Tipperary are back in the All-Ireland Hurling final for the first time in three years after they scored a two point victory (1-28 to 3-20) over Leinster champions Wexford in an epic semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday last.
It was a heart stopping performance when tipperary had to show all their courage and resilience after being reduced to 14 men early in the second half when John McGrath was shown a second yellow card.
Falling five points down shortly afterwards, it was looking ominous for Tipperary, but that was when they showed their true character as they hit back with five points without reply and suddenly the momentum was back with Tipperary.
They suffered another blow when Wexford goaled for a third time with 10 minutes left but once again the response from Tipperary was immediate and with the subs coming on making a huge impact, four of them getting on the scoresheet, it was they who were driving forward in the closing stages and looking like the team with the extra man.
Afterwards a delighted Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy had huge praise for his side.
”Huge character from my lads,” he said. “Over the course of the last month, it has been questioned a bit about what these boys can bring. To see what they brought there today, a few decisions that did not go our way. We had the ball in the back of the net and it didn’t count.
”The way we came back from five points down, the way we used the ball, the way we put our bodies on the line, I’ve a very small job to do in all of this, it’s those players. The way they went about their business with their backs to the wall was monumental and I’m so proud for them,” he declared.
Wing back Brendan Maher said that “in the circumstances, it just came down to fourteen men for the guts of half an hour. The belief and character was shown. We didn’t feel any panic on the pitch and that’s down to the hard work we have done since last November. There is only one way to build belief and that is through hard work and we have that done this year and it had to come out today and it did.
”They probably got a bit of a lift off the red card and had a couple of big scores. But we didn’t panic and we always felt we had a grasp of it and had a chance, despite going down to fourteen men. It didn’t really feel that it wasn’t possible so we said we would stay going until the final whistle and not stop until we were told to stop,” he said.
Asked about the character shown he replied “it’s a question that is thrown out there all the time. It’s probably stemming from the games against Kilkenny where we have lost tight games but you can look at that two ways; Kilkenny have been an unbelievable team over the last ten years and we have been up there with them. We have had our few wins and they’ve had their dominance over every team so we were sick of that being thrown around the place. We are not going to answer it here, it is our there (Croke Park) and we did a bit of it today but there is another game to go.”