Scintillating Sweeney points way for Premier
Tipperary 1-16 Clare 1-15, NFL Division 4 final
Conor Sweeney played a starring role at Croke Park, scoring 1-8, as Tipperary ended a memorable campaign with silverware.
The sides were level nine times during a thrilling decider, but it was Sweeney's accuracy and opportunism that swung it for Peter Creedon's side.
Sweeney, Barry Grogan and Ian Fahey got Tipp off to a strong start, but they fell behind when the Banner hit three points in two minutes late in the opening quarter. Shane McGrath and David Tubridy were the men with the golden touch, steering over a string of scores to reward the outstanding efforts of skipper Gary Brennan in the middle of the field.
Full-back Kevin Hartnett was another outstanding Clare performer, denying Sweeney a goal with a superb block. Another Hartnett block had a costly outcome, however, in the 19th minute, when the ball rebounded to Sweeney, who rifled a shot to the net from eight yards.
George Hannigan's score eased the Premier men three points clear, but just a point separated the sides at the break, after Ciaran Russell and Cathal O'Connor had landed quality points. Tipp led by 1-7 to 0-9 at that stage, but they were rocked by a Martin O'Leary goal eight minutes into the second half.
Tipp's Brian Fox thought he had regained the lead when he drilled the ball to the net, but referee Noel Mooney failed to allow the advantage, and Tipp went back level with frees from Sweeney and Barry Grogan.
They traded points in quick succession, Clare going level for the eighth time with a superb Tubridy effort with 10 minutes to play. But Tipp had their own supreme finisher Sweeney steering over the lead point from a 64th-minute free as the contest built to a gripping climax.
That score was cancelled out immediately by McGrath, but Sweeney was to have the last say, hitting two late points to seal the title for his side. The fact that he missed a golden chance to make victory an absolute certainty will be forgiven by his team-mates, the Ballyporeen man scuffing his shot after Seamus Grogan's effort had come back off an upright.
Scorers – Tipperary: C Sweeney 1-8 (0-4f), B Grogan 0-4 (2f), R Kiely, S O'Brien, G Hannigan, I Fahey 0-1 each. Clare: M O'Leary 1-0, D Tubridy 0-7 (4f), McGrath 0-4, S Hickey, C O'Connor, J Malone, C Russell 0-1 each.
Tipperary: P Fitzgerald; J Coghlan, P Codd, A Morrissey; A Kiely, P Acheson, D Leahy; S O'Brien, G Hanningan; P Austin, I Fahey, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, B Grogan. Subs: S Grogan for Austin (43), C McDonald for Morrissey (45), C O'Riordan for Fahey (61)
Clare: P DeLoughrey; D Ryan, K Hartnett, M McMahon; S Hickey, G Kelly, E Coughlan; G Brennan, C O'Connor; S McGrath, J Malone, C Russell; M O'Leary, S Brennan, D Tubridy. Subs: M Murphy for Hickey (46), P McMahon for Brennan (50), J Hayes for DeLoughrey (56), R Donnelly for Malone (68)
Referee: N Mooney (Cavan).
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