By Daragh Ó Conchúir, at Croke Park
Clare recovered from an atrocious start and a six-point deficit to record a deserved victory in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Premier Junior final.
The Banner were winning the title for the first time since 2008, when current senior star Chloe Morey was playing, but that was the county’s first team and it is reflective of progress Shannonside that they now have a second outfit capable of securing the honours.
Tipperary played the last quarter at a numerical disadvantage, after the 42nd minute sending off of Ciara Brennan on a second yellow card, but they were treading water at that juncture anyway.
They fought hard and actually kept Clare scoreless for the remainder of the game but the damage had been done.
Brennan opened the scoring for Tipp after 20 seconds as both teams started nervously, though Aoife O’Brien was alert in the goals for the Premier and she would go on to have an outstanding game.
There were missed chances at each end before Tipp scoring machine Jean Kelly made her first contribution with a neat point in the 11th minute. That Kelly would not have the impact of previous outings was a credit to her direct opponent and namesake, the fantastic Rachel Kelly.
The Clare Kelly’s one error led to a Tipp goal three minutes later, the Premier’s 11th of the campaign and amazingly, the first that Jean Kelly hadn’t scored. The defender did very well to come out of a ruck with possession but her hand-pass intended for a supporting colleague was brilliantly intercepted and controlled by Rachel O’Dwyer, who roofed her shot.
A pointed free by Kelly soon after and it was looking good for David Sullivan’s side with a six-point lead.
It was almost nine two minutes later when a tremendous block by Sinéad Hogg denied Clodagh Horgan a likely goal. This proved to perhaps the most significant moment in the game as goalie Lauren Solon gathered possession and coolly found a saffron and blue jersey with her pass.
Clare worked it up the field to the rampaging Jennifer Daly, one of the well known Scariff triplets. Her run created mayhem and the sliotar broke to Sarah Loughnane, who shot to the far corner of the net from a tight angle.
The momentum turned completely from there and the sides went in at half-time level on 1-5 each. Claire Stakelum extended Tipp’s advantage briefly but three points in a row from Laobhaise O’Donnell and a brace of Sarah Loughnane frees. Brennan and McMahon exchanged points and there was a definite bounce in Clare steps going into the dressing rooms.
They continued as they had left-off and after an excellent McMahon point, Caoimhe Cahill sent a howitzer to the Tipp net in the 34th minute after O’Brien had saved from half-time sub Aoife Anderson.
Horgan and Daly swapped points when Clare found the net again just over seven minutes after the resumption. Once again, O’Brien made a save but dual player Caoimhe Cahill whipped first time off the sod and suddenly John Carmody’s crew were seven clear.
It was about not conceding a major from there and though Jean Kelly converted three frees, and Tipp went close to a goal in the last minute of injury time, they had left themselves too much to do. It was Clare’s day.
SCORERS FOR CLARE: S Loughnane 1-3(0-3fs); L O’Donnell 1-1; C Cahill 1-0; M McMahon 0-2; J Daly 0-1
SCORERS FOR TIPPERARY: J Kelly 0-5(4fs); R O’Dwyer 1-0; C Brennan 0-2; C Stakelum, C Horgan 0-1 each
CLARE: L Solon, S Hogg, C Lally, R Kelly, E Casey, L McMahon, S O’Keeffe, N Mulqueen, G Carmody, L O’Donnell, M McMahon, J Daly, C Cahill, S Loughnane, O Phelan. Subs: A Anderson for Phelan (ht), C Queally for L McMahon temp (44-45), Queally for M McMahon; A Cooney for Loughnane (56), R Crowe for Hogg (60+1), K Toomey for Cahill (60+2)
TIPPERARY: A O’Brien, L Cahill, A Sheedy, C Ryan, R Maher, C Walsh, C McKeogh, E Cunneen, K Fitzgerald, R O’Dwyer, C Brennan, C Stakelum, J Kelly, A Dwyer, C Horgan. Subs: A Callanan for Maher (ht), A Crosse for Fitzgerald (ht), A McLoughney for Dwyer (37), N Murray for Sheedy (41), C Shanahan for O’Dwyer (53)
REFEREE: Bernard Heaney (Meath)