GOALS will nearly always win games and that was the case in Semple Stadium last Saturday as three soft first-half three pointers for Tipperary in the first-half proved the key as they edged to victory over a spirited Offaly side.
While Offaly will be disappointed at suffering a second defeat in the championship, the 2009 All Ireland Junior Champions and 2010 Intermediate Champions showed that they are not out of place at this level and it should only be a matter of time before they record their first win.
For the majority of the game Offaly went stride for stride with their more experienced opponents and it was only in the last ten minutes that any real daylight appeared between the sides.
In the opening 30 minutes Marion Crean, Michaela Morkan, Sheila Sullivan, Tina Hannon and Jean Brady bossed the area around the Offaly half-back line and midfield making it very difficult for Tipperary to mount attacks.
Despite Offaly’s efforts, the home side were ahead at the break by 3-5 to 1-8. They were fortunate to be in front as two of their three goals came from distance. Offaly goalkeeper Michelle Gleeson had a difficult day under the high ball mishandling two looping efforts that dropped over the line.
To their credit Offaly never dropped their heads and thanks to the accuracy of Elaine Dermody, they were still within a point of Tipperary early in the second-half.
However the five time All Ireland Senior Champions showed their greater experience at this level and they managed to pull away in the closing stages with Jill Horan leading the way.
For Offaly Lorraine Keena was rock solid at full-back while former Shooting Star Award Winner Fiona Stephens had another fine game at corner-back.
The half-back line and midfield again performed strongly while the forwards worked tirelessly over the hour with Linda Sullivan performing very well when switched to corner-back in the second-half.
Playing against the wind, Tipperary made the dream start to the game opening up a 1-2 to 0-1 lead after just five minutes. A brace of points from Clair Grogan was followed by a goal from Sarah Fryday after her looping shot from distance eluded Michelle Gleeson and ended up in the Offaly net.
Elaine Dermody had opened Offaly’s account after two minutes and shed added two further points with Aoife Kelly adding another to get Offaly back within one after nine minutes.
Clair Grogan pointed a free to double Tipperary’s advantage but Offaly blasted into the lead when Linda Sullivan reacted quickest to force the ball over the line after Ailsa Hughes’ initial shot was well saved by Rita Bourke.
At this point Offaly’s work-rate was causing problems for the home side with the visitors half-backs and midfielders setting the tempo.
However two goals in a minute for Tipperary swung the game firmly in their favour. The first was finished to back of the net by Noreen Flanagan while the second was a carbon copy of the earlier goal when a looping shot from Jill Horan evaded Michelle Gleeson and finished in the back of the net.
Offaly hit back with points from Michaela Morkan and Arlene Watkins who slotted the ball over from a very narrow angle but Offaly still found themselves three points behind after 25 minutes.
Goalkeeping in any sport is a very unforgiving position as every mistake is magnified and the Offaly net minder just had one of those days where everything that could go wrong for her did go wrong.
Pamela Nugent was eventually brought on to replace her between the posts and before the break the sides added two points apiece to leave Tipperary ahead by 3-5 to 1-8.
Within seven minutes of the restart Offaly had reduced the gap to the minimum after a brace of points from placed balls from Elaine Dermody.
A point apiece for each side followed with Dermody cancelling out a score from Cora Hennessy but the next three points all came for Tipp before Dermody was again on target for Offaly leaving her side just a score behind at 3-9 to 1-12.
In the closing minutes Tipperary’s greater strength in depth in their squad and their experience at this level told as lead by Jill Horan they added five further points to just two in reply for Offaly to put a flattering final look on the scoreline.
Offaly travel to Dublin next weekend hoping to repeat the result they posted at home to the same side in the Leinster Championship semi-final.
Dublin have also suffered defeat in their first two games so both teams will be targeting a win to get their championship campaign on track.
Tipperary: Jill Horan 1-3; Clair Grogan 0-6 (0-3f); Sarah Fryday 1-1; Noreen Flanagan 1-0; Cora Hennessy 0-3; Joanne Ryan 0-1
Offaly: Elaine Dermody 0-9 (0-6f, 0-1 ‘45); Linda Sullivan 1-0; Siobhan Flannery 0-1; Arlene Watkins 0-1; Michaela Morkan 0-1; Aoife Kelly 0-1; Tina Hannon 0-1
Tipperary: 1 (Julie Kirwan)
Red Cards: None
Tipperary: Rita Bourke; Maria Tynan, Sabrina Larkin, Geraldine Stapleton; Julie McGrath, Julie Kirwan, Clodagh Quirke; Jill Horan, Mary Ryan; Ali Lonergan, Cora Hennessy, Clair Grogan; Sarah Fryday, Eimer Shanahan, Noreen Flanagan. Subs: Brid Quinn for Clodagh Quirke (11mins), Nicole Walsh for Ali Lonergan (42mins), Joanne Ryan for Eimer Shanahan (42mins), Amy Kennedy for Sarah Fryday (55mins)
Offaly: Michelle Gleeson; Fiona Stephens, Lorraine Keena, Karen Brady; Jean Brady, Michaela Morkan, Marion Crean; Sheila Sullivan, Tina Hannon; Linda Sullivan, Arlene Watkins, Ailsa Hughes; Aoife Kelly, Elaine Dermody, Siobhan Flannery. Subs: Pamela Nugent for Michelle Gleeson (24mins), Debbie Flynn for Karen Brady (HT), Emma Dunne for Ailsa Hughes (51mins), Roisin Coughlan for Aoife Kelly (57mins)
Referee: Mike O’Kelly (Cork)