Manager Declan Ryan and star player Eoin Kelly were honest enough to admit Tipperary got out of jail as they came from behind to beat Limerick in the Munster SHC clash at Semple Stadium on Sunday by a score of 2-20 to 1-19.
Late substitutions proved vital as Tipperary rallied in the final quarter to book a date with Cork in the Munster semifinal.
Kelly had a poor game by his own standards and was substituted, but he was in good company as Tipp trailed by seven points at one stage before winning by four in Thurles.
“We didn’t perform all day,” admitted Kelly to RTE Radio. “But the substitutes that came on made the difference. We know a performance like that would not be good enough going to beat Cork so we have an awful lot of work to do not just for Cork but for the rest of the year.
“Declan Ryan made the changes at the right time when some of us were not going well. Calls were made and Tipperary were successful today. That is the main thing.
“All the substitutes that came on played their part. He said before the game that it would take 20 players and it took 20.
“We have to believe now that we have a strong panel and if the players get their chance, they can do the business. They did that today.”
Tipp boss Ryan said after the game, “It was looking dodgy with 15 minutes left, Limerick were hurling with their tails up, with typical Limerick spirit, but our lads kept battling away and we tagged on a few points. I’m delighted with the way we finished the game.
“Limerick came with great hope today and anytime Limerick and Tipp play you know Limerick will battle to the very last. I’m delighted with the way our guys battled there and showed a lot of spirit.
“The substitutions we made worked reasonably well, all the lads that came on made a huge contribution, they added a lot of energy to the game. It was very warm out there and it was great they had the impact they did.”
Limerick defender Wayne McNamara admitted his team blew their big chance on Sunday.
McNamara told the Irish Sun, “We’re absolutely gutted – we were so close. But at least we’re on the right track. Just things didn’t go right for us at the right time.
“I suppose that’s the way it goes and we’re disgusted. We’re working hard in training, everything is very positive, we’ll go back in now again, work hard again.”
Limerick boss John Allen accepted it was so close but so far for his team.
“The substitutions that Tipp made, they made the difference. Bringing on Bonner Maher, Shane McGrath,” Allen said.
“I’d be hugely proud of the effort we put it because it was heroic for most of the game. They just had a stronger bench and that was the difference between the teams.
“We brought on Declan Hannon. Declan has only two weeks’ training done because of injury. He will have six weeks’ training done the next day we’re out so he will be something like the Declan Hannon that we’ve seen playing underage and all.”
Kerry boss Jack O’Connor refused to discuss the controversial decision to drop star full-forward Kieran Donaghy to the bench – allegedly for attending the Champions League final – but he did admit the big man made a difference as a substitute in Sunday’s Munster SFC 0-16 to 0-10 win over Tipperary.
“Donaghy came on and made a difference,” said O’Connor after the Thurles win. “We used five subs and they all did well. If we had the option of using a couple more out there, we’d have done that as well.
“We’ll have to look at the team again. We weren’t as fluent today as we should have been. We gave away an awful lot of ball. We were trying to be too elaborate and instead should have been more direct. We’ll work on that for the next couple of weeks.”
Cork are next up for Kerry, and both O’Connor and captain Colm Cooper know a big improvement will be needed in the semifinal.
“Obviously we have to improve now because that display won’t be worrying Cork too much. But I think there’s improvement in us and hopefully that will come in the next two weeks,” said O’Connor.
“It’s fairly obvious that it wasn’t as fluent a performance as we’d have been hoping for. All credit to Tipp, they were very dogged and spirited. They showed good heart. They were in the game right until the end. Fair dues to them.
“I just thought we turned over a lot of ball today. We were sloppy in possession. We tried to be too elaborate at times. I just felt we were a yard off the pace that we needed to be at.”
Captain Cooper said, “We certainly want to go through the front door and they’re won’t be any quarter given between the sides the next day. It will be a right battle against Cork in the next game.