Tipperary survived a rip-roaring start from Clare to win 4-19 to 1-19 at the Gaelic Grounds and take their place in the Munster final.
The Banner men, having just pulled their way out of NHL division 2, were massive underdogs but they raced out of the traps in front of 16,700 people and quickly took a six point lead, holding Tipp scoreless for almost 10 minutes.
Three goals in four minutes from Eoin Kelly, Patrick Maher a thunderbolt from Lar Corbett put Tipp back in the driving seat before half time.
Kelly bounced a second half penalty off the crossbar but that signalled a period of Tipp cruise control. They hit five scores without reply before Seamus Callinan struck late to make Clare’s opening salvo feel like a distant memory.
Conor McGrath got Clare off to the best possible start with a goal inside 60 seconds of his championship debut. He spun John O’Keefe and powered goalward like a veteran before powering the finish home. And after Shane McGrath failed to clear allowing Darach Honan to point, McGrath put the Banner into a 1-2 to nil lead after six minutes.
Fergal Lynch’s long range effort put the reigning all Ireland champions six points down. They had chances in their scoreless opening 10 minutes but failed to take any until Eoin Kelly pointed from a free.
Nicky O’Connell’s massive score from near half way showed that Clare would not be cowed by Tipp’s recent dominance in this fixture. But when Philip Brennan failed to catch a long ball into the square; Kelly was sniffing around and squeezed his shot into the net from an acute angle after 16 minutes.
If the Premier County were taking time to warm up, they soon made up for lost time as Maher and Corbett blasted two quick-fire goals before the clock ticked up to 20. Tipperary were ahead by 3-3 to 1-7, not a bad return after such a sluggish start.
The first 30 minutes were played at a frantic pace and as each second wore past you could sense that Clare‘s task of sticking with their Division one neighbours could only grow larger.
Still, they ran on adrenaline. Cathal McInerney was presented with a goal-chance to restore his side’s lead before half time, the low shot was well saved by Brendan Cummins. Straight up the other end, Noel McGrath scored to make it a four point swing as Tipp ended a frantic first half leading 3-7 to 1-10.
McGrath kept his scoring run going with free to reduce the gap to two points after the break. Shane McGrath was quick to cancel his namesake’s effort out as he advanced from midfield to swing over with his weak side.
A brilliant John Conlon kept Clare motoring and they were soon handed another spot of good fortune. Noel McGrath’s goal was ruled out and instead, a penalty was awarded against James McInerney. Kelly would ordinarily be expected to find the gap but ton this occasion he rattled the crossbar and Clare cleared to safety.
But after that period, Tipp stretched the legs and the lead. McGrath, Gearoid Ryan and Seamus Callinan kept the scores coming as Tipperary crept up to match Clare’s point total and led by seven overall with under 20 minutes to play.
Pa Bourke added another before John Conlon pointed to end Clare’s spell of almost 14 scoreless minutes.
The positives, even in this defeat will outweigh the negatives for Clare, not least the performance of Conor McGrath at corner forward who managed a return of 1-6 on his championship debut despite close attention from Michael Cahill.
As the clock ticked down Clare had a late chance to narrow the gap to two points after a foul by man of the match Padraic Maher. McInerney missed his target and pointed.
Directly from the puck out the Premier side found Corbett in an acre of space just outside the square, he somehow failed to shoot across the line but Callinan was following up with a deft finish to put further gloss on the end result.
Clare: P Brennan; P Vaughan, C Cooney, C Dillon; P O’Connor, J McInerney, P Donnellan; N O’Connell, J Clancy; J Conlon, F lynch, C McInerney; D McMahon, D Honan, C McGrath.
Tipperary: B Cummins; J O’Keeffe, P Curran, M Cahill; D Young, C O’Mahony, Padraic Maher; G Ryan, S McGrath; S Callinan, N McGrath, Patrick Maher; E Kelly, J O’Brien, L Corbett.