Allianz Hurling League Division One, Group B
Antrim 2-16 Tipperary 4-28
IT was a rather disappointing end to Antrim's Allianz Hurling League Division One campaign on Sunday as they failed to raise a gallop against Tipperary at Corrigan Park.
Going into the game, the Saffrons already knew they were safe in the top tier of the League for another year and this seemed to take the sting out of them on the day as they didn't have the same intensity as seven days previous against Laois.
In contrast, the Premier made it five wins from five in Group B and that stat was virtually wrapped up by the break as they led by 14.
The hosts did spark to life for a spell after the break, but couldn't get to within single figures as Tipp finished strongly to claim an emphatic win.
Neither side had much riding on this game with Antrim already assured of Division One hurling for 2024 and Tipperary through to next week's semi-final, but Tipp had a bit more energy and fluidity about them as their movement and touch was too much for an out-of-sorts Antrim team.
"We'd have liked a stronger performance today," said Antrim manager Darren Gleeson.
"In the first half, we just didn't get up to the tone of it. Tipperary set the tone and we didn't get to it. They were hungry and I suppose they had lads playing for semi-final places whereas our boys didn't realise they were playing for Championship starting places.
"They were given the chance and didn't take it, but we have 34 days now to go and get ourselves in order for Dublin and that will be a fair tough assignment for us."
@TipperaryGAA score 40 points as they get the better of @AontroimGAA this afternoon in their #AllianzLeagues clash (📸 @JohnMcVittyPix) pic.twitter.com/pEtkiC0Cny— Inpho Photography (@Inphosports) March 19, 2023
Seaan Elliott nudged Antrim into an early lead, but Tipperary were quickly into their stride with 1-4 in response - the goal coming when Antrim coughed up cheap possession and Mark Kehoe fired home on four minutes.
The scores began to flow for Tipperary with nine different scorers in the opening period, while Antrim struggled to make much headway with any ball into the attack easily mopped up by the visiting defence.
Tipperary's second goal game on 20 minutes as Sean Ryan put Conor Bowe in to rattle the net and this made it 2-8 to 0-4.
Conal Cunning, Nigel Elliott and Michael Bradley were carrying the fight for Antrim, but Tipperary were much more fluid with Gearóid O'Connor, John McGrath and Sean Ryan all finding their range as well as wing-back Enda Heffernan, while goal number three arrived just before the break asp auric Campion got in on the right and finished, helping Tipperary into a 3-13 to 0-8 half-time lead.
O'Connor frees extended the gap after the break before Antrim enjoyed a decent spell with two goals in four minutes, the first coming when Domhnall Nugent put Nigel Elliott in to rattle the net and then Cunning put Rian McMullan in to finish.
However, they were unable to sustain the pressure with the gap down to 10 as Tipp hit back with their fourth major on 49 minutes as the impressive Sean Ryan shrugged off a challenge to blast bast Ryan Elliott.
That was that as John McGrath began to put on an exhibition of point-talking, while substitutes Johnny Ryan and John Campion got in on the act.
Antrim had a couple of decent phases with a few of their replacements, Paul Boyle, Seamus McAuley and Scott Walsh on target, but Tipperary could manage the game out as they powered over the line with yet another big score ahead of next week's semi-final against Limerick.
"I'm very happy," said Tipperary manager Liam Cahill.
"We've a big game next weekend and (there will be) more learnings for us in terms of where we're at in our development.
"It's a great opportunity to play the All-Ireland champions as every day you get to play them, it's a great challenge and we'll know a lot more about ourselves come Saturday evening as to how we are progressing."
Antrim would have liked to have signed off on this part of the season on a brighter note and while there were a few changes to the team, manager Darren Gleeson said it was an opportunity to stake a claim for the Dublin game next month but he was given little food for thought on Sunday.
"I was very impressed with Tipp: how they ran the ball, how they pressed the ball and they set a high intensity we didn't get to," he added.
"For 15 minutes after half-time, the game lulled and we came back into it well, had a few more chances and didn't take them.
"In the first half, we were taking shots from areas we don't usually be shooting from and had 15 or 16 wides overall, coughed up two to three goal chances. You have to be ruthless at this level and Tipp are ruthless.
"I looked at it during the week and they are averaging about 33 or 34 in total and it takes fair tipping to try and outdo that. They are conceding around the 22 mark and we replicated that today.
"They've been playing at a consistent level and we weren't consistent today."
ANTRIM: R Elliott; P Burke, R McGarry, P Duffin; G Walsh, E Campbell, N O'Connor; M Bradley (0-3), J McNaughton; N Elliott (1-2), K Molloy, D Nugent; C Cunning (0-5, 3 frees, 1 65), R McMullan (1-1), S Elliott (0-1).
Subs: S Walsh (0-1) for N O'Connor (HT), P Boyle (0-2) for S Elliott (HT), C McKernan for J McNaughton (52), S McAuley (0-1) for N Elliott (55), R McCloskey for G Walsh (65)
TIPPERARY: R Shelly; E Connolly, M Breen, B O'Meara; E Heffernan (0-3), R Maher, P Campion (1-0); J Fogarty (0-2), A Tynan (0-2); K O'Kelly, M Kehoe (1-0), G O'Connor (0-9, 7 frees, 1 65); C Bowe (1-0), J McGrath (0-7, 1 free), S Ryan (1-3).
Subs: J Campion (0-1) for R Maher (26), J Ryan (0-1) for B O'Meara (HT), P Creedon for K O'Kelly (49), D McCormick for A Tynan (53), C O'Dwyer for G O'Connor (64)
REFEREE: P O'Dwyer (Carlow)