Clare 1-16 Tipperary 1-14
By Michael O Connor.
In seasons gone before us and no doubt seasons yet to come Clare will lose finals they deserve to win. In 2012, it will be argued that maybe Lady luck smiled for once on the Banner men and when defeat loomed success was brilliantly snatched. Tipperary will feel they had it won, Clare may feel that the only reason Tipperary were in contention was because of the profiligacy of the Clare forwards in the first half. Whatever one’s viewpoint on the game remember what Sir Steve Redgrave said when asked about results and dissecting the sport he said all that matters is gold and first place.
Warmest of favourites for a Munster title is often a mantle that doesn’t sit well with Clare. The manner in which they dispatched with Waterford, the standard of play provided by a number of senior players who were also star under 21s plus a little dollop of hype following two successful munster minor campaigns had Clare at 1/3 favourites.
Tipperary who were generally on offer at 11/4 prior to the off were being written off despite defeating Cork and Limerick to reach the final. Limerick had high hopes of retaining their crown but were second rate all over the field against Tipperary the same week that Clare overwhelmed a Decies sides that never got out of first gear against Clare in Ennis. The real irony of ironies is that Galway who won the Minor All Ireland in 2009 and are a huge physical side are priced at 3/1 for the All Ireland crown.
A number of the side that were in action in this final had played for the county intermediate side that were beaten in the Munster final in Nenagh two weeks previously with a number rested for this game in the name of squad rotation.
A large crowd gathered around headquarters prior to the game with over 5000 tickets sold up to the morning of the game. A real championship buzz was enveloping Cusack Park and its surrounds hours before the throw in.
The first action of the game saw an effort by Tony Kelly drop into the hands of Paul Ryan as Clare attacked the Tesco goals. Cathal O Connell was been deployed as a third midfielder roaming around the half forward line but Tipperary withdrew a player from each line to leave a loose man in the full back line to counter .
Wides from Tony Kelly, Seadna Morey, Padraic Collins, Cillian Ryan, Cathal O Connell (2) and Conor McGrath (2) by the 9th minute were hit as the sun was the in eyes of the Clare attack and Tipperary defence. The irony was that Tipperary opened the scoring with John O Dwyer converting a free after David McInerney fouled Cian Hogan. Denis Maher quickly added a second by the 11th minute as Clare were in dire need of a score and it came from Conor McGrath after 13 minutes as they had amassed nine wides. The Clare defence opened up in front of Liam McGrath who set up Cian Hogan for Tipperary’s third score.
Tony Kelly got the biggest cheer of the day to that point with a well taken score out on the CBS wing before David O Halloran sent a scorable effort wide at the end of the opening quarter. A huge let off when Cian Hogan caught the ball over David McInerney but blazed the ball wide from literally in front of the Clare goal as Tipperary cursed their misfortune and Clare thanked their lucky stars. This miss was a potential game changer that Tipperary will regret in revision of the game. Within a minute Hogan had the ball over the Clare ball as Collins did likewise for Clare to leave Tipperary (0-4)to (0-3) clear as the Clare half back line was doing well but the full back line were nervous on the high ball. John O Dwyer sent Tipperary two clear as Conor McGrath and Conor Ryan sent two efforts wide as the game went close to half time.
A morale boosting score for the home side came when a brilliant Tony Kelly score narrowed the deficit to the minimum before Liam McGrath rounded off the first half scoring with a snap effort as Tipperary retired (0-6) to (0-5) at the break. Tipperary would have taken this at the start as coming into enemy ground is difficult and especially when they had been given so little hope of success. Clare had the better hurlers but had spurned chances yet on theother side Tipperary appeared to unhinge the Clare defence when attacking so an evenly balanced game was in play with the old
John O Dwyer opened the scoring for the new half with a free from his own 65 as Paudge Collins fouled. Aaron Cunningham set up Tony Kelly to narrow the Tipperary lead to the minimum after 4 minutes. Jason Forde, fresh from the minor grade in 2011 restored the two point Tipperary lead for seconds before Cathal O Connell was on target for his first score. Cillian Ryan lost possession and john O Dwyer struck for another Tipperary point. It was score for score at this juncture as O Connell hit his second score and when Paudge Collins equalised one felt that Clare were about to seize the day.
A major let off for Clare when John O Dwyer sent a free side that would have sent the premier men a point clear after 39 minutes. Clare were really struggling when the ball was in the air and in 50/50 battles. The fluency that was false in the Waterford game was not present as Paudge Collins entered the referee’s notebook.
A long period of hard play ensued until Sean Curran, Tony Kelly and Conor McGrath were on target to send Clare into the lead for the first time in the game on a (0-11) to (0-10) scoreline. The Clare midfield laboured and eventually Kelly who was man of the match was rerouted to midfield as Clare did finish the stronger in this sector. A rumoured prematch hand injury did appear to hamper one of the midfielders. A well taken goal for Tipperary stunned Clare to the core as Jason Forde set up John O Dwyer who blasted past Ronan Taaffe. Clare responded through a Tony Kelly free with 11 minutes remaining to leave Tipperary (1-10) to(0-12) clear. John O Dwyer pointed Tipperary a point ahead with the game entering the final 6 minutes. Aidan McCormack sent Tipperary two clear as David McInerney was in bother with the substitute. John O Dwyer and Kelly were on target as Tipperary were clear by the minimum entering injury time. Over the hour Clare hit 16 wides as opposed to a dozen for the Tipperary hurlers.
A draw would have been accepted at this stage by Clare as Tipperary were growing in confidence but having been infected by the Clare inaccuracy bug they hit eight second half wides and they were vital in the final analysis. Niall Arthur, Peter Duggan and Cathal McInerney were by now on the field and about to play their part in Clare hurling history. A sideline sent in by Duggan was won by McInerney who passed to Arthur whose low drop shot sneaked in past Paul Ryan at the near corner. For one second there was and artificial silence like waiting for the photo finish result. When the umpire raced for the green flag one of the greatest cheers ever in cusack park let all know that Clare were about to be crowned champions once more of Munster.
Best for Clare on a day that a number of key players were below par were Seadna Morey, Tony Kelly, Padraic Collins, Conor Ryan in the first half and Conor McGrath in patches as he was heavily marked. Tipperary had solid displays from John O Dwyer, Pa Ryan, Brian Stapleton, Niall O Meara, Cian Hogan early on and Andrew Ryan.
CLARE: Ronan Taaffe, Paul Flanagan, David McInerney, Killian Ryan, Patrick O Connor, Conor Ryan, Seadna Morey (0-1), Colm Galvin, Shane Golden, Tony Kelly (0-8), Padraic Collins (0-2), Aaron Cunningham, David O Halloran, Conor McGrath (0-2), Cathal O Connell (0-3). Subs: Cathal McInerney for O Halloran, Peter Duggan for O Connelll, Niall Arthur (1-0) for Cunningham
TIPPERARY: Paul Ryan, Stephen Maher, Andrew Ryan, Pa Ryan, Willie Ryan, Brian Stapleton, Justin Cahill, Denis Maher (0-1), Dan McCormack, John O Dwyer (1-7), Sean Curran (0-1), Niall O Meara, Jason Forde (0-1), Cian Hogan (0-2), Liam McGrath (0-1). Subs: Eanna Murray for McCormack, Aidan McCormack (0-1) for Hogan,
Referee: John Sexton (Cork).
After the game before an official attendance of 8,379 Sean Walsh chairman of the Munster council presented the Munster Under 21 cup to Conor McGrath who alongwith Pat O Connor creates history by becoming the only two Clare men to have two Munster under 21 hurling medals