There’s the headline and there’s the small print, and in a game played out before the middle of January there are no prizes for guessing which takes precedence.
Clare took home the Co-Op Superstores Munster Hurling League trophy yesterday, having hit Tipperary for four goals in an entertaining final in the Gaelic Grounds.
The 4,531 in attendance saw an even enough first half end level, 2-5 to 0-11, before a third-quarter scoring burst of 2-7 (against 0-2 for Tipp) gave the Banner a firm hold on the cup.
Tipperary rallied late on but couldn’t close the gap and as their manager admitted later, Clare were by far the better side on the day.
A 10-point margin appears emphatic, and it was, though Clare joint manager Donal Moloney acknowledged his side’s luck also.
“We were very fortunate here today, the first goal was very fortunate and the third goal was very fortunate as well, that put a big difference between the teams.”
Tipperary started with the breeze and were 0-4 to 0-1 up before Clare goaled on 17 minutes.
A long delivery spilled to Cathal McInerney near the square — a lucky break, as Moloney said — and he buried a goal.
A second goal nine minutes later followed a sweet passing move involving Michael O’Neill and Cathal McInerney — Tony Kelly batted to the net and it was 2-2 to 0-5.
Jason Forde and Seamus Callanan cut that lead to a point, Diarmuid Ryan and Niall Deasy pushed Clare three ahead, but Forde, Alan Flynn and Mark Kehoe levelled with three on the spin.
All to play for at the break.
Clare resumed with a Shane Golden point and a Colin Guilfoyle goal from close range after a good run.
The Banner dominated that third quarter totally — a long-range effort from Kelly went all the way to the net on 44 minutes and Ryan, Niall Deasy, Ryan Taylor, and Guilfoyle added points.
Kelly was rampant at midfield and Clare led 4-13 to 0-13 at the three-quarter stage.
Tipperary managed a goal by sub Dan McCormack but never closed the gap.
Tipperary boss Liam Sheedy was quick to acknowledge Clare’s quality.
“I thought when they got the ball today their finishing was exceptional — it wasn’t an easy day to put the ball over the bar and some of the scores were outstanding.
“We have no complaints, we came off second best, but coming off second best in the Munster League — we just have to learn from it, and we will.”
It was a tricky game to evaluate because of the whiff of a phony war hanging over it — both managers mentioned the upcoming National League clash between the two counties, indicating that was on their minds when preparing for yesterday’s game.
For Clare it was a continuation of their smooth displays in the Munster League, though a nitpicker might isolate another sluggish start as a cause for concern.
The Banner were slow out of the blocks against Cork a couple of weeks ago and seemed to have rectified that last weekend against Waterford, but hitting a point in the opening 15 minutes is not a recipe for success.
In the blue and gold corner Liam Sheedy identified the concession of four goals as the leading issue for his side, though he did refer to a block of heavy training in recent weeks which might have left his men a little leggy.
Some of the Premier supporters in attendance may also draw his attention to Padraic Maher’s deployment at full-back, where the instincts of an attacking wing-back never seem entirely appropriate.
Clare’s first goal seemed to be the result of two Tipp defenders contesting the same high ball, for instance.
Lessons learned, lessons stored.
Afterwards Clare’s Tony Kelly was chatting outside the dressing-room with a cup dangling at his hip.
He was looking forward to the league starting, he said.
Scorers for Clare: T. Kelly (2-3)(1 free); C. Guilfoyle (1-3); C. McInerney (1-2); N. Deasy (2 frees), D. Ryan (0-3 each); S. Golden, R. Taylor (0-2 each); M. O’Malley (0-1).
Scorers for Tipperary: S. Callanan (0-8)(6 frees, 1 65); J. Forde (0-5)(1 sideline, 1 free); 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, T. Kelly (c), D. Ryan, N. Deasy, R. Taylor, 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 C. McInerney (65); J. Browne for Hayes (67).
TIPPERARY: B. Hogan, C. Barrett, Padraic 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 (HT); N. McGrath for Morris (44); D. McCormack for Kehoe (48); K. O’Dwyer for Barrett (57); R. Byrne for Kennedy (inj, 57).
Referee: T. Walsh (Waterford).