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: T Kelly 1-9 (0-8f), I Galvin 1-3, R Taylor, C Malone 0-2 each, R Hayes, J Conlon, C Galvin, A McCarthy, D Reidy, A Shanagher 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY: B Hogan; P Maher, C Barrett, B Heffernan; S Kennedy, B Maher, R Maher; N McGrath, D McCormack; J O’Dwyer, J Forde, J McGrath; S Callanan, J Morris, J O’Dwyer.
Subs: W Connors for J McGrath (half-time), A Flynn for N McGrath (48), D Quirke for O’Dwyer (67).
CLARE: E Quilligan; P Flanagan, R Hayes, C Cleary; D Ryan, J Conlon, P Fitzpatrick; C Galvin, C Malone; A McCarthy, D Reidy, R Taylor; A Shanagher, T Kelly, I Galvin.
Subs: D McInerney for Fitzpatrick (53), M Rodgers for I Galvin, D Fitzgerald for Taylor (both 59).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).