Tipperary Minor Footballers – welcome our All-Ireland champions home at 6:30pm on Monday evening on the steps of the Cathedral in Thurles. All are welcome

Slievenamon in full cry as Tipp storm home

All-Ireland MFC Final: Dublin 1-14 Tipperary 3-09

By Fintan O’Toole for the Irish Examiner newspaper

TIPPERARY’S minor football campaign this year was a stirring tale long before yesterday’s All-Ireland decider in Croke Park. Washing away 16 years of heartache in the provincial arena and toppling a series of established counties ensured 2011 would be recalled with fond memories, whatever the outcome of the decider. And yesterday David Power’s charges ensured their season concluded in a dream fashion as they claimed an astonishing victory over Dublin in a blaze of late drama.

It was an game where Dublin enjoyed a large level of superiority and deservedly led as the clock ticked down. Their two-point advantage with five minutes remaining was not reflective of the level of control they had exerted but they still looked set to secure silverware. However Tipperary have displayed a fearless streak in their play this season and they remained in contention, undaunted by the deficit they faced. They were rewarded for that bravery and grit with their two half-time subs stepping forward late on to make pivotal contributions. Moyle Rovers player Phillip Quirke provided aerial power when introduced at centre-forward and his point-kicking was also hugely impressive. He raised his third white flag in the 55th minute to cut the gap to one before Clonmel Commercials youngster Colman Kennedy demonstrated his super sub credentials moments later.

An errant pass by Dublin goalkeeper Ross O’Hanlon was seized on by hard-working captain Liam McGrath and when the ball fell to Kennedy, he unleashed a stinging 20-yard drive to the net. It was a sensational strike, given the simple option was to tap over a point and tie the game. But Kennedy was rewarded for taking a daring approach and in a frenetic finale Tipperary’s defence only leaked a point when Ciarán Kilkenny converted a free.

Dublin had their chances to secure a replay, yet the wretched shooting that blighted their second-half display surfaced again in injury-time. Tipperary grimly protected their advantage and referee Padraig Hughes full-time whistle delivered their first title at this grade since 1934. That prompted riotous celebrations on the pitch and vociferous renditions of Slievenamon by the large band of Premier supporters congregated in the upper tier of the Hogan Stand. This was a crown to cherish, achieved courtesy of defeats this season over the Big Three in Munster (Cork, Kerry and Limerick), the Big Two in Leinster (Meath and Dublin), and the Connacht champions Roscommon.

It will take Dublin time to fathom how they lost this game. In the first-half they were excellent, hitting the high notes that had been evident throughout their march to this juncture. John Small and Patrick O’Higgins gave them a physical edge around the middle, wing-back Jack McCaffrey was in stellar form while Ciaran Kilkenny starred as he orchestrated Dublin’s attacking movements. Kilkenny kicked five points in that opening period with his pace and poise proving problematic for the Tipperary rearguard. Paul Mannion also got in on the scoring act while Gavin Ivory bounded clear for a terrific sixth minute goal after great work by McCaffrey.

Dublin led 1-10 to 2-2 at the interval yet there was enough in their own first-half display to sustain Tipperary’s hopes at the break. Liam McGrath showed how the Dublin defence could be prised apart, tearing through for a wonderful individual goal in the second minute and then forcing the foul in the 30th minute that lead to Tipperary being awarded a penalty. Facing into a Hill 16 packed with ardent Dublin fans, Michael Quinlivan kept his cool to tuck the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

In the second-half Tipperary plugged the gaps at the back, benefitted from the impact of substitutes like Quirke and Kennedy, and significantly made a purposeful opening. They shot over the first four points after the restart through Kennedy (2), Quirke and Quinlivan, and that burst of scores brought them back into contention. Dublin resumed control in the middle period of the second-half yet tellingly they could never put Tipperary away and the greatest margin they enjoyed on the scoreboard was three points. Tipperary were always within touching distance and when the chances arose late on, they pounced for a famous triumph.

Scorers for Tipperary: C Kennedy (0-2f), L McGrath (0-1f) 1-2 each, M Quinlivan 1-1 (1-0 pen), P Quirke 0-3, B Maher 0-1.

Scorers for Dublin: C Kilkenny 0-7 (0-3f), G Ivory 1-1, P Mannion 0-2 (0-1f), J Small, J McCaffrey, E Ó’Conghaile, C Costello 0-1 each.

Subs for Tipperary: P Quirke for J McGrath (half-time), C Kennedy for Ryan (half-time), A McGuire for O’Riordan (43), J Lonergan for Henry (51), J Martin for Maher (55).

Subs for Dublin: D Campbell for Meaney (40), D Byrne for Hannigan (53), N Scully for Fulham (59).

Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)