If Tipp failed to provide the sort of resistance Brian Cody would have liked at this stage of the season, the Kilkenny manager was under no illusions about the task ahead.
“Clare are the form team,” he said. “They played us here and wiped us out, and they’ve put together a massive consistent run over a number of weeks. We’re looking forward to the final, and sure they put us to the pin of our collar in the championship last year as well.”
A total of 14 wides from the visitors — “It wasn’t a good display,” admitted Tipp manager Ken Hogan — made Kilkenny’s life that bit easier, but with Henry Shefflin on the rampage during the first half, and with Eoin Larkin taking up the attacking mantle in the second, the result was never in doubt.
Shefflin gave both Paul Curran and then Hugh Moloney the runaround as he hit 1-5 from play before the break, while the promising Larkin added 2-4. Tipp’s full-back line simply couldn’t compete and if Richie Power, D.J. Carey and Tommy Walsh had been in better scoring form, the game could easily have turned into a rout.
“There was a lot of pressure on us,” Hogan conceded, “but the lads put their hands up in the dressing room and said they’d made a few schoolboy errors. None of their goals were classy goals and we missed a few chances at the other end. At least we kept plugging away and it didn’t turn into a landslide.”
Tipp did manage to strike for two good first-half goals through Francis Devenney and Lar Corbett, but Kilkenny replied through Shefflin and Larkin and the point rained in from Martin Comerford and James Ryall.
“I think we conceded too much,” Cody said. “Wwe let them stay in touch. But I suppose any time you beat Tipperary you can be happy.”
CLARE 5-16, WEXFORD 1-15
Anytime anyone beats Kilkenny they’ll be happy, and that’s the task facing Clare after they qualified for the final with a comprehensive victory over Wexford at Wexford Park. Initially when Nigel Higgins hit an early goal it seemed as if Wexford would make a match of it, but Clare then took complete control to run out facile winners.
As Wexford’s early resistance began to crumble, Clare piled on the pressure with goals from Niall Gilligan and Tony Carmody to make it 2-12 to 1-7 at the interval. When Diarmuid McMahon fired in a third just after the restart, the game was over as a contest and later both Gilligan and Carmody would each double their tally.
“My only fear now is that Kilkenny will be dying to give us a hiding in the final,” Clare’s manager, Anthony Daly, said.
In keeping with Cody’s talking up of the opposition, Daly’s comments should be taken with a grain of salt. There will be no hidings in Monday’s game, not when the best team in the country takes on the form team in the country.
Galway needed a massive win over Cork to have any chance of reaching the final, and while a 1-24 to 1-21 victory was a respectable result, they fell far short of the required target. In the remaining Div. One relegation games, Waterford defeated Down by 3-18 to 0-19, Limerick were comfortable 5-18 to 2-12 winners over Laois, and Antrim got the better of Dublin by 3-9 to 1-11. Waterford, Limerick and Laois remain in the top grade, while Antrim, Down and Dublin are relegated.
In Div. Two, Carlow staged a dramatic comeback to defeat Westmeath by 3-11 to 3-8 and edge ever nearer to the final. Trailing at one stage by 3-5 to 0-1, they refused to throw in the towel and goals from Mark Brennan, Ruairi Dunbar and Barry Cox sealed victory. Their likely opponents in the decider will be Offaly, who had an easy 3-20 to 0-11 win over Meath.