Tipperary will have the chance to avenge their Munster final defeat after booking their place in the All-Ireland decider against Kerry.
The winners were far more convincing against Kildare than the two-point margin at the finish suggests but having played the last 15 minutes with just 14 men, the colour of victory hardly mattered to them.
Tipperary wing-back Emmet Moloney got his marching orders midway through the second half when he picked up a second yellow card although his manager Charlie McKeever was bewildered by the decision.
“The double yellow in the second half, I’d like to see it. Emmet just says it wasn’t him. It might have been a case of mistaken identity but, look, the referee was excellent other than that,” said McKeever, who will be hoping his eight dual players come through Sunday’s minor hurling final unscathed.
Tipp are now on course for a minor double although their place in the football final was in jeopardy during the closing stages against Kildare.
Trailing by two points with nine minutes remaining, the Lilies poured forward in search of scores. Utilising the extra man they worked a great chance for centre-back Shea Ryan but he fired wide with the goal at his mercy. It was the only genuine goal chance that Kildare had whereas Tipp should have netted twice before half-time.
The sides finished level at 0-6 apiece after the opening 30 minutes but Tipperary led for most of the half and should have struck the first major blow in the 21st minute. Half-forward Aidan Buckley failed to hit the target when put clean through while Brendan Martin had his effort stopped on the line just seconds before half-time.
Kildare dominated at midfield during the opening quarter but they were wayward in attack. As the Lilies clocked up four wides in the first 15 minutes, Tipperary converted four of their five shots to take a 0-4 to 0-2 lead. A string of frees from Ciarán Kelly brought Kildare level at the break but they failed to score during the third quarter.
Man of the match Jack Kennedy kicked the first three points of the second half, including a ’45 that resulted from another missed goal opportunity. That period proved crucial to the outcome and it was only when Tipperary were reduced to 14 during the final quarter that Kildare got back into the game.
“There was a shaky period there in the middle of the second half,” admitted McKeever. “The character of the team keeps shining through in late stages of the game. We believed today if we were still in the match at half-time we would finish strong as we have in a number of matches.”
Against a more clinical opponent, Tipp’s failure to make the most of their goal chances would have proven costly.
“We should have been out the gate in the first half,” reasoned the Tipp boss. “I said after the Galway match (quarter-final) where we had to raise the bar was in our finishing, our finishing wasn’t clinical enough.
“It was actually decision-making I was worried about today. Our decision-making today was excellent, it was just our execution was poor. We should have had three goals and the game would have been over but unfortunately we didn’t put them away.”
From Kildare’s point of view, it was still a game that they could have won.
“We were trying to get the free man out to the middle but they were doing very well in the middle and that was frustrating that we didn’t get some of those breaks around the middle,” said Kildare manager Brendan Hackett as he ruefully reflected on that final quarter when his side had an extra man but failed to take advantage.
For Tipperary, their next mission is to plot revenge against Kerry on the third Sunday in September.
“We didn’t perform in Killarney on the day,” said McKeever, reflecting on their Munster final defeat. “It’s going to be a big ask (to beat Kerry) but we’ll enjoy trying to do it.”
SCORERS – Tipperary: J Kennedy 0-4 (1f, 1 ’45); A Tynan 0-3 (2fs); A Buckley, B McGrath, B Martin, S Quirke 0-1 each. Kildare: C Kelly 0-4fs; J Hyland (2fs), C Hartley 0-2 each; M Kelly 0-1.
TIPPERARY – C Manton; T Fitzgerald, J Skehan, T Lowry; D Owens, L Fahy, E Moloney; J Kennedy, T Nolan; A Buckley, A Tynan, C English; R Peters, B McGrath, B Martin. Subs: S Quirke for Peters (28); J Bergin for English (45); M Irwin for Martin (51); M Kehoe for Buckley (55); G Whelan for Fahy (BC, 60).
KILDARE – D Campbell; R Slattery, M Joyce, D Lawlor; S Healy, S Ryan, G Burke; D Courtney, R Feely; C Hartley, E O’Donoghue, B McLoughlin; C Kelly, M Kelly, J Hyland. Subs: S Lawler for Healy (41); E O’Neill for McLoughlin (49); K O’Callaghan for O’Donoghue (56); R Bannon for Slattery (56); A Murphy for C Kelly (60).
REF – N Mooney (Cavan)