DUBLIN 2-15 TIPPERARY 0-21
“Hurling is mad,” said Anthony Daly, the applause for another compelling Dublin performance chased quickly out of Croke Parkby recognition of a looming date with the bailiff.
Daly’s depleted army has been, arguably, the most eye-catching of this National League, yet relegation remains a galling possibility.
Liam Rushe’s spectacular 73rd-minute equalising goal against Tipperary on Saturday night gave them their first tangible reward of this campaign.
But they will still fight for their Division 1A lives in a play-off on April 15.
“In some ways, that might be more intense than a league semi-final,” reflected Daly, rightly accentuating the positive. For, if the arithmetic implies little enough sunshine spilling Dublin’s way, the naked eye would beg to differ. After single-point defeats to Cork and Kilkenny, it looked as if Tipp were just about squeezing past them too.
Brian O’Meara had begun cutting loose on the edge of the Dublin square after Paul Schutte’s departure and Declan Ryan’s team out-scored Dublin 0-6 to 0-1 between the 62nd and 72nd minutes. We looked to be down to the small print of the evening.
But, deep in added time, Niall Corcoran intercepted a Tipp attack and resisted the urge to play Cuchulainn. A composed off-load to Joey Boland armed the centre-back with one last missile to toss towards the Hill-end goal.
Boland’s delivery drew a wonderful, soaring fetch from Rushe who, running a diagonal path across the Tipp square, fired low past Darren Gleeson. Some Tipp voices grumbled about the number of steps taken. Ryan’s was not among them.
“I hadn’t a great view of it, to be honest,” the Tipp manager said with a smile. “But I thought someone might have caught him and pulled him down or something. We’ll have to get a bit more cynical in our backline maybe!”
The point gives Tipp a straight shot at a semi-final place when they play Cork next weekend and, given that they lined out with just four members of the team that started last year’s All-Ireland final, it can’t have felt like a bad evening’s work for the Munster champions.
A sense of tactical stalemate prevailed for much of the game, yet Gleeson had to save well twice inside a minute from Eamonn Dillon and Alan McCrabbe to keep Dublin at bay in the first half.
Tipp thus led 0-9 to 0-7 at the midpoint. But then Daly juggled his cards.
The introduction of David Treacy had an explosive impact, the Cuala man firing an immediate 1-2 with his first three touches. The goal came in the 38th minute after McCrabbe intercepted a Gleeson puck-out.
Ryan responded to the trouble by replacing John Coghlan with David Young.
Having started at full-back, Padraig Maher was now at half-back for Tipp and hurling up a storm. But their forwards were struggling physically in any 50/50 contests and too often deliveries from deep offered only those percentages.
O’Meara, Noel McGrath and half-time substitute John O’Brien were the pick of Tipp’s attack while Danny Sutcliffe was having another impressive outing on the Dublin wing.
With eight minutes remaining, Ryan O’Dwyer put Dublin two points to the good after a Young clearance was blocked down, but the score seemed to spark Tipp into life. Suddenly, all traffic swept towards the Canal-end goal.
With Michael Carton having to operate as a makeshift Dublin full-back, O’Meara’s presence began to dominate the narrative.
He would score four points in the closing 13 minutes (five in total) and looked to have provided a match-winning contribution.
But just when self-pity might have loomed, Dublin found defiance.
For Daly, the late reprieve told him only good things about his team. “Hurling is mad in a lot of ways,” said the Clare man, “but you’ve got to give yourself a chance by being ready for the battle and up to the pace of it. And, hopefully, we’re getting to the pace of it.
“It looked like it was gone from us, but we got the break today. A great goal from Liam. You know we were gutted after our opening game. T’was as long a drive I’d say as I ever came from Galway. We were shocking; we were so dead. But we’re after producing three honest displays anyway.
“We’ve only picked up one point and everyone’s disappointed that we find ourselves in the position that we’re in but, at the same time, there’s a little spring in everyone’s step inside in that dressing-room now.”
For Ryan, a second successive goal-less outing left a few ripples of misgiving and, no doubt, led to the name-checking of a certain publican around Thurles on Saturday night.
Yet, Tipp have rallied from a tepid opening-round defeat in Kilkenny and Ryan’s options are broadening. “It was a result we’d have settled for I suppose 10 or 15 minutes into the second half,” said the Tipp manager.
“We didn’t get enough ball in around the danger area quick enough. In fairness, Dublin play a defensive style of game anyway.
“But the guys battled back and it looked like we had the game won, so I suppose the end result is disappointing. We could have done with the two points, but it makes the Cork game now a knock-out effectively.”
A fair result then, glasses half-full in both camps.
Man of the Match: Brian O’Meara (Tipperary)
SCORERS — Dublin: L Rushe, D Treacy 1-2 each, A McCrabbe 0-3 (2f), R O’Dwyer, D Sutcliffe, N McMorrow 0-2 each, J McCaffrey, D O’Callaghan 0-1 each. Tipperary: P Bourke 0-6 (5f), B O’Meara 0-5, N McGrath 0-4 (2 f), J O’Brien 0-2, B Maher, J Ryan, S Bourke, S McGrath 0-1 each.
DUBLIN — G Maguire 7; R Treanor 7, P Schutte 7, N Corcoran 7; M Carton 6, J Boland 6, J McCaffrey 7; S Durkin 7, S Lambert 6; L Rushe 8, A McCrabbe 6, D Sutcliffe 8; D O’Callaghan 6, R O’Dwyer 7, E Dillon 6. Subs: D Treacy 8 for Dillon (h-t), S Stapleton 6 for Lambert (52), N McMorrow 7 for McCrabbe (55), M O’Brien 6 for Schutte (58).
TIPPERARY — D Gleeson 7; D Maher 7, P Maher 8, C O’Brien 6; M Cahill 8, J Coghlan 6, T Stapleton 6; B Maher 8, J Woodlock 6; N McGrath 7, P Bourke 7, G Ryan 6; J O’Neill 6, B O’Meara 8, S Bourke 6. Subs: J O’Brien 8 for S Bourke (h-t), D Young 7 for Coghlan (46), J Ryan 7 for P Bourke (49), S McGrath 7 for Woodlock (59), T Hammersley for O’Neill (70).
Ref — B Gavin (Offaly).