Senior Hurling Challenge
SO FAR, so good for Tipperary and Eamon O’Shea in 2013. January it may still be but the early signs are encouraging. O’Shea took charge against intercounty opposition for the first time last Sunday as neighbours Offaly were put to the sword in front of a healthy attendance in Templemore.
O’Shea started with nine of the players who had lined out against UCC in Emly a week before and one of the newcomers to the side, Seamus Callanan, took the opportunity to lay down a marker.
The talented Drom & Inch forward finished with 0-11, including four points from frees, as he donned the blue and gold for the first time since last summer’s Munster final. Sean Curran, playing his second game in a week, clipped over three first half points and did more than enough to warrant a run when the competitive fare begins against Limerick or Mary I in the Waterford Crystal Cup on Sunday week, January 27. Before then, Dublin are the visitors to Nenagh next Sunday for another challenge game.
For O’Shea, results are more or less irrelevant at this time of year. What he is looking for, however, are signs of fresh life in a squad of players that has stagnated somewhat. He also wants them to work hard and wear the shirt that dons their torso with honour and distinction. That’s all any of the punters that paid €10 into Templemore Park last Sunday want too.
Similar to the UCC game, it was Tipp who started the better against Offaly, before their opponents were left back into the game against half-time. But in the second half Tipp turned up the heat and burned off the Faithful County challenge.
Tipp were in cruise control after twenty minutes, leading by 0-9 to 0-3, before Offaly’s leading marksman Shane Dooley, who also missed a number of scoreable frees, bagged a fortuitous goal.
Dooley’s speculative effort from the touchline took a horrible bounce to deceive Tipperary goalkeeper Darren Gleeson in the 21st minute.
Offaly led by 1-9 to 0-11 at the break but Tipp held the visitors to just four second half points and Gleeson atoned for his earlier error with some fine saves.
Tipp corner forward Shane Bourke scored his second goal in two games in the 42nd minute, finishing brilliantly with a batted finish after taking a pass from Timmy Hammersley.
Again, every player from midfield up got on the scoresheet, with Noel McGrath joining Johnny Ryan in midfield on this occasion, with Adrian Ryan pushed into the half-forward line. Ryan had less of an impact on proceedings this time, having starred against the students at centrefield. But the lively Templederry Kenyons player scored a second half point and worked hard throughout. On the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, Ryan is giving himself a chance of featuring down the road. McGrath, Ryan and Hammersley picked off a brace of points each. Hammersley had scored 2-5 against UCC and spectators wondered how he would fare with the step up in pace against Offaly. The Clonoulty-Rossmore man did fine, hitting a point in either half and supplying Bourke for the killer second goal.
Defensively, there were a number of alterations from the UCC match, with Gleeson replacing Brendan Cummins in goal, while Donagh Maher, Paul Curran and Shane McGrath slotted into the back line.
McGrath did particularly well at right half back and this could provide O’Shea with a fresh option. Hamill, so impressive on his senior debut against UCC, was solid once again at centre back although Cathal Parlon and Joe Bergin did cause Tipp some problems out around the ‘forty. Parlon finished with 0-3 and was one of Offaly’s better players on the day, with full-forward Bergin drifting out to the half-forward line in search of possession.
Dooley was scorer in chief for Ollie Baker’s men, finishing up with 1-7, but the Tullamore man missed a number of frees that he would normally convert with ease. Nevertheless, it was Dooley’s lucky goal that helped Offaly to led by a point at half-time, after Tipp had dominated the early exchanges.
After half-time, it was much more comfortable for Tipp as they drew level early on and outscored Offaly by 1-11 to 0-4 in the second half. Callanan was again to the fore, adding five points to the six he notched before the break. Offaly were restricted to just two second half points from play, scored by Bergin and Odhran Kealey, as Dooley knocked over a brace of frees. Ultimately, job done again for Tipp and next Sunday’s clash with Dublin will afford O’Shea the opportunity to run the rule over other members of his 26-man squad.
Scorers for Tipperary: S Callanan 0-11 (7f), S Curran 0-3, S Bourke 1-0, N McGrath, J Ryan & T Hammersley 0-2 each, A Ryan & M Heffernan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 1-7 (0-6f), C Parlon 0-3, J Bergin 0-2, O Kealey 0-1.
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; D Maher, P Curran, J O’Keeffe; S McGrath, T Hamill, P Stapleton; N McGrath, J Ryan; M Heffernan, S Curran, A Ryan; S Bourke, S Callanan, T Hammersley.
OFFALY: J Dempsey; D King, C McDonald, P Camon; D Mooney, K Brady, M Cleary; S Gardiner, S Ryan; C Egan, D Molloy, C Parlon; S Dooley, J Bergin, O Kealey.
Subs: B Carroll for Gardiner (h.t.), T Carroll for Ryan (51), D Kelliher for McDonald (54), T Bulger for Molloy (63).
Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).