Tipperary claim Munster hurling title with tight win over Waterford
Tipperary 0-21; Waterford 0-16
LIKE two prize fighters Tipperary and Kilkenny look on course for a September showdown in the All-Ireland final.
Tipperary failed to score a goal but it didn't matter. They still secured their first Munster title since 2012 when they edged out Waterford in this provincial decider at Semple Stadium which promised more than it delivered.
It was the first trophy that the Premier County has won under Eamon O'Shea who in his last season as team boss. Tipperary are now guaranteed a place in next month's All-Ireland semi-final.
The defeat - Waterford's first in 2015 - brought on an end a remarkable 15 match unbeaten run. They will now endeavour to re-float their ambitions when they meet Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter final in two weeks' time.
But on the evidence of what we have witnessed so far in the 2015 championship last year's finalists Kilkenny and Tipperary are a cut above the rest.
Of course, nothing is set in stone in hurling and the four remaining teams in the series, Galway and Cork - who meet in the other quarter final and Dublin and Waterford may make a mockery of that prediction.
The game was as tactical as had been anticipated. The defensive systems put in place by the rival managers thwarted the goal scoring threat of their rivals' forward divisions.
Save for a handful of 'half' chances at either end neither side created one clearcut chance which was a disappointing aspect of the contest.
So it was left to the point scorers to decide the outcome and this is where the game was won and lost.
Mind you, Waterford managed to close down Tipperary's Seamus Callanan, through the combined efforts of Barry Coughlan and sweeper Tadgh De Burca who had a superb match.
Callanan was still Tipp's top scorer with 0-6 but he failed to score from play. However, his colleagues stepped up to the mark. Even though he was policed by Noel Connors John O'Dwyer hit 0-3 from play.
But it was the contribution of two of the lesser lights in the Tipperary attack, Niall O'Meara and Jason Forde who between them hit five points - which ended up being the winning margin - which pushed them over the line. Substitutes Lar Corbett and Shane Bourke chipped with a brace between them as well.
As anticipated the Tipperary defence didn't fall into the same trap as Cork had in the semi-final and Padraic Maher proved an effective sweeper. The Waterford forwards didn't find either space or scoring as easily as in previous matches.
In fact only two of their forwards, Maurice Shanahan (0-8) and Colin Dunford (0-1) got on the scoresheet; four of their starting forwards were replaced and they were guilty of too much wayward shooting - they hit 14 wides compared to ten for the victors.
There was the usual plethora of positional changes - perhaps the most significant was the placing of Michael Breen - who was making his championship debut - at midfield for Tipperary.
Tipperary were much the better team in the early exchanges and deserved their 0-6 to 0-2 lead after 13 minutes. But Waterford then hit a purple patch outscoring their opponents 4-1 to reduce the deficit by a point at the end of the first quarter.
It was nip and tuck from there until half time; though Tipp still led by a point (0-10; 0-9).
The introduction of veteran Lar Corbett had the Tipp fans singing at the start of the second period and though a Maurice Shanahan 65 brought the sides level in the 44th minute the pendulum was definitely swinging towards Tipp.
Darren Gleeson was using the wind to drive his puck outs down on the Waterford rearguard and it seems inevitable that a goal chance would come. The Waterford defence deserve immense credit for denying them the goal chance but they couldn't stop the concession of points.
Niall O'Meara's third point in the 45th gave Tipperary a lead they never lost and during the remaining 25 minutes they outscored the challengers 9-5 to win the 125th Munster final.
The official attendance was 43,084.
Tipperary: D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, R Maher; S McGrath Padraic Maher, K Bergin; J Woodlock, M Breen (0-1); J Forde (0-2), B Maher, Patrick Maher (0-2); J O'Dwyer (0-5, 2f), S Callinan (0-6, 4f, 2 65), N O'Meara (0-3). Subs: L Corbett (0-1) for Breen ht; S Bourke (0-1) for Forde 66m, C O'Brien for McGrath 70m;
Waterford: S O'Keeffe; S Fives (0-2), B Coughlan, N Connors; A Gleeson (0-2, 1f), T De Burca, P Mahony; J Barron, K Moran (0-2); M Walsh, E Barrett, J Dillon; S Bennett, M Shanahan (0-8, 3f, 2 65), C Dunford (0-1). Subs: T Devine for Barrett 43m; Shane Bennett for Stephen Bennett 43m; P Curran (0-1) for Dunford 62m; D Fives for Dillon 67m
Referee: James Owens (Wexford)