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GAA: TIPP IN TOP SHAPE NOW; All-Ireland champs get over set-back.

Tipperary...........2-19 Offaly...............1-09

TIPPERARY restored the status quo with a free-scoring performance in Portlaoise last night crushing Offaly and setting their summer intentions straight, writes Paul Keane.

The memory of Waterford in the Munster final now seems to be a thing of the past and lively Tipp were back to their best, albeit against an ageing Offaly side.

It was a game of cat and mouse, tit for tat and Tipperary won it hands down.

At all the vital junctures, despite looking decidedly shaky at the back for periods, they came up trumps up front just when Offaly looked to be getting up a head of steam.

Take Offaly's first goal for example a beacon of light just when things were looking so bad. At 0-3 to 1-4 Stephen Brown's brilliant mid air pull that beat Brendan Cummins looked to have pulled Fr Tom Fogarty's side right back into it.

But Tipp pulled away again and Offaly's moment was gone. The story of their summer really despite a facile win over Michael Duignan's Meath last time out.

Points from skipper Tommy Dunne and Mark O'Leary stretched the gap further before John Carroll boomed a brilliant goal home from close range after Dunne's lay off 27 minutes in.

Simon Whelahan pulled a point back for Offaly but in typical fashion Tipp replied with two and led 2-8 to 1-6 at the break.

It was hardly the type of hurling that took them to the summit of the championship last year - they hit an alarming 14 wides overall - but it was enough to do a job and one can't help feeling there's plenty more in the tank.

It was a terrible sense of deja vu for Fr Tom Fogarty's Offaly side after the break.

Against Kilkenny in the Leinster final they kept up the pace until the second-half.

It was the same this time and the Faithful County only managed 0-3 after the break, amazingly just 0-1 from play.

In turn Tipp turned on the charm and Tommy Dunne was superb, albeit after a shaky start.

He pointed from left and right and looked class. So did Mark O'Leary a late call up who picked up four great points overall. Poor Offaly only managed one score from play in the second half.

Still, no one will fancy Tipp in this form next time out though some consolation for opponents is the fact that they shuffled their pack around like it was Las Vegas and not Portlaoise they were playing in.

Still, with players like Dunne, John Carroll and Eoin Kelly you can play them anywhere.

CAPTION(S):

Offaly's Kevin Martin gets the better of David Kennedy
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jul 14, 2002
Words:445
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