Clare essentially jumped out of the tall grass here, shaking off the pundits’ failure to fire off an opening championship volley that frankly doesn’t do justice in the arithmetic above.
Because this was more than an eight-point game, the doubts now inhabiting Tipperary’s ribs left a clearly ashen Colm Bonnar with so much to consider.
Three end goals from Killinan in the first half allowed the visitors to build a 13-point lead at half-time which, to be honest, Tipp never seemed remotely equipped.
And Bonnar’s men now have two weeks to formulate a survival plan for the Gaelic Grounds and a Limerick team they haven’t exactly spooked lately.
It was thus the perfect launching pad for a Clare team that went largely unnoticed in the preview round but now welcomed back both Peter Duggan and Shane O’Donnell to an opening attack that left their hosts in trouble from the first whistle.
While they did have the help of a gusty wind that first half, it obviously wasn’t a 13-point breeze. To tell the truth, Tips difficulties went much further than any battle with the elements.
They took a paltry 3-0 from the game in the 70 minutes through their six starting strikers and rarely seemed equipped to test opponents who have now won their last two league games against Tipp in Thurles.
Given the ease with which Clare was able to drive home unencumbered by even a hint of anxiety, there was little consolation for locals with 17,260 in attendance.
And this opens up all possibilities for the banner, a place in the coveted top 3 of the province now seems within reach.
Their first goal came within eight minutes, Ian Galvin finishing gracefully after Brian Hogan brilliantly deflected Peter Duggan’s attempt onto his crossbar.
At this point, however, there was still an illusion of an equal competition, as Clare, goalkeeper – Eibhear Quiligan – was already having to make a smart save against Jason Forde at the end of town.
But an early injury to Tipp full-back James Quigley left them looking vulnerable on their inside line of defense and the Kiladangan man would eventually hobble away to be replaced by Brian McGrath.
By the time he did that Tipp was already in big, big trouble, Duggan slamming in a second goal from Clare in the 21st minute after Hogan’s save from a rampaging John Conlon conveniently threw the sliotar his way.
Six minutes later, Quigley limped away to be substituted for Brian McGrath, whose brother – John – was already injured in the stands.
And the youngest McGrath’s day began with the worst imaginable when umpire James Owens ruled his first act of the game as a foul on Duggan on the edge of the pitch and Tony Kelly completed the resulting penalty with minimal fuss.
The score was 3-6 to 0-4, Tipp struggling desperately for footing in the middle third and eventually reaching half-time without a single result from their full-attack starting line.
“I guess the 13-point deficit at halftime was a killer for us,” Bonnar later admitted of their 0-7 to 3-11 deficit at halftime.
“We didn’t think Clare would have that start. You know we were in a good place physically and mentally and we thought we were going to bring a big fight to Clare, especially in our home game here. I thought it was pretty balanced at first.
“They got a goal and a couple of points, but we actually had a chance to score. It could have been 1-4 each and that would have helped us sort of settle into the game, but the longer it went the more bad luck there were. . . Clare was building momentum and when they scored the second and third goals they really ripped us up.
“They had a hunger about them that I thought our lads would have and I suppose that was really what made the difference in the first half. They brought a huge fight.”
That fight was particularly reflected in the excellence of Conlon at centre-back and a tiger-like Rory Hayes giving Mark Kehoe a torrid time in the corner.
But even players like Forde and Jake Morris could not win Tipp, Clare’s defensive line was rarely under excessive pressure.
The home side followed up with a quick goal in the 37th minute from substitute Ger Browne who raced for the breaking ball and they had a lucky second on the board 12 minutes later when Barry Heffernan’s try by a point tricked Quilligan and the ball sailed in over the goalie’s head.
But that was the best it could get for Tipp, as Quiligan essentially wiped out their last, already flimsy chance for a comeback with a near-post save from Kehoe on the hour.
Clare now meets Cork next weekend, her manager – Brian Lohan – muses: “It’s been a tremendous game for us to come to Thurles and play Tipp with the quality that they have. We would have been happy with a one-point win. I’m just happy for the guys that their hard work was rewarded.”
Scorers – Clare: T Kelly 1-7 (1-0 pen, 6f); P Duggan, I Galvin 1-2 each; S O’Donnell, R Taylor, R Mounsey 0-2 each; R Hayes, D Ryan, D McInerney, D Fitzgerald 0-1 each. Tipperary: J Forde 0-7 (4f, 2’65s, 1s/l); G Browne 1-3; B. Heffernan 1:0; Maher 0:2 (1f); Barrett C, McGrath N, Breen M, Kehoe M each 0-1.
CLARE-E Quiligan 6; R Hayes 8, C Cleary 7, P Flanagan 7; D Ryan 7, J Conlon 9, D McInerney 7; S O’Donnell 8, C Malone 7; R Taylor 7, T Kelly 7, D Fitzgerald 7; P Duggan 8, R Mounsey 7, I Galvin 8. Subs: P Crotty 6 for Galvin (49), D McMahon 6 for Fitzgerald (62), S Golden for Mounsey (69), J McCarthy for O’Donnell (70), J Browne for Taylor (75).
TIPPERARY—Brian Hogan 7; C Barrett 7, J Quigley 6, C Morgan 6; D Quirke 6, R Maher 7, S Kennedy 6; D McCormack 5, B Heffernan 6; J Forde 6, N McGrath 6, M Breen 6; J Morris 5, M Kehoe 6, J McGrath 6. Subs: G Browne 8 for J McGrath (23), B McGrath 6 for Quigley (27), C Stakelum 6 for McCormack (ht), G O’Connor 6 for Morris ( 49), a Flynn 6 for Heffernan (64).
Ref – J Owens (Wexford)
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/hurling/goal-hungry-clares-first-half-blitz-leaves-fragile-tipp-on-the-brink-41583835.html Goal-hungry Clare’s blitz in the first half leaves the fragile tip on the sidelines