AN OPENING DAY loss can crank up the pressure, so Tipperary needed to inject their Division 3 league promotion prospects with a shot of hope today.
They achieved that by holding off Wicklow, marking a return to home soil with success after their unrewarding trip to Limerick last Saturday.
It ended in some anxiety for the hosts at Semple Stadium with Emmet Moloney shown a red card, Jimmy Feehan ending up in the sin bin and Wicklow’s Seanie Furlong burying a penalty to the net.
But Tipperary survived by three points and this win was secured in large part thanks to the two goals they registered, the first from a familiar figure and the second from a novel source.
Conor Sweeney is Tipperary’s captain, attacking talisman and All-Star forward in 2020. They desperately needed his intervention in finishing calmly to the net on the half hour after shipping five points to Wicklow and going nearly 20 minutes without moving the scoreboard themselves. Brian Fox and Colman Kennedy did well to work the opportunity which Sweeney availed of.
Philip Ryan is a new recruit from Dublin with senior and U21 All-Ireland winning experience who is a fresh option for the Tipperary attack. He was drafted in from the start, as was county underage hurling star Conor Bowe. In the 52nd minute Sweeney made the turnover as Wicklow carried out of defence, Tipperary countered with speed and Ryan was on his own near goal, where he could sidestep netminder Mark Jackson before slotting his shot in.
That propelled Tipperary ahead 2-6 to 0-9 and they never relinquished that advantage. It had all looked different in the first half with Wicklow playing at a higher tempo. They trailed 0-4 to 0-1 early on, JP Hurley off the pitch for ten minutes after being shown a black card. But five successive points put Wicklow ahead with Eoin Darcy impressing in attack. It was level 1-4 to 0-7 at the break, that goal concession proving costly for Davy Burke’s Wicklow team.
The second-half switched in Tipperary’s direction after that Ryan goal with Sean O’Connor from dead balls and Steven O’Brien from play, hitting some sweetly-struck points. They were coasting to success until they lost a couple of defenders, while Wicklow goalkeeper Mark Jackson came upfield to knock over a couple of frees. Furlong despatched that late penalty but time ran out on Wicklow and the spoils went the way of Tipperary.
Scorers for Tipperary: Conor Sweeney 1-3 (0-2f), Sean O’Connor 0-5 (0-4f, 0-1 mark), Steven O’Brien 0-3, Philp Ryan 1-0, Conal Kennedy 0-1.
Scorers for Wicklow: Sean Furlong 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), Eoin Darcy (0-1f), Mark Jackson (0-2f) 0-3 each, Podge O’Toole, Andy Maher, Niall Donnelly, Mark Kenny 0-1 each.
1. Michael O’Reilly (Clonmel Commercials)
4. Colm O’Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan), 3. Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule), 2. Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers).
5. Emmet Moloney (Drom & Inch), 6. Paudie Feehan (Killenaule), 12. Brian Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill).
8. Steven O’Brien (Ballina), 9. Conal Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials).
10. Jason Lonergan (Clonmel Commercials), 11. Colman Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials), 17. Conor Bowe (Moyne-Templetuohy).
26. Philip Ryan (St Brigid’s – Dublin), 14. Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen), 15. Sean O’Connor (Clonmel Commercials).
7. Jack Harney (Moyle Rovers) for O’Shaughnessy (28)
21. Jack Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials) for Lonergan (half-time)
13. Liam Boland (Moyle Rovers) for Colman Kennedy (43)
22. Padraic Looram (Clonmel Commercials) for Fox (43)
20. Shane Foley (Moyle Rovers) for Paudie Feehan (53)
23. Riain Quigley (Moyle Rovers) for O’Connor (67)
1. Mark Jackson (Baltinglass)
4. Oisín Manning (St Jude’s – Dublin), 2. Nicky Devereux (Ballinteer St John’s – Dublin), 17. Ross O’Brien (Rathnew).
5. Andy Maher (Arklow Geraldines-Ballymoney), 6. Niall Donnelly (St Patrick’s), 22. Dave Devereux (Ballinteer St John’s – Dublin).
8. Podge O’Toole (Kiltegan), 24. JP Hurley (Arklow Geraldines-Ballymoney).
11. Mark Kenny (Ballymanus), 9. Dean Healy (St Patrick’s), 10. Darragh Fitzgerald (Arklow Geraldines-Ballymoney).
13. Eoin Darcy (Tinahely), 14. Seanie Furlong (Kiltegan), 12. Conor Byrne (Avondale).
25. Kevin Quinn (Blessington) for Maher (inj) (25)
20. Daniel Keane (Éire Óg Greystones) for Fitzgerald (47)
21. Patrick O’Connor (Blessington) for Hurley (53)
19. Christopher O’Brien (Ballymoney) for O’Toole (63)
3. Jamie Snell (Rathnew) for O’Brien (63)
18. Eoin Murtagh (Dunlavin) for Devereux (68)
26. Cathal McGee (Bray Emmets) for Darcy (68)
Referee: Seamus Mulvihill (Kerry).
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