Tipperary emerged successful from the fourth annual Legends’ tournament yesterday, winning both their group games en route to a semi-final win over Galway and the final success against Dublin writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
The Premier crew were favourites in most pundits’ books beforehand, and you could almost hear the sound of jangling All-Ireland medals as they arrived at the St Brigid’s club in Blanchardstown.
In the majestic Eimear McDonnell, they had the most influential player of the seven-a-side competition, displaying all the skills and finishing prowess that earned her an All-Star and five All-Ireland titles.
McDonnell had a stellar support cast, with former All-Ireland winning captain Emily Hayden and Philly Fogarty amongst the eye-catchers around the middle sector.
Tipperary were joined by Dublin, Galway, Cork, Down and Offaly in the tournament. The rules of the competition were that each panel was made of 12 players, with unlimited substitutions throughout the game to cater for the demands of seven-a-side fare and the ‘experience’ of the players.
Two members of the panel could be between 33 and 35, as long as they were retired from inter-county duty for three years or more, while the rest had to be over 35 and retired three years from inter-county competition.
It was perhaps fitting that Tipperary were victorious, given that the Biddy Phillips Cup is named after a favoured daughter of the county, who was a national camogie referee and administrator of some standing.
Indeed Biddy would have managed most of the players who lined out in Blanchardstown, having taken charge as Tipperary won their breakthrough All-Ireland in 1999.
They were made to work really hard by Galway in a humdinger of a semi-final but McDonnell saw them home by 1-9 to 2-4. Dublin surprised last year’s victors Cork after extra time, showing a bit more staying power to prevail by 2-7 to 2-3.
The added game- time didn’t help their final preparations though, and with McDonnell in lethal form, it was Tipperary that streaked clear in the end by 2-11 to 2-1.