GAA Football

Tyrone lack finishing touch as Tipperary emerge on top to take All-Ireland intermediate title

A dejected Niamh Hughes, left, and Emma Smyth of Tyrone after the TG4 Ladies Football All-Ireland Intermediate Championship final defeat to Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin Picture by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
From Andy Watters at Croke Park

All-Ireland Ladies’ Football Intermediate Championship final: Tipperary 1-13 Tyrone 1-10

TIPPERARY fans counted down the seconds: five, four, three, two, one… and then ‘YEOOOOOOO’ when the hooter sounded.

Their heroines punched the Croke Park air in delight and hugged in celebration as Tyrone players slumped to their knees, inconsolable after an All-Ireland title that was always within touching distance slipped away from them.

The Red Hands struggled to find fluency against a well-drilled Tipp outfit that bottled up the scoring zone and forced them to shoot from distance or difficult angles but they didn’t help themselves.

Tyrone had 14 scoring chances in the first half and took just four and, though they improved that ratio in the second half, Tipp always had their noses in front. With Aishling McCarthy leading the way with 1-4 from midfield, they took the win they deserved.

Afterwards Tyrone manager Gerry Moane reflected on the sluggish start that came back to haunt his side.

“We just didn’t get out of the blocks in the first half,” he said.

“We had a goal opportunity in the first attack and if we take those opportunities early on it settles the team down. They took their chances and had a big gap at half-time, they are an experienced side and they kept us at arms’ length.

“We had opportunities to get level and get a foothold in the game but we didn’t execute them today and it’s devastating for the players that they didn’t do that. They have made a massive effort all year but this was the biggest day of all and it didn’t happen for them.”

As Moane spoke, ‘Champ-eee-own-eees, champ-eee-own-eees’ boomed out from somewhere close by as the Tipp players made their way to their dressingroom.

Manager Shane Ronayne had used experienced midfielder Jennifer Grant as a sweeper and his gameplan, based on numbers in defence and the flair and pace of his forwards, had worked well.

“We were full of leaders today and I think that was the big thing,” said Ronayne.

“We showed great composure today and that’s what marks out the teams who win All-Irelands and teams that don’t and that is the harsh reality of it. Composure wins you the game we were the more composed team today.”

Tyrone were never truly on top, but they were always in the game and would have been in a commanding position had they capitalized on the early chances that came their way. But they passed up five opportunities in the first five minutes to set the tone for a frustrating afternoon.

Gemma Begley had the Tipperary goal in her sights inside the opening minute, but her shot was bravely blocked by Maria Curley and then Neamh Woods, Niamh O’Neill, Begley again and Lycrecia Quinn either shot wide or dropped efforts short before Tipp full-forward Gillian O’Brien shrugged off Emma Mulgrew to open the scoring with the first of four points from play.

A Mairead Morrisey free doubled the Tipp lead and Tyrone’s finishing continued to let them down until Niamh O’Neill finally got them on the scoreboard in the 18th minute.

Tipp hit back with a Roisin Howard point before Grainne Rafferty suddenly fired Tyrone in front.

The Killeeshil forward was surrounded by defenders, but dummied to shoot, jinked inside her marker and beat Lauren Fitzpatrick with a neat finish.

Howard’s second point had Tipp level and McCarthy’s second free restored the Munster side’s lead before McCarthy seized on a mistake by Caoileann Conway. Goalkeeper Shannon Lynch could only watch as McCarthy’s chip floated over her and into the Tyrone net.

Lynch saved from O’Brien as Tipp went close to a second goal and Tyrone hung on gamely from there to the break as the sides traded points.

Tyrone’s came from Gemma Begley frees while O’Brien and Mairead Morrisey replied to leave Tipp 1-7 to 1-3 ahead at the interval.

Just four points behind despite being short of their best, Tyrone took the field for the second half hoping to seize the initiative but again chances were created, but not taken.

Aishling Moloney tagged on a point to settle Tipp. Built like an Olympic high-jumper, Moloney glided over the Croke Park turf, popping up at both ends as the match came to the boil.

She turned provider for O’Brien’s third point, but two fine scores from midfielder Emma-Jane Gervin kept Tyrone in touch.

Mairead Morrissey and Maria Canavan and then O’Brien and Begley swapped scores to leave it 1-11 to 1-7 but tenacious tackling in the Tyrone defence, marshaled by Shannon Cunningham, kept the Red Hands in the game.

Another block, this time from Emma Hegarty, stop a Tipp attack in its tracks and Chloe McCaffrey produced a finish to go with her pacey run to leave a kick of the ball in it.

Two McCarthy frees edged Tipp five ahead and manager Ronayne employed a what-we-have-we-hold strategy with three sweepers to see out the final 10 minutes.

Tyrone kept the faith though. Niamh Hughes stung the fingers of the Tipp goalkeeper with a shot and Maria Canavan and Begley grabbed scores to leave three in it with a minute left.

Tyrone won the kick-out after Begley’s score and Gervin attacked down the right, she fired in a swerving shot that struck an upright and bounced down in front of the Tipperary posts.

But there was no-one in a red and white shirt there to stick ball in the net and instead Laura Dillon grabbed the ball and Tipp kept it until the hooter confirmed their win.

Three, two, one, champions.

Tyrone: S Lynch; E Brennan, E Mulgrew, C Conway; N Woods, S Cunningham, C Hunter; M Mallon, EJ Gervin (0-2); N Hughes, L Quinn, A Canavan; N O’Neill (0-1), G Begley (0-4, 0-3 frees), G Rafferty (1-0)

Subs: N McGirr for Conway (21), M Canavan (0-2 frees) for Rafferty, E Hegarty for A Canavan (37), C McCaffrey (0-1) for L Quinn (41)

Tipperary: L Fitzpatrick; S Condon, M Curley, E Buckley; B Condon, S Lambert, L Dillon; A McCarthy (1-4, 0-4 frees), J Grant; N Lonergan, M Morrissey (0-2), A Moloney (0-1); R Howard (0-2), G O’Brien (0-4), O O’Dwyer

Subs: C Condon for Lonergan (49), C Walsh for Howard (56)

Referee: G McMahon (Mayo)

Attendance: 46,286

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