Battling Tyrone are not quite Tipp top in All-Ireland final
All-Ireland Ladies LFC Final: Tipperary 1-13 Tyrone 1-10
Tyrone were denied the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship at a sun-splashed ladies finals day in Croke Park by a Tipperary side that showed a greater ruthlessness in front of goal
Gerry Moane's Tyrone team paid for their nine wides and four clear goal chances that they spurned across the game as the Premier County capped a year unbeaten through their run in Division Three and the Championship.
"When we look back on it we had a couple of goal opportunities in the first few minutes. If those opportunities go over the bar you are off the mark and I said that last year after the Kerry game," explained Moane of Tyrone's uncertain start.
"Getting those opportunities early on gets people settled down early on.
"Especially in Croke Park, an early score gets you settled down," he added.
"That set the tone and left a big gap in it at half time. They are an experienced team and they kept us at arm's length.
"But we had opportunities to get level and get a foothold in the game. We didn't take them today and it is devastating for the girls."
Before we deal with the minutiae of the game, it should be acknowledged that this was a day of delivery for the ladies' game.
Last year there was a determined effort to top all previous attendance records and 34,445 came through the gates for the 2016 ladies takeover of Croke Park.
Yesterday, an astonishing 46,286 were present - with Ulster teams Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone well represented in the stands, and a famous Dublin win in the senior final over Mayo that ended three consecutive losses.
Back to Tyrone for now though. As early as the first few seconds, attacker Lycrecia Quinn found herself in front of goal but her effort was stopped by Tipperary keeper Lauren Fitzpatrick.
While they did grab a major when Gráinne Rafferty squeezed through Emma Buckley and Jennifer Grant to hit the net, Tipperary cancelled that out two minutes later when a Caoileann Conway pass was intercepted by Player of the Match Aisling McCarthy, who lobbed into an empty Tyrone net, Shannon Lynch having advanced to deal with a shot that dropped short.
Niamh O'Neill spurned another goal chance but it took two Gemma Begley frees to keep Tyrone slightly in touch at half-time, 1-3 to 1-7 down.
Tipperary had originally posted Aishling Moloney - a special talent indeed - at full-forward but with Tyrone moving Shannon Cunningham to full back to deal with her threat, they were clever enough to bring Moloney out the field, where she had an enormous influence on the game throughout.
But it was the Tipperary rearguard, superbly marshalled by the tough centre-back and captain Samantha Lambert and aided by sweeper Jennifer Grant who cut out a number of Red Hands raids, that decided the outcome of the contest.
Their manager Shane Ronayne beamed with excitement afterwards, saying: "I think our defence was outstanding. We forced them to shoot from outside. I think Jennifer (Grant) did a brilliant job as sweeper and I suppose we took our chances there at crucial times. We showed a great composure as well.
"That was the big thing. They lost big games last year and that's not any reflection on previous management or anything, but the players themselves had to sort it out. They cross the white line and they showed a great composure, including in the league final."
He added: "They won the dirty ball and they showed their poise. That's what marks out teams that win All-Irelands and those that don't, that's the harsh reality of it."
Tipperary were able to maintain a three-point cushion throughout the second half, despite huge efforts from Tyrone captain Neamh Woods - a survivor of the senior final loss to Dublin here in 2010 along with Shannon Lynch and Shannon Cunningham - and the exciting and pacy Niamh Hughes, while youngster Chloe McCaffrey showed a lot of promise.
However, one of the last plays of the game told its own story. Desperately seeking a goal to tie it up, Emma Jane Gervin had been enjoying an effective second half scoring two points from play. Her shot came down off the upright, but with Tyrone needing players to be alive, two Tipperary ladies flung themselves at the ball to secure possession.
They then wound down the clock, with the last person to hold the ball as the hooter sounded being the outstanding Moloney.
"We talked endless hours on training pitches about taking sweepers away (out of position)," reflected Moane afterwards.
"We knew about that defensive system and were well aware of that.
"We were meant to stretch the play out and we didn't use the wide open spaces of Croke Park to our benefit.
"We played into their hands. That's their experience at the end of the day, you need to be able to manage on the pitch.
"It is very difficult to manage from the sidelines, all we talked about in the build-up this year, we didn't execute on the day," he said.
"We have to look back at that and they have to learn."
TYRONE: S Lynch; E Brennan, E Mulgrew, C Conway; N Woods, S Cunningham, C Hunter; M Mallon, EJ Gervin 0-2; N Hughes, L Quinn, A Canavan; N O'Neill 0-1, G Begley 0-4, 3f, G Rafferty 1-0
Subs: N McGirr for Conway (20), M Canavan 0-2f and E Hegarty for A Canavan and G Rafferty (37), C McCaffrey 0-1, for Quinn (40)
TIPPERARY: L Fitzpatrick; S Condon, M Curley, E Buckley; B Condon, S Lambert, L Dillon; A McCarthy 1-4, 4f, J Grant; N Lonergan, M Morrissey 0-2, A Moloney 0-1; R Howard 0-2, G O'Brien 0-4, O O'Dwyer
Subs: C Condon for Lonergan (48), C Walsh for Howard (55)
Referee: Garryowen McMahon (Mayo)