POLL: Did Clare's Tony Kelly deserve to be sent off for this challenge against Tipperary?
Round one, controversy number one.
Tipperary kicked off their Allianz League campaign with victory over Clare in Thurles but the turning point, after 43 minutes, was a contentious one.
With Clare still in touching distance five points behind, Tipp's Padraig Maher bent down to pick up the ball. Kelly, who was running with momentum, ran straight into Maher with the two players tumbling to the ground.
A fair shoulder or a high shoulder into Maher's upper chest that warranted a red?
Watch it here and decide for yourself.
Tipperary 2-16 Clare 1-11
Tipperary, defeated by Clare in the Munster League final two weeks earlier, reversed that result in some style in the opening round of the National League in Thurles. The game turned on a controversial incident nine minutes after half time when Tony Kelly was red carded for a high challenge on Padraic Maher.
Clare, with a strong wind advantage and just five points down, looked in a good position to aim for a rare League win in Thurles until that flashpoint. They managed to clip another point off the Tipp lead before the game wheeled conclusively in Tipp's direction. Two goals in two minutes from Seamus Callanan, the first brilliantly set up by Robert Byrne, the second by Jake Morris, effectively putting the game to bed.
Eleven points adrift, a man down, Clare's chances evaporated even with the aid of the wind on a night spoiled by driving rain. From there on Tipperary never looked in real danger of relinquishing their lead and Callanan chose to point from a late penalty, the win secure.
Clare trailed 1-3 to 0-13 at the interval but signalled their intentions with a triple substitution then, sending on the experienced Podge Collins, Colm Galvin and Peter Duggan for the second half, with Collins pointing within a minute of the restart. Kelly sent over a beautiful line ball a few minutes later but in the 44th minute his red card signalled the end of their prospects.
It was a much improved Tipperary showing on their Munster League final defeat. Clare's Colin Guilfoyle went to Thurles on the back of inflicting a tormenting day on Padraic Maher when they met in direct opposition in Limerick. The full-back position remains one of the challenges facing Liam Sheedy on his return to the Tipp dugout as the need is obvious to bring greater stability to the full back line in the weeks and months ahead.
This time the arrangements were different, with Maher playing a free role, and Barry Heffernan picking up John Conlon. But Guilfoyle was still a handful, troubling Cathal Barrett and winning a first half penalty which Niall Deasy dispatched with 28 minutes played. At the other end Jason McCarthy was Clare's free player but in the first half they toiled in the huge wind and with their short puck outs proving precarious.
The League has been a place of confusing signals for Tipperary in recent years. For most of last year, and the one before, when they reached finals, they were one of the most impressive teams in the country. But each campaign ended in a brutal defeat which unsettled them heading into the Championship. Last summer's disintegration a mere two years after scaling the summit in fine style wrote a fresh chapter in their enigmatic story.
That poor summer included a first Championship defeat in Thurles to Clare since 1928 and the early season indicators pointed to a character testing opener against a team whose form was revived last year, with a run to the All-Ireland semi finals, their best showing since they won the All-Ireland in 2013.
But Tipp were feisty and had numerical advantage at the back. They went in at half-time ahead and while it didn't look a safe lead in the conditions there were plenty of positive elements. Clare survived an early scare when Donal Tuohy saved Callanan's third-minute penalty, won by Callanan himself when he fielded over David McInerney and was grounded by Jason McCarthy. For much of the half Tipp were on the front foot.
Callanan showed terrific leadership in his new role as captain, frequently working back to turn over the ball, and finished with 2-7. Clare took 19 minutes to get their first point from play through Conlon, and their only other score from play was a beauty from Kelly, when he worked a line-ball one-two with Shane Golden. Noel McGrath hit three first half points, including a lineball, and Morris also impressed with two classy scores.
For Sheedy, eight years after leading Tipperary to an All-Ireland, it was an encouraging re-introduction. It will do for now.
Scorers: Tipperary - S Callanan 2-7 (0-6 fs, 0-1 pen); N McGrath 0-3 (0-1 lb); J Morris 0-2, A Flynn, W Connors, M Breen, R Byrne 0-1 each. Clare - N Deasy 1-1 (1-0 pen; 0-1 f), P Duggan 0-4 (0-3 fs, 0-1 65), T Kelly (0-1 lb), M O'Malley (0-1 65, 0-1 f) 0-2 each, J Conlon, P Collins 0-1 each.
Tipperary: B Hogan; C Barrett, Padraic Maher, D Maher; A Flynn, R Maher, B Heffernan; M Breen, R Byrne; D McCormack, N McGrath, Patrick Maher; W Connors, S Callanan, J Morris. Subs: M Kehoe for McGrath (61); J O'Dwyer for Morris (64); N O'Meara for McCormack (69); K O'Dwyer for D Maher (70), C Darcy for Byrne (72).
Clare: D Tuohy; J McCarthy, D McInerney, J Browne; A McCarthy, C Cleary, C Malone; S Golden, T Kelly; D Ryan, N Deasy, R Taylor; C Guilfoyle, J Conlon, M O'Neill. Subs: P Duggan, C Galvin & P Collins for Deasy, J McCarthy & O'Neill (half time); M O'Malley for Taylor (52 mins); I Galvin for Conlon (64).
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).