Moloney not getting carried away as Clare lay down early marker
Clare 4-19 Tipperary 1-18
If the season runs to their ambitious scripts for Clare and Tipperary, this was the first of six games between them in 2019.
They will definitely meet twice more - on Saturday week in the first round of the Allianz League in Thurles - and later in the Munster Championship 'round robin'.
They could also clash in the League, Munster, and All-Ireland finals and while neither management was thinking that far ahead after yesterday's interesting contest in the Gaelic Grounds, both have high targets for the various campaigns ahead.
Just as Limerick used the Munster League as a springboard last year, Clare have harnessed it positively this month, beating Cork, Waterford and Tipperary without some top stars, who are on the injured list. So will it provide a similar uplift to what Limerick enjoyed last year?
"I wouldn't go drawing parallels like that at this time of year - it's a bit early for that," said joint-manager Donal Moloney.
Still, after losing last year's Munster League final to Limerick, it was encouraging to put together such an impressive performance. Clare outscored Tipp by 2-10 to 0-4 in the opening 20 minutes of the second half and while a goal by sub Dan McCormack on the hour mark cut the deficit to seven points, a full-scale recovery never looked likely.
"You're going to struggle to win any game if you concede four goals. Clare got a handle on us. Any time they got the ball in (close to the Tipp goal), they looked very dangerous," said Liam Sheedy.
Back as Tipperary manager for the first time since steering them to All-Ireland glory in 2010, he always knew the full extent of the challenge which awaited him and is even more aware of it now. His defence was systematically dismantled by a Clare formation which packed the middle third and played a two-man (Colin Guilfoyle and Cathal McInerney) full-forward line. Sheedy restored Pádraic Maher to full-back, the position where he started out a decade ago, but it didn't work.
Maher has spent most of his time in the half-back line for the last nine years and is likely to return there after enduring a torrid afternoon against Guilfoyle, who scored 1-3.
Granted, it wasn't easy for Maher and Cathal Barrett as there was far too much space left between them and the half-backs, allowing Clare to pick their passes to Guilfoyle and McInerney, who scored 1-2.
With Tony Kelly thriving wherever he went, Diarmuid Ryan and Ryan Taylor making impressive cases for further involvement in the coming games, Clare were a formidable force once they got some early uncertainty out of their system.
They trailed by 0-5 to 0-1 after 16 minutes, but it wasn't an accurate reflection of the overall trends as they had missed some good chances.
"We were playing against a strong wind too so it wasn't easy. We were very happy to be back level at half-time," said Moloney.
The recovery was sparked by goals from McInerney (17th minute) and Kelly (21) and while Tipperary finished the half strongly, the balance of power looked to have swung Clare's way at the interval (2-5 to 0-11).
And so it proved in the second half. They pounced for two more goals from Guilfoyle and Kelly in the opening ten minutes, leaving Tipperary facing a lost cause.
Jason Forde, who scored 0-4 from play in the first half, and 'Bonner' Maher, who had troubled the Clare defence early on, never got anything like enough support against defenders who rattled into every challenge with real vigour.
"Clare had that bit more hunger and more pace too. Their running game really hurt us.
"We've put in a lot of work in the last eight weeks and again this week, so we might have been a little big leggy, but this is the hard work period because when the league starts it's going to be very difficult to get work in because the games are week after week," he said.
He has some important decisions to make, but feels that the last few weeks have been very helpful in forming a longer-term picture.
"You could be training for three weeks and it wouldn't be as good as a match like that," he said.
Not as good as it was for Clare, for whom several players, who didn't see much action last year, did well in recent weeks.
"We wanted to give the new guys as many chances as possible so that we can increase our options. The championship isn't the time to experiment - now is the time for that. We've been forced to do it because this is the best fit team we have at the moment. We're very pleased with what we've seen even if Tipp were out of sorts today. They will be a different proposition in a fortnight's time," said Moloney.
The attendance was 4,531,
Scorers - Clare: T Kelly 2-3, C Guilfoyle 1-3, C McInerney 1-2, D Ryan, N Deasy (2f) 0-3 each, R Taylor, S Golden 0-2 each, M O'Malley 0-1. Tipperary: S Callanan 0-8 (6f, 1'65'), J Forde 0-5 (1 sideline), D McCormack 1-0, A Flynn, M Kehoe 0-2 each, N McGrath 0-1.
Clare - D Tuohy; J McCarthy, D McInerney, R Hayes; A McCarthy, C Cleary, C Malone; S Golden, R Taylor; D Ryan, T Kelly N Deasy; C Guilfoyle, C McInerney, M O'Neill. Subs: P Collins for O'Neill (53), D Conroy for Ryan (55), M O'Malley for A McCarthy (58), G Cooney for McInerney (65), J Browne for Hayes (66).
Tipperary - Barry Hogan; C Barrett, Pádraic Maher, D Maher; A Flynn, S Kennedy, J O'Dwyer; W Connors, M Breen; J Forde, Patrick Maher, C English; M Kehoe, S Callanan, J Morris. Subs: R Maher for Connors (h-t), N McGrath for Morris (44), D McCormack for Kehoe (48), K O'Dwyer for Barrett (56), R Byrne for Kennedy (58).
Ref - T Walsh (Waterford)