EAMON O’Shea’s first game in charge resulted in a comfortable eleven-point victory for Tipperary’s senior hurlers against University College Cork (UCC) in Emly last Sunday.
A fundraiser for the local national school drew a crowd of over 700 people to the picturesque West Tipperary village and a Tipp team that looked in good nick for the time of year richly entertained them.
Further challenge games are planned against Offaly next Sunday at Dr. Morris Park and Dublin seven days later in Nenagh but for now, this was a most satisfactory start for O’Shea.
There were plenty of reasons to be positive and the return from long-term injury of Seamus Hennessy was the most heartwarming development on a chilly Sunday afternoon in early January.
Hennessy has thankfully returned to full fitness after a knee cartilage problem robbed him of the last two years of intercounty championship hurling.
The 2010 All-Ireland senior and U21 medallist admitted that he felt understandably rusty but 70 minutes under his belt will do the 23-year-old Kilruane McDonagh’s clubman no harm at all.
Deployed at centre back, Hennessy performed exceptionally well against the students and in a strong line, Brendan Maher excelled on the left flank, with young Tomás Hamill slotting in on the right side with remarkable maturity.
This was Hamill’s first game as a Tipperary senior hurler but the 2012 All-Ireland minor medallist looked like he’d been there a lot longer than that.
Paddy Stapleton was another player to catch the eye defensively, starring at full-back, while every player from midfield up registered a score.
With two further challenge games coming up before the start of the Waterford Crystal competition, O’Shea did not use any substitutes and the Kilruane McDonagh’s man was pleased with the application of his starting 15.
Mikey Heffernan, a player who has won All-Ireland minor, U21, senior and intermediate medals, marked his return to the senior ranks with two classy points from play in the first half.
An all-new midfield pairing of Johnny Ryan (Drom & Inch) and Templederry’s Adrian Ryan looked impressive too, as both players hit four points each.
Two of Johnny Ryan’s scores came from long range frees while Adrian Ryan quartet were all from play.
Up front, Timmy Hammersley was the star turn with a haul of 2-5 from play.
The Clonoulty-Rossmore man is listed on O’Shea’s extended panel of nine players that backs up a squad of 26 players but on this form, Hammersley will be hoping to kick on and force his way into the full squad.
With the Thurles Sarsfields contingent unavailable until the All-Ireland club campaign comes to a conclusion, Hammersley should get the chance to impress, and he will be eager to take it.
The corner forward has impressed at this time of year in previous campaigns but struggled to lay down a marker later in the season. At 25 years of age, Hammersley will feel that it’s now time to add real consistency to his undoubted talent.
At full-forward, Eoin Kelly showed that there’s life in the old dog yet with a haul of four points, including one late ‘over the shoulder’ score that was reminiscent of the Mullinahone wizard in his pomp.
Shane Bourke in the other corner is a player that is highly thought of within the playing squad and the JK Brackens man, who scored 1-1 last Sunday, is another panel member who wants to nail down a regular starting position.
Tipperary interest on the UCC panel centred on Dan McCormack at centre forward, who scored three points from play, and James Barry at right half back. Pat Lupton from Drom & Inch came off the bench too in the second half.
Tipp, captained by Conor O’Brien, won the toss and elected to play against the breeze in the first half. There was an obvious energy and desire from the players right from the start and early scores from James Woodlock, Hammersley and Heffernan had the hosts 0-3 to 0-0 in front. Tipp controlled the first half but led by just a point at the break, 1-12 to 2-8.
Hammersley’s first goal, in the 26th minute, opened up an eight-point advantage, 1-11 to 0-6, but UCC dragged themselves back into contention before local referee Paddy Russell blew for half-time.
Waterford’s Brian O’Sullivan cracked home a 32nd minute goal before Limerick’s Adrian Breen added a second in stoppage time at the end of the half.
But Tipp wasted no time in reasserting their superiority in the second half as Hammersley pounced for his second goal in the 38th minute, tapping home from close range after Bourke’s initial shot was well saved by Darren McCarthy.
From there until the finish, Tipp were in cruise control and kept a depleted UCC, minus Cork senior star Conor Lehane, comfortably at arm’s length.
Shane Bourke banged home Tipp’s third goal ten minutes from time and overall, 3-23 was decent shooting, with one of the cheers of the afternoon reserved for the industrious Sean Curran as the Mullinahone man clipped over a late point to ensure that all six forwards were now on target.
TIPPERARY: B Cummins; J O’Keeffe, P Stapleton, C O’Brien; T Hamill, S Hennessy, B Maher; J Ryan 0-4, 2f, A Ryan 0-4,2f; M Heffernan 0-2, J Woodlock 0-2, S Curran 0-1; T Hammersley 2-5, E Kelly 0-4,2f, S Bourke 1-1.
UCC: D McCarthy; K Ryan, D Glynn, K Murphy; J Barry, J Nagle, W Egan; B Murray, P Haughney 0-4; M Sugrue 0-2, D McCormack 0-3, B Hartnett; A Breen 1-0, B O’Sullivan 1-0, W Griffen 2f.
Subs: B Coughlan for Nagle, J Ahern 0-4f for Griffen, P Deasy for O’Sullivan, P Lupton for Hartnett, M Carroll for Breen, B Cleary for Ryan, P Prendergast for Murphy.
Referee: P Russell (Emly).