Plus points for Sheedy as Tipp gain momentum
All-Ireland SHC Qualifier
TIPPERARY never had to hit the heights against Offaly in Portlaoise yesterday as they set up a mouth-watering All-Ireland quarter-final showdown with Galway.
The venue for that titanic tussle next Sunday will be confirmed by GAA chiefs later this afternoon and Tipp can look forward to it with some optimism after back-to-back championship victories.
Although still defensively sound, Tipp don't look as powerful a unit as last year but they are sure to improve again next weekend after doing no more than enough to move comfortably past a below-par Offaly challenge.
There was none of the fire from the Faithful County that almost saw them shock Galway in the Leinster semi-final as Tipperary led from start to finish in front of 13,888 spectators.
Offaly's misery was compounded four minutes from time when sub Kevin Brady, who had only been on the pitch five minutes, was sent off for pulling across the legs of Shane McGrath.
Tipp captain Eoin Kelly won the pre-match toss and his decision to play with the aid of a stiff breeze blowing into the Town End paid rich dividends.
Brendan Cummins put the Offaly defence under immense pressure with booming puck-outs and at the break Tipp led comfortably by 0-14 to 0-5.
For the most part, manager Liam Sheedy's changes worked well as David Young forged a solid midfield partnership with former All-Ireland minor winning captain Brendan Maher, who was his team's most impressive performer.
Re-homed at centre forward, Shane McGrath's natural inclination was to drift back towards the centre of the field but the Ballinahinch man still put in a useful shift. Gearóid Ryan, making just his second full championship start, hit three points in another solid display.
Kilkenny boss Brian Cody may well have afforded himself a wry smile last night as this time next week one of the main pretenders to the Cats' throne will have fallen by the wayside. Sheedy doesn't have the luxury of scanning the wider landscape and the Portroe man was happy with another victory.
"It was about getting over the finishing line again today and back into the quarter-final. Offaly are a fabulous team -- they bring great passion and great heart. We were very conscious of that coming into the game," he said.
"We were anxious to try and get a bit of a head start. In fairness to the lads, they struck some fabulous scores in the first half. That's where we set our platform for the victory. We only had four wides in the first half."
Offaly boss Joe Dooley has completed three years at the helm and has overseen definite progress. Talk on his future is "for another day I think" but the general feeling is that he will stick around. "We're in a much, much different position than we were in last year," he said. "We're setting standards higher for ourselves and that's the way it has to be."
They're not yet at the level of Tipperary who were steady, rather than spectacular, yesterday. Lar Corbett had a sight of goal in the first minute, the closest Tipp came to a green flag, and they went on to lead by 0-10 to 0-2 after 24 minutes. Offaly, who registered nine first-half wides, hit just 1-5 from play, and the goal was a consolation score from Shane Dooley in stoppage time.
Scorers -- Tipperary: E Kelly 0-11 (7f, 1 '65), G Ryan 0-3, B Maher 0-2, C O'Mahony (f), D Young, S McGrath, N McGrath and L Corbett 0-1 each. Offaly: S Dooley 1-7 (0-6f, 0-1 '65), J Bergin 0-3, D Hayden and D Molloy 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY -- B Cummins 7; P Stapleton 7, P Curran 7, M Cahill 7; D Fanning 8, C O'Mahony 7, Pádraic Maher 7; D Young 7, B Maher 8; G Ryan 8, S McGrath 6, Patrick Maher 6; N McGrath 7, E Kelly 7, L Corbett 6. Subs: S Callanan 6 for Patrick Maher (57), S Hennessy 6 for Young (62), P Bourke 5 for N McGrath (63), C O'Brien n/a for B Maher (67), J O'Brien n/a for S McGrath (69).
OFFALY -- J Dempsey 7; D Franks 6, P Cleary 6, J Rigney 6; D Kenny 6, R Hanniffy 7, D Morkan 6; B Murphy 7, D Hayden 6; B Carroll 5, J Brady 4, D Molloy 6; C Parlon 5, J Bergin 7, S Dooley 6.
Subs: G Healion 6 for Parlon (45), D Currams 5 for J Brady (50), K Brady 0 for Hayden (61), O Kealey n/a for Molloy (65).
REF -- J Sexton