CAIT DEVANE fired 2-6 as Tipperary cruised back into the semi-finals of the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Championship with three second-half goals leaving Antrim miles adrift in their rear-view mirror.
Up until last year, the Premier had made four successive last-four appearances.
And that experience was always going to count against the Saffrons, who had done well to reach a quarter-final for the first time in 41 years despite the experienced Lucia McNaughton, Shannon Graham and long-term injury victim Maeve Kelly not participating in any of their group games.
McNaughton was back yesterday for her first start since the league tie with Wexford on April 2.
But acting captain Caoimhe Conlon suffered a grade-two tear to her shoulder AC joint in last week’s game against Waterford to join those on the treatment table.
Throw-in was delayed as the teams came together to link arms and continue female inter-county stars’ protests over player welfare issues.
The Saffrons then started OK as they set up defensively, with Mary McKillen dropping back into the half-back line.
It took Tipperary a little time to work out how to break them down and after 15 minutes the teams were locked on 0-3 each, with Róisín McCormick striking two Antrim frees to go along with a huge effort from Niamh Cosgrove.
Tipperary’s three from play included a fine effort from player of the match Devane.
Antrim did what they could to cling on for a while in the second quarter but three frees from Eimear McGrath and two points from Devane opened up a gap of 0-10 to 0-5 by half-time.
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And the second half was only 12 seconds old when Tipp got their first goal.
The sliotar broke for Caoimhe Maher from the throw-in and she burst down the centre, with the move ending with Devane slotting a loose ball home.
Tipp quickly set about killing off the game and a series of points followed to bring their total to a healthy 1-17 by the three-quarter mark.
And then half-time sub Eimear Heffernan stepped on the gas.
The Knockavilla–Donaskeigh Kickhams forward was on hand to find the net on 46 minutes after Caoimhe McCarthy’s shot was brilliantly saved by Catrina Graham.
Heffernan tagged on four points during the last quarter, while another driving run from McCarthy saw the sliotar off-loaded for Devane to volley to the net with a lob that would have had the crowds at Wimbledon gasping.
Beaten by 26, Antrim looked dejected as they left the pitch but all is rosy for Tipp as they move a step closer to a first All-Ireland final in 17 years.
TIPPERARY: Á Slattery; J Bourke, M Eviston, E Loughman; K Blair, K Kennedy, A McGrath; T Ryan, C Hennessy 0-1; R Howard 0-1, Caoimhe Maher 0-1, E McGrath 0-5f; G O’Brien 0-1, C Devane 2-6, 4f, C McIntyre 0-2. Subs: C McCarthy 0-1 for Hennessy 27 mins; E Heffernan 1-4 for O’Brien h-t; M Ryan for A McGrath 39; Ciardha Maher for T Ryan 44; C Ryan 0-1 for McIntyre 50.
ANTRIM: C Graham; C Patterson, K Laverty, M Lynn; N Cosgrove 0-1f, A Boyle, L McKenna; L McNaughton, A Connolly; S McKillop, R McCormick 0-4, 3f, C Dobbin 0-1f; K McKillop, M McKillen, Á Magill. Subs: F Kelly for S McKillop 40 mins; C McArthur for McKillen 40; M McGarry for McKenna 50; E McShane for K McKillop 50; E Kearns for Patterson 56.
REFEREE: A Larkin (Cork).