Fr. Alec Reid Festival of Hurling Challenge Tipperary 4-22 Antrim 2-15

Continuing their preparations for the upcoming Allianz league opener against Dublin on Saturday week, the Tipperary senior hurlers were made to work hard for their win in a very entertaining challenge against Antrim in Corrigan Park, Belfast on Sunday last. In perfect conditions for hurling the Corrigan pitch was in pristine condition for this much awaited game up North as the hurling public came out in their thousands from all across the province and beyond to see the All-Ireland champions in action.

The opening fare was even enough before Antrim’s Ciarán Clarke opened the scoring from a placed ball after four minutes. Seamus Callanan had Tipp level three minutes later in similar fashion before John McGrath opened his account with the first point from play. Tipp now edging it were playing each other into action more than shooting for scores into the direct sun.

Antrim it was then who restored parity through Conor Johnson after ten minutes before Callanan added another brace of frees pushing Tipp ahead. Clarke replied with another before John McGrath and Paul Shiels traded scores, 0-5 to 0-4 after twenty three minutes.

With Tipp still ticking over a levelling point from Neil McManus spurred his side into action and in the space of two minutes they had the Tipp net shaking twice as the very impressive Clarke along with Shiels both netted with the Antrim dander well and truly up with points from play following.

Tipp responded with a point from Mikey Breen and a pair of frees from Callanan to leave the half-time score reading Antrim 2-8 Tipp 0-8. A great result at the break for the home crowd and not so good for Tipp ensuring concentrated interest in the second half as the Antrim following dared to dream.

The dream was deflated thirty seconds into the second half as Callanan netting superbly coming in from the right. Parity was restored minutes later when John McGrath deftly flicked to the net over his head. Tipp had now raised the intensity substantially and started to kick on. Sean Ryan knocked over points before Clarke opened the Antrim second half account from a placed ball all inside seven minutes.

Ryan was on the board again on ten minutes quickly followed up with points from Tom Fox and Jason Forde. The hammer blow was delivered in the fifteenth minute of the half as Callanan working tirelessly in the left corner harried and hassled to get inside two markers. That he did and yet found his way to goal still blocked. Coolly he swung and pinged the ball back to Paudie Greene on the fourteen metre line in front of the goal and Greene made no mistake shaking the net as Tipp started to move out of sight.

Though Conor Johnson clawed a point back for Antrim a minute later, from the resultant puck out from Daragh Mooney the ball made its way to Brendan Maher in the middle of the park and with the most sublime of passes his diagonal low shot found Callanan in space this time coming in from the right hand side and there was only going to be one outcome from here as a screaming shot found the net for his second green flag of the day. Tipp were now motoring nicely as the Antrim challenge faded. As Tipp tacked on the points no one left the ground as the huge attendance waited to cheer off the players at the end of this entertaining contest.

Tipperary: Brian Hogan (Lorrha-Dorrha), Joe O’Dwyer (Killenaule), Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Alan Flynn (Kiladangan), Willie Ryan (Clonakenny), Seamus Kennedy (St. Marys), Barry Heffernan (Nenagh Éire  Óg), Stephen Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), Michael Breen (0-2)(Ballina), Sean Ryan (0-4) (Sean Treacys), Steven O’Brien (Ballina), Jason Forde (0-1) (Silvermines), Andrew Coffey (Nenagh Éire Óg), Seamus Callanan (2-5, 5 frees) (Drom-Inch), John McGrath (1-2)(Loughmore-Castleiney), Subs; Daragh Mooney (Éire  Óg Annacarty-Donohill) for Hogan H-T, Kieran Bergin (0-1) (Killenaule) for Cahill H-T, Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields) for Heffernan H-T,  Stephen Quirke (0-2) (Moyle Rovers) for Forde 53mins, Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh) for Breen H-T, Paudie Greene (1-2)(Upperchurch-Drombane) for Coffey H-T, Tom Fox (0-1)(Éire  Óg Annacarty-Donohill) for W. Ryan 31mins, John Meagher (Loughmore-Castleiney) for O’Dwyer 43mins, Tommy Heffernan (0-1)(Nenagh Éire Óg) for McGrath 46mins and Daire Quinn (Nenagh Éire Óg) for Kennedy 47mins.

Antrim Panel: Chris O’Connell, Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Tiernan Coyle, Simon McCrory, Odhran McFadden, Conor McKinley, Eoghan Campbell, Daniel McKernan, Maol Connelly, Conor McCann, Niall McKenna, Ciarán Clarke, Neil McManus, Conor Johnston, Ryan Elliott, Kevin McKeague, Paddy McGill, Deaghlan Murphy, Sean McBride, Paul Shiels, Ruairi Diamond and Joseph Maskey.

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