Sport Gaelic Football

Saturday 18 November 2017

Quinlivan pounces at perfect moment

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

JUST 30 seconds after the restart a sound that is as rare as a cuckoo in Croke Park during most All-Ireland football semi-finals rang out around the stadium.

Ian Fahey had just threaded through a delicate handpass that Michael Quinlivan had cleverly drop-kicked to the net and, as their team moved seven points clear, noisy chants of "Tipp, Tipp, Tipp" rose up from the crowd.

The Munster champions only scored three more points and would eventually be outscored in the second half and be reduced to 14 men after losing midfield colossus Fahey to a second yellow card on 51 minutes.

But that timely goal, and their economical and hard-working style throughout, was enough to see them through and confirm that the Premier County is a rising force in the big-ball game.

It was Tipp minors' first football semi-final in 16 years and earned them a first final spot since 1984, when they also beat Roscommon before meeting Dublin, so fatalists among their fans reckoned the omens were with them.

But this victory, and their whole season, has had nothing to do with fate or luck.

Roscommon were notched on a belt that already featured Cork, Kerry and Meath to confirm that the home of hurling right now is also in the midst of a serious football revolution.

"In fairness, everyone in the county is behind us," said delighted manager David Power, revealing that the county's hurlers acceded to them using Semple Stadium for training last Tuesday.

The fact that they hadn't been allowed a practice run in Croke Park had drawn his ire beforehand -- he reiterated that view yesterday -- but his talented side looked nothing like Croker rookies.

Within four minutes they were three points clear and by half-time led by four (0-8 to 0-4), courtesy of a fantastic work ethic and a direct style that was in sharp contrast to their opponents' error-ridden short-passing game.

Fahey -- a towering, powerful figure reminiscent of Kerry's Tommy Walsh -- and Stephen O'Brien were all over Roscommon's fancied midfield pairing.

And when ball was won it went in long and early to their two-man full-forward line of Quinlivan and TJ Ryan.

Notably, Tipp did not notch up their first wide, a free, until just before the break.

Yet Roscommon had already missed two good goal chances.

Evan Comerford justified his selection by stopping from Kevin Finn in the first quarter and centre-back Dylan Fitzelle also got in another vital block on Finn before half-time.

At the interval, Power gave his history-makers just three simple instructions: "Win the throw-in, score first and win the second half!"

"I don't think we did the latter but I got two out of three which isn't bad," he chuckled as the enormity of his side's achievement started to sink in.

The quick goal was crucial as it gave Roscommon, who seemed badly hit by nerves, a huge mountain to climb -- something they did gamely, led by brilliant corner-forward Donie Smith, wing-back Conor Daly and half-forward Liam Conlon.

When Fahey was dismissed, their comeback chances increased considerably. They grasped it gratefully, cutting the deficit to just two thanks to three unanswered scores, one from Daly and two particularly inspirational points from Smith.

Critical

But Tipp's bench played a vital role, particularly John McGrath (brother of hurling star Noel), who linked up well with his first cousin Liam and Bill Maher to hold up the ball at critical times.

A heroic long-range point from substitute Colman Kennedy extended their lead to three again before Roscommon got a great chance of an equaliser, but Smith's goalmouth pass to his younger brother Enda just evaded his fingertips.

Their moment was gone and in the four minutes of injury-time excellent Tipperary corner-back Niall O'Sullivan made a particularly vital interception to cut out Roscommon's final attack of the match.

Scorers -- Tipperary: M Quinlivan 1-1, I Fahey 0-3 (1f), C O'Riordan 0-2, S O'Brien, G Henry, L McGrath, TJ Ryan and C Kennedy 0-1 each. Roscommon: D Smith 0-4 (2f), C Daly, L Conlon 0-2 each, F Kelly, E Smith, M Gunning, T Corcoran ('45') 0-1 each.

Tipperary -- E Comerford 8; N O'Sullivan 8, J Meagher 7, C O'Sullivan 7; C O'Riordan 8, D Fitzelle 8, S Kennedy 7; S O'Brien 8, I Fahey 9; G Henry 8, P Quirke 7, B Maher 8; L McGrath (capt) 9, M Quinlivan 9, TJ Ryan 7. Subs: J McGrath 8 for Quirke (38), A McGuire 7 for Fitzelle (inj, 45), J Lonergan 7 for Henry (53), C Kennedy 8 for Ryan (55), T Kirwan 7 for O'Brien (63).

Roscommon -- C Lavin 7; D Murray 8, R Timothy 6, S Carthy 7; M Connaughton 6, J McManus (capt) 7, C Daly 8; F Kelly 6, T Corcoran 6; L Conlon 8, M Healy 7, E Smith 7; D Smith 9, K Finn 8, S Jordan 6. Subs: F Sweeney 7 for Jordan (38), D Brandon 6 for Kelly (52), M Gunning 8 for Finn (63).

Ref -- D Brazil (Offaly).

Irish Independent

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