By Jackie Cahill
Manager Shane Ronayne was at a loss to explain Tipperary's late scare against Meath in Saturday's TG4 All-Ireland ladies intermediate football championship semi-final.
The Premier County looked to be cruising to a final berth midway through the second half - leading by 13 points and flowing freely.
But Tipp had to sweat it out before booking a September 14 date with Tyrone or Sligo, as Meath reduced the full-time deficit to just three points - 3-19 to 2-19.
Ronayne had his bench emptied with nine minutes left but taking off influential Jennifer Grant, who had excelled in a sweeping defensive role, and brilliant forward Aishling Moloney were necessary calls to an extent.
Grant was ill in the days before the game while Moloney carried an injury into battle - and was a late call-up after being listed as number 28 on the match programme.
Tipp were still ten points ahead before Meath collected an unanswered 1-4 in the closing minutes.
Ronayne reflected: "It was looking very comfortable with a quarter of an hour to go.
"I don't really know what happened. If we were involved in a classic and lost, we'd be going home feeling very sorry for ourselves.
"But we're there, we've plenty to work on and we'll enjoy tonight and start thinking about it again on Monday morning.
"People might look at the subs but our subs are every bit as good as the girls on the field. They deserve to be playing.
"I wouldn't be blaming the substitutions for it - that's not backing myself up but I think the players on the field need to have a look at what they were doing in the last 15 minutes."
Gillian O'Brien shot the lights out with a haul of 1-7 from play - including 1-5 in the first half - while Moloney sparkled with 1-4 and Orla O'Dwyer contributed 1-3.
Tipp landed 3-17 of their big winning tally from play but Meath, who had a huge display from Aoibhin Cleary, kept going right to the end even when faced with a huge deficit.
Tipp led by 2-11 to 1-7 at half-time and were full value for that seven-point interval lead.
O'Dwyer and O'Brien netted in a 36-second spell but Marion Farrelly goaled for Meath approaching half-time to give them hope.
The game looked done and dusted when Moloney crashed home a brilliant 35th-minute goal at the Killinan End but Meath weren't finished and they made life uncomfortable before full-time, as Stacey Grimes slotted home a penalty.