EAMON O’Shea’s Tipperary warmed up for next Sunday’s Waterford Crystal Cup opener against Limerick IT with a comfortable victory over Offaly in last Sunday’s senior hurling challenge in Moneygall.
A healthy crowd descended on the border venue on what turned out to be a pleasant, if blustery, afternoon following the inclement morning conditions.
Tipp played with the breeze from the start and while Offaly were competitive for the first quarter of an hour, the Premier County led by 2-9 to 0-6 at half-time.
Offaly responded to get within six points early in the second half before Tipp stepped on the gas again to run out comprehensive winners, with 14 points to spare.
Competitive fare begins next Sunday in Nenagh but the manner of Tipp’s displays in pre-season have been encouraging. A thirst for work, intelligent and short use of possession and a potent scoring touch have been features of the team’s work thus far.
Of course, much bigger tasks lie in store but for now, O’Shea can be rightly pleased with the team’s progress, as he continues to run the rule over an extended panel of players.
Last Sunday’s line-up was a nice blend of youth and experience but it was two young forwards who really caught the eye.
Killenaule’s John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and Borrisoleigh’s Conor Kenny, an import from Kildare last year, both finished the afternoon with 1-5 to their names. All of Kenny’s total was collected from play at full-forward and O’Dwyer finished with 1-3 from play, while also collecting two points from frees.
The sides were level three times during the early exchanges but Tipp never looked back after Kenny netted a 20th minute goal.
It was a wonderfully-constructed move as Shane Bourke, most prominent in the first half, lined up with the excellent Noel McGrath to set up Kenny for a low finish. The goal highlighted everything good about Tipperary when in full flow and in general, the link-up play was impressive from the team right through the game.
However, the weak nature of Offaly’s starting line-up must be taken into account as new manager Brian Whelahan made the short trip without a host of key players.
With Noel McGrath dictating matters from midfield, Tipp had the upper hand and a second goal arrived seven minutes before half-time, finished by David Collins and created by O’Dwyer.
At half-time, Tipp held a nine-point lead and Offaly had failed to register a point from play, with all six of their scores coming from Joe Bergin frees.
Nine minutes after the break, Offaly finally landed their first point from play, scored by Peter Geraghty, and a goal followed soon after, scored by twin brother Tomas. Offaly trailed by six points at that stage – 1-7 to 2-10 – but Tipp’s response was impressive as they claimed the next seven points on offer.
Peter Geraghty responded with an Offaly point but substitute Conor O’Brien’s second point was followed by a third goal for Tipp, scored by O’Dwyer. Brian Carroll and Sean Cleary tagged on late Offaly points but this was a solid afternoon’s work for Tipp, with last year’s captain Shane McGrath doing well at right-half-back.
Behind McGrath, in the full-back position, stood Conor O’Mahony, who was replaced by Tomas Hamill at half-time. Evidently, O’Shea will examine various combinations and permutations throughout the Waterford Crystal Cup and during the early rounds of the National League, with one eye always on that summer championship opener against Limerick. Following a disappointing 2013 campaign, a county expects but supporters will forgive many things as long as the players pulling on the blue and gold shirt wear it with pride and display the required levels of work-rate and attitude.
Tipperary: James Logue (Ballingarry); Paddy Stapleton (Borrisoleigh), Conor O’Mahony (Newport), Jack Peters (Kilruane MacDonaghs); Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch), James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane), Tom Treacy (Cappawhite); Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney) 0-1, Seamus Kennedy (St Mary’s, Clonmel) 0-1; David Collins (Drom & Inch) 1-1, John O’Dwyer (Killenaule) (1-5, 0-2f), Steven O’Brien (Ballina); Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Conor Kenny (Borrisoleigh) (1-5), Shane Bourke (JK Brackens) 0-2.
Subs: Paddy Murphy (Nenagh Éire Óg) 0-1 for L McGrath (30), Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for S O’Brien, Tossy Hamill (Killea) for O’Mahony, Conor O’Brien (Éire Óg Annacarty) 0-2 for Treacy (all h.t.).
Offaly: C Slevin; C McDonald, S Coughlan, J Rigney; D Egan, D Short, D Morkham; T Carroll, K Brady; S Cleary 0-1, J Bergin 0-6f, P Geraghty 0-2; T Geraghty 1-0, C Parlon, M Egan.
Subs: B Carroll for Bergin 0-1 (h.t.), D Kilmartin for T Carroll (h.t.), N Wynne for Coughlan (43), S Gardiner for D Egan (57).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).