Liam Cahill kicked off his first Allianz HL campaign with Tipperary in fine style as the Premier dominated Laois from start to finish to coast home 20-point winners at Semple Stadium.
illed as ‘The Battle of Ballingarry’ with Cahill facing off against club-mate Willie Maher, there was only ever going to be one winner as the home side hit the ground running.
There were just four points in it in the corresponding Division 1 Group B tie last year, but Tipp already look a different prospect under Cahill with an economic use of possession and a keen eye for goal. Gone are aimless long balls and shooting from low-percentage areas, as they instead chose to carry the ball hard to create overlaps against a Laois side that just couldn’t get up to the pace of it.
Tipp finished with 14 different scorers and Séamus Kennedy’s 12th-minute goal helped them into a 13-point lead at half-time with the visitors left chasing shadows.
It was more competitive after the break, but Jake Morris brought another edge to the hosts off the bench, and the Nenagh Éire Óg attacker put the icing on the Tipp cake with an injury-time goal.
A much bigger test awaits against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park next Sunday, but it was a case of job done for Cahill as the former Waterford boss hailed a professional display.
“It was a good performance. You look for that when the scoreboard is ticking over, and the game is maybe put to bed early. It does tend to allow complacency to set in, but I was happy with the way our guys applied themselves right through the game, and that was a big positive,” Cahill said.
Tipp, who looked a totally different proposition compared to their dismal showings in 2022, flew out of the blocks and quickly raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead, with newcomer Gearóid O’Connor impressing in attack.
The Moyne-Templetuohy forward hit their first four points, including a nice effort from play, before a goal-hungry Tipp hit the net with former defender Kennedy finishing neatly after a tasty assist from Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher. Maher was the creator in chief in the opening half with a beautiful roll, lift and spin opening up the Laois defence, and the hosts showed no mercy as they built up a 10-point lead, 1-8 to 0-1.
O’Connor was on the mark again, while Conor Stakelum, who later limped off with a hamstring injury, raided forward from midfield to knock over two points.
Fiachra C Fennell briefly broke their resistance when surging forward from wing-back to score in the 19th minute, but the visitors were blunt in attack and couldn’t get to grips with a dominant Tipp defence led by Ronan Maher.
Tipp fired over four in a row with the returning John McGrath — making his first start after a serious Achilles tendon injury — and newcomers Sean Ryan and Cian O’Dwyer pointing to leave it 1-12 to 0-2.
The sides shared the next 10 points before the break — although Laois had goalkeeper Enda Rowland to thank for a smart stop from O’Dwyer — with PJ Scully coming into the game, while Tomás Keyes also fired over a brace to leave Laois trailing by 13 at half-time, 1-17 to 0-7.
A quick start was needed if the O’Moore men were to make this competitive upon the resumption, and having brought Ross King in just before the break, Maher parachuted Paddy Purcell and James Duggan into the fray for the new half.
Purcell slotted in at No 6 with Duggan at full-forward, and the latter immediately fired over, but it was much the same after the break as Ronan Maher (one from play and a long free) and Brian McGrath pointed from distance.
They held a 1-24 to 0-12 lead at the end of the third quarter, but Camross’ Tomás Keyes, who finished with 0-4 from play, fought the good fight for Maher’s men.
They were dominated down the home straight, though, with Morris poaching 1-2, while Mark Kehoe and Conor Bowe also made an impact as they coasted home comprehensively.
Scorers – Tipperary: G O’Connor 0-11 (7f, 0-1 ‘65); J Morris 1-2; S Kennedy 1-1; C Stakelum, R Maher (1f) 0-3 each; C O’Dwyer, S Ryan, J McGrath 0-2 each; B McGrath, J Campion, N McGrath, M Kehoe, C Barrett, C Bowe 0-1 each. Laois: PJ Scully 0-6 (5f); T Keyes 0-4; J Keyes 0-2; F C Fennell, P Purcell, J Duggan, L Senior, R King, R Mullaney 0-1 each.
Tipperary: Barry Hogan; C Barrett, M Breen, J Ryan; B O’Mara, R Maher, B McGrath; N McGrath, C Stakelum; S Kennedy, G O’Connor, C O’Dwyer; J McGrath, P Maher, S Ryan. Subs: J Campion for Stakelum inj (37), J Morris for O’Dwyer and M Kehoe for P Maher (both 51), P Cadell for N McGrath (60), C Bowe for J McGrath (62).
Laois: E Rowland; D Hartnett, P Delaney, P Dunne; J Kelly, R Mullaney, F C Fennell; A Corby, T Keyes; A Dunphy, W Dunphy, J Keyes; S Maher, M Phelan, PJ Scully. Subs: R King for Dunphy inj (33), P Purcell for A Dunphy and J Duggan for Phelan (both half-time), I Shanahan for Corby (57), L Senior for Maher (60).
Referee: J Murphy (Limerick)