Sunday 18 March 2018

Sweeney keeps his cool to boot Tipp into history

Tipperary 1-21 Derry 2-17

Tipperary’s Colm O’Shaughnessy gets the upper hand over Derry’s Enda Lynn during their Qualifier clash on Saturday. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Tipperary’s Colm O’Shaughnessy gets the upper hand over Derry’s Enda Lynn during their Qualifier clash on Saturday. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The quip around Kingspan Breffni Park afterwards was that while Tipperary may not have been happy with having to travel up to Cavan for Saturday's Qualifier, none of them wanted to leave when it was all over.

The Tipp supporters in Cavan remained on the pitch after their win over Derry just to drink in the moment and the players stayed out there with them too. As Michael Quinlivan would point out afterwards, everyone there was on "first-name terms" with each other. Tipp's football following might be small but it is tight.

Tipperary manager Liam Kearns celebrates with Peter Acheson. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Tipperary manager Liam Kearns celebrates with Peter Acheson. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

They won this the hard way too, something that has become a happy habit for Tipp teams over the last few years. Following the minors's smash and grab in the 2011 All-Ireland final and Clonmel's ground-breaking, last-gasp Munster club final win, Liam Kearns's Tipp side built up a five-point lead with 10 minutes to go but found themselves a point down in injury time after Derry rallied to hit 1-3 without reply.

There was time for another twist however and Conor Sweeney kicked two late points to make a little piece of history for Tipp.

"I was having a poor season so I was due a good game," Sweeney said afterwards. "The work-rate out the field is phenomenal and we have this will to keep going to the end. Whether we're two points up or 10 points down we keep going and going."

Read more: Banner charge past shell-shocked Rossies to book last-eight place

Danny Haveron of Derry in action against Brian Fox of Tipperary. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Danny Haveron of Derry in action against Brian Fox of Tipperary. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Derry seemed to be in the box seat at the break. They led by just one point (1-8 to 0-10) with Mark Lynch's goal, after Danny Heavron had, not for the first time, caused Tipp major problems with his direct ball-carrying, looking like it would be a crucial score.

The teams had been fairly evenly matched in those opening 35 minutes with both enjoying periods of dominance but Derry would play with the breeze in the second half.

Kearns made changes however and Tipp were a team transformed on the restart. They outscored Derry 1-3 to 0-1 in the minutes after half-time though they were helped hugely along the way when Derry goalkeeper Thomas Mallon made a mess of his clearance which Kevin O'Halloran gathered up and lashed to the net to give his side a three-point lead.

That cushion would more or less remain intact until the last 10 minutes with Philip Austin, Peter Acheson and Josh Keane driving at Derry at every opportunity but there were heroic displays in every line for Tipp.


Quinlivan, too, put in a huge shift after being moved out to midfield in the second half and his link up with Evan Comerford's kick-outs helped Tipp get the ball out past Derry's high press as they looked to capitalise on the conditions. Not for the first time, Comerford's kick-outs were excellent as he added to his burgeoning reputation as one of the finest net minders around.

Derry weren't done and in their wins over Meath and Cavan, they displayed their ability to finish strong. And here again they found something in themselves to launch a comeback. They were five points in arrears but hit a quick-fire 1-3 to take a one-point lead with sub Eoghan Brown capping a fine team move for the Ulster men to grab their goal which looked like it would be a crucial score.

However, a lot of these Tipp players have been around the block at various stages in their career to know not to panic.

And when the late chances came to Sweeney he took his two opportunities to make history like he was kicking in his back garden. Suddenly, Tipp were in the last eight.

"It's down to the players, it's all about the players," Kearns said afterwards. "It's all about heart and commitment. The players won that game, nobody else. I take no credit for the last 10 minutes, it was all down to the players. It was their heart and their commitment, they just kept going and going. You can't coach that, it's either in them or it isn't and it is in them.

"I'm just hugely proud of the players and it was a fantastic result by them. The heart they showed was just immense. I can't put it into words the heart they showed because at half-time it looked like we were under the cosh and kicked a lot of wides when we had the wind.

"They had the wind for the whole of the second half and there was five minutes of extra time so they had the wind for 40 minutes.

"I told the lads we needed to start winning ball around the middle of the park and to run at them and they did that the whole second half, time and time again, every time we did we got scores.

"To be five points up you would say we were there and then in fairness to Derry they kicked some great scores and fought back. The goal was a real sucker-punch for us and I thought we couldn't come back from that."

Derry boss Damian Barton was similarly proud of his players' efforts to come from behind late on and almost snatch it.

Read more: GAA and GPA strike deal on €6m annual partnership

"I thought the boys we have were absolutely fantastic. They gave their all today to put themselves back into a position to win the match. I just think the boys that we have had and have hung in since the Tyrone game have been awesome.

"I am proud of them and I think they can be proud of themselves. I think we lost it because we didn't perform to the level we expect to perform to. I mean, the scoreboard would suggest that we were just too porous and we conceded too much. You can't concede that and expect to win the game."

Both managers were baffled by some of Marty Duffy's calls who drew the ire of both sets of supporters during various stages of the game.

"Marty looked at the steps fairly consistently and he blew them up as well," Barton said.

"I just thought some of the contact frees were easy enough. There were a couple of ridiculous scenarios, it's a long time since a linesman has blown a ball for being too short. But they capitalised from that. Those fine margins make a difference at the end.

"There is something seriously wrong there. I don't think we are a negative team, a dirty team. But to have 50 per cent more frees again, maybe I will have to look at the video before I comment further."

Kearns took a similar view.

"I've to look at the match on television because I couldn't make sense of some of the decisions. I don't want to talk out of turn, I will give the benefit of the doubt and I'm going to look at this match on television again but I really was perplexed. I don't know if the Derry manager was the same. I'll have to look at it again." 

Scorers - Tipperary: M Quinlivan 0-7 (5f), K O'Halloran 1-4 (3f, 0-1 '45), C Sweeney 0-5, J Keane 0-2, B Maher, P Acheson, P Austin 0-1 each. Derry: M Lynch 1-4 (3f), D Heavron 0-4, N Loughlin 0-3, E Brown 1-0, J Kielt 0-2 (1f), C Bradley, L McGoldrick, E Lynn, E Bradley 0-1 each.

Tipperary - E Comerford 8; C O'Shaughnessy 6, A Campbell 6, C McDonald 7; B Maher 8, R Kiely 7, J Feehan 7; P Acheson 8, G Hannigan 6; J Keane 8, K O'Halloran 6, B Fox 7; P Austin 8, M Quinlivan 8, C Sweeney 8. Subs: A Moloney 6 for Hannigan (h-t), S Leahy for Kiely (66), M Hanley for O'Shaughnessy (70).

Derry - T Mallon 5; O Duffy 6, C McKaigue 7, K McKaigue 6; C McFaul 8, B Rogers 6, C Mullan 7; C McAtamney 8, N Holly 7; D Heavron 8, N Laughlin 8, E Lynn 7; J Kielt 6, E McGuckin 5, M Lynch 6. Subs: N Toner 7 for Lynn (42), C Bradley 7 for Kielt (50), E Bradley 6 for Holly (52), L McGoldrick 6 for Duffy (56), E Brown for McGuckin (61), N Forrester for Heavron (70).

REF - M Duffy (Sligo).

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport