*Clare’s Aine O’Loughlin. Photograph: Martin Connolly
In a display that could only be admired, Tipperary emphatically secured the opening points of this year’s Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship on Sunday afternoon.
Venue: The Ragg, Tipperary
Level at three points apiece by the sixth minute, the wind-assisted hosts belied the seven month competitive gap to up the ante considerably for the next 18 minutes with a ten point unanswered haul that would prove decisive for the remainder.
In terms of intensity, physicality and movement, Tipperary were almost flawless in that scorching period, punishing every Clare mistake to the full with unerring accuracy as Cait Devane (4), lively debutant Aishling Moloney (2), Orla O’Dwyer (2), Roisin Howard and Grace O’Brien carved out a 0-13 to 0-03 advantage by the 24th minute.
It forced Ger O’Connell’s side to go long which played right into Tipperary’s hands as Niamh Treacy swept up effectively behind the half-back unit. Manager Ger O’Connell did reshuffle their pack to positive effect with a treble substitution of experienced trio Niamh O’Dea, Chloe Morey and Susan Vaughan to bulk up the middle third.
But despite O’Dea expertly pulling the strings from centre-back, Vaughan shadowing Moloney to negating effect and Morey adding potency to the half-forward line, Clare couldn’t capitalise on their late dominance.
Five shots at the posts only yielded a Morey point, their first in 27 minutes, with Clare’s luck frustratingly typified by an Aine O’Loughlin point blank shot in the 26th minute that came off the body of goalkeeper Aine Slattery.
0-13 to 0-04 in arrears by the midway mark, the only way was up for the Banner who to their credit did keep Tipperary scoreless for 24 minutes of the second period following a Cait Devane free immediately from the throw-in.
However, the improvement in performance wasn’t matched by scores as despite points from captain Laura McMahon and substitutes Vaughan and Morey, two more goal chances would be prevented as Aine O’Loughlin’s duel with goalkeeper Slattery continued to fall favourably on the Tipperary side.
The hosts were forced to play the final quarter with only 14 players after dual star Aishling Moloney was red-carded for an off-the-ball strike on Susan Vaughan just before the water break at 0-14 to 0-06.
However, it mattered little to the result as not only did Tipperary find an extra motivational gear but the numbers would also be levelled up when Ciara Doyle had to succumb to a leg injury for the eight minutes of additional time when Clare had already used up all their five substitutions.
A four point blitz through Devane (2), Karen Kennedy, and Orla O’Dwyer ensured that Eimear Kelly’s superb solo goal from a puck-out followed by an equally eye-catching point from the returning Roisin McMahon were mere consolations.
Instead, Tipperary finished with the final two points to put themselves in the driving seat in the group, with both sides set to face Dublin in the next fortnight to decide the two quarter-final place spots on offer from Group 3.
Tipperary are up first next Sunday in the capital before Clare host Dublin the following weekend in what could essentially be a winner-takes-all showdown for a place in the knock-out stages if the Premier County can maintain this rich vein of form.
Scorers for Tipperary: Cait Devane (0-8, 4f, 1’45); Aishling Moloney, Orla O’Dwyer (0-3 each); Grace O’Brien, Karen Kennedy (0-2 each); Roisin Howard, Miriam Campion (0-1 each)
Scorers for Clare: Eimear Kelly (1-0); Aine O’Loughlin, Chloe Morey (1f) (0-2 each); Gretta Hickey, Laura McMahon, Susan Vaughan, Roisin McMahon (0-1)
1: Aine Slattery (Shannon Rovers)
4: Eimear Loughman (Clonoulty/Rossmore)
3: Mary Ryan (Moneygall)
9: Clodagh Quirke (Clonoulty/Rossmore)
5: Shauna Quirke (Toomevara)
8: Niamh Treacy (Drom & Inch)
7: Aoife McGrath (Drom & Inch)
6: Karen Kennedy (Thurles Sarsfields)
27: Aishling Moloney (Cahir)
10: Nicole Walsh (Borris-Ileigh)
11: Roisin Howard (Cahir)
15: Ereena Fryday (Knockavilla Donaskeigh Kickhams)
12: Orla O’Dwyer (Cashel King Cormacs)
14: Cait Devane (Clonoulty/Rossmore)
13: Grace O’Brien (Nenagh Éire Óg)
17: Ciardha Maher (Burgess-Duharra) for Fryday (41)
2: Julieanne Burke (Borris-Ileigh) for S. Quirke (41)
20: Karin Blair (Cashel King Cormacs) for Treacy (55)
23: Jean Kelly (Éire Óg Annacarty) for Walsh (55)
29: Miriam Campion (Drom & Inch) for Howard (63)
1: Aisling Corbett (Scariff-Ogonnelloe)
2: Ciara Grogan (Clooney-Quin)
3: Roisin Minogue (Bodyke)
4: Ciara Doyle (Scariff-Ogonnelloe)
5: Roisin McMahon (Newmarket-on-Fergus)
6: Clare Hehir (Inagh-Kilnamona)
7: Alannah Ryan (Kilkishen)
8: Michelle Caulfield (Truagh-Clonlara)
9: Orlaith Duggan (Clooney-Quin)
10: Laura McMahon (Newmarket-on-Fergus) (Captain)
11: Mairead Scanlan (Scariff-Ogonnelloe)
12: Maire McGrath (Sixmilebridge)
13: Greta Hickey (Whitegate)
14: Aine O’Loughlin (Truagh-Clonlara)
15: Eimear Kelly (Truagh-Clonlara)
17: Susan Vaughan (Scariff-Ogonnelloe) for Caulfield (27)
20: Chloe Morey (Sixmilebridge) for Scanlan (27)
18: Niamh O’Dea (Kilmaley) for Minogue (27)
22: Robyn Conway (Feakle-Killanena) for Hickey (40)
23: Aoife Power (Scariff-Ogonnelloe) for McGrath (58)
Referee: Ray Kelly (Kildare)