Reigning county champions Loughmore/Castleiney had to call on all their experience to overcome Arravale Rovers in Sundayâ€™s county SFC quarter-final played at Holycross.
For the second season in succession, at the same last-eight stage of the competition, the Mid Tipperary side got the better of a gallant Arravale Rovers after another almighty battle.
Twelve months ago under the lights at Clonoulty, Loughmore came through by a point after extra-time. On Sunday last they had to recover from a two-points half-time deficit to eventually wear down the Tipperary Town boys.
Loughmore/Castleiney now advance to the last four where they will need to improve (and they will) to retain their football crown. For Arravale Rovers though it marks the end of their year and they came away from Holycross on Sunday with many regrets. What contributed greatly to their defeat was a dozen wides and an inability in the first half, to drive home their period of supremacy. The other major factor in their defeat was the straight red for Darren Lowry in the 42nd minute. Having to play the last 20 minutes a man down turned a mole hill into a mountain for the West side.
Fired up from the outset Arravale went two points up inside four minutes with excellent points from the Lowry brothers, Darren and Bryan.
The Loughmore midfield partnership of Noel McGrath and David Kennedy then began to impose their presence and a flow of possession towards the Arravale goal followed. Too easily and with almost a noviceâ€™s enthusiasm the Arravale defence conceded cheap frees and on three occasions Liam Treacy obliged with pointed frees to give Loughmore the lead for the first time.
A point by Arravale midfielder Brian Jones levelled it at 0-3 apiece in the 13th minute - the sides would be level six times in a game that ebbed and flowed throughout.
The experience and patient economy of Loughmore was obvious. They seemed content to wait for either a clear-cut effort or else tease out a free. On the other hand Arravale, with nine first half wides, were wasting too much hard-won possession for no reward.
A fisted point for Loughmore from Liam Treacy on 16 minutes - their only point from play in the opening period - was responded to by a sublime effort from Bryan Lowry from way out on the right wing.
Yet another free from Liam Treacy after Liam McGrath was fouled inched the Mid side in front again. Donagh Leahy and Brian Jones swapped passes before Leahy kicked the equaliser for 0-5 each.
The 10 minute period before the break was Arravale Rovers best and their real opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and the champions.
A brace of points from Shane Leahy and Bryan Lowry put them two up but in the same period the Rovers were guilty of kicking three shocking wides. Consequently they went in only two points up at 0-7 to 0-5. They should have been four or five clear and they knew they needed to be.
Within three minutes of the restart Loughmore were back on level terms. Liam McGrath who had a quiet opening period, was beginning to run at the Rovers defence and twice won frees, one converted by Liam Treacy and the other by himself. At 0-7 apiece it was back in the melting pot.
Referee Brian Tyrrell made a huge call in the 42nd minute issuing a straight red to Arravale full-forward Darren Lowry. The significance of the numerical disadvantage would make itself clear towards the end of a hard-fought game on a demandingly soft pitch.
Bizarre, describes the next score. Arravale Rovers centre-forward Conor McManus kicked a peach of a point from way out right to give his side a morale boosting lead only to be black carded immediately for a body block offence that had taken place in a previous passage of play.
Loughmore responded magnificently with a pair of good points inside a minute from Liam Treacy and Liam McGrath.
Arravale stuck to their task and Bryan Lowry with another point from the left wing levelled matters at 0-9 apiece with 14 minutes to go. However, it would be their last score.
The feeling of inevitability about the Loughmore head of steam began to manifest itself. The McGraths - Ciaran, Noel, Liam with Liam Treacy were getting involved more and more, while John McGrath was working a lot of ball through from midfield.
A three man move in the 53rd minute involving Noel McGrath and Ciaran McGrath ended with Tom King kicking a mighty point to put his side in to a lead they would never surrender thereafter.
Possession was king too and Loughmore/Castleiney were using all of their wily craft and perpetual will-to-win to keep it. Arravale, a point down and with time against them, couldnâ€™t get much possession. With 60 minutes on the clock there was still only a point in it and hope remained.
Loughmore substitute Evan Sweeney won a free which Liam Treacy converted and Treacy repeated the dose following another indiscretion a minute later.
At the final whistle there was no doubt Loughmore were full value for their hard-fought win.
The champions will be satisfied with the result if not the display and will know themselves that more will be needed to retain the title. Dominic Brennan made a brave first half save in perhaps the gameâ€™s only goal chance. The combined defensive unit led by Ciaran McGrath worked hard throughout. Noel McGrath and David Kennedy shaded midfield while Liam Treacy and Liam McGrath were the most dangerous of their forwards.
A very disappointed Arravale Rovers, whose last county title success was almost 30 years ago in 1985, were best served by Tommy Lowry, Paddy Dalton, Donagh Leahy, Robbie Kiely, â€¨Brian Jones, Darren Lowry and Bryan Lowry. At the end of the day the many missed chances and seven points conceded to frees did the damage.
Loughmore/Castleiney: Dominic Brennan, Lorcan Egan, TomÃ¡s McGrath, Willie Eviston, Tom King (0-1), Ciaran McGrath, John Ryan, Noel McGrath, David Kennedy, Aidan McGrath, John McGrath, Liam Treacy (0-9, 0-6F), Cian Hennessy, Liam McGrath (0-2, 0-1F), Joe Nyland.
Subs: Tommy Long for Egan (inj); Eamonn Connolly for Nyland; Evan Sweeney for Hennessy.
Arravale Rovers: Eric Higgins, Tommy Lowry, Pearse Richardson, Paddy Dalton, Donagh Leahy (0-1), Robbie Kiely, Shane Leahy (0-1), Damien Kiely, Brian Jones (0-1), James Hogan, Conor McManus (0-1), Niall Donovan, Steven Quinn, Darren Lowry (0-1), Bryan Lowry (0-4).
Subs: Michael Oâ€™Dwyer and John Bourke for Damien Kiely and Quinn; Peter Mulhair for Conor McManus (black card); John Hayes for Pearse Richardson; Darragh Coughlan for Niall Donovan.
Referee: Brian Tyrrell (Clonmel Commercials).