Galway beat Tipp in a thriller
GALWAY 0-26 TIPPERARY 3-16
Firstly, let us record the fact that this was a magnificent match. Forget the fact that the critics will find fault with the tactics - or lack of them in the case of Galway's defensive formation. Let us just salute both teams for providing us with a contest which will live long in the memory.
Ten seconds from the end of the scheduled three minutes of injury time Galway substitute Shane Moloney - who was introduced in the 69th minute - controlled a diagonal pass from Joe Canning, and rounded Conor O'Brien who slipped.
Having fluffed a chance earlier in lost time Moloney made no mistake this time - calmly slotting the ball between the posts for the winning point.
So Galway are through to their first All-Ireland final since 2012. As was the case three seasons ago defending title holders, Kilkenny will provide the opposition. But unlike 2012 the Cats go into the final unbeaten - they accounted for Anthony Cunningham's side in the Leinster final.
Afterwards Cunningham told his Kilkenny counterpart Brian Cody that he would see him again on the field of play in the All-Ireland final. His prediction has come to pass, though this seemed unlikely at various points of an absorbing encounter watched by 58,495 in Croke Park
Neutrals were urging referee Barry Kelly to blow up the final whistle so we would have the privilege of seeing them in action in a replay. But in a game which produced as many sub plots as a John Le Carre novel, the Tribesmen deserved their win despite conceding three goals and failing to find the net themselves.
This was one of the rare occasions in hurling where the cliche 'goals win matches' proved incorrect, as Tipperary's ace full forward Seamus Callanan won't need reminding during the long winter ahead.
Callanan gave a marvellous individual performance scoring a remarkable 3-9, 3-4 of which came from play. He goaled after 38 seconds and again in the 40th and 52nd minutes. In all three cases his used the same modus operandi: outfielding his marker Padraig Mannion - who moved from corner back to mark him -and driving the sliotar past Colm Callinan.
Eventually in the 55th minute Galway switched John Hanbury to full back but eight minutes later we saw why he wasn't entrusted with the job, as he hauled down Callanan in the parallelogram, conceding the game's second penalty.
It what ultimately proved the key play in the match Callanan - who was treated for over a minute after the penalty was awarded - took the penalty but his rising shot was tipped over the bar by Callinan, who despite conceding three goals was still outstanding, saving his team-mates on at least three occasions.
One wonders why Anthony Cunningham opted not to deploy a sweeper in an effort to nullify the threat of Callanan. Self evidently he trusted his players to do the job playing conventional hurling and ultimately that's exactly what they did.
They made a woeful start -they were 1-1 to no score behind after four minutes before Tipperary goalkeeper Darren Gleeson saved a Joe Canning penalty in the eighth minute after James Barry had hauled down Cyril Donnellan.
Gleeson saves a Canning penalty
But those setbacks never fazed them; they looked sharper than Tipperary, many of whose key players failed to make an impact - the performances of John O'Dwyer and Patrick Maher was particularly disappointing.
The eventual replacement of both their midfielders Shane McGrath and James Woodlock is an indication of how the battle in the middle third of the field panned out.
Physically Galway were in Tipp's faces - they put serious pressure on Darren Gleeson's puck outs and they outscored Tipp 13-8 in the last 30 minutes of the first half and fully deserved their 0-13 to 1-9 half time lead.
Even though he ended up with five wides, Joe Canning was showing excellent leadership up front and his briliant 37th-minute point from a sideline cut set the tone in the early stages of the second half.
Even though Callanan grabbed his second goal after an otherwise subdued Noel O'Meara drove in a high ball in the 40th minute, it was Galway who had the momentum. Their two teenage forwards Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion - who hit four and five points from play respectively - punished unforced errors in the Tipperary defence.
Crucially Callinan twice denied Patrick Maher goals in the same attack in the 45th minute. It was nip and tuck for the next seven minutes until unbelievably Callanan struck for his hat-trick with 18 minutes left on the clock to give his side a three point advantage (3-12; 0-18).
Galway's response underlined their new-found maturity - they were level within three minutes with points from Canning and Flynn - both frees and another from rookie Conor Whelan. From there to the end it was a marvellous. Initially it looked as if Eamon O'Shea had pulled a master stroke by introducing Noel McGrath - who had successfully overcame testicular cancer this year - and Conor O'Mahony, as they hit long-range points.
There was a disputed 65 which an umpire awarded to Tipperary but was overuled by the referee but ultimately it was a Galway substitute Shane Moloney who made the most dramatic intervention of all with his late, late winner.
Interestingly, Galway hit 13 scores in the second half compared by 8 for Tipp who only managed seven points after the break.
So Tipp boss Eamon O'Shea bows out of the job having failed to deliver an All-Ireland final - one of his selectors Michael Ryan is replacing him. There will be many post mortems over the winter - not least an analysis of how they handled the six weeks break since the Munster final win.
Winning this Munster title is now becoming a millstone for teams with All-Ireland ambitions - not since Cork's last All-Ireland win in 2005 has the Munster champions secured the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
But the question now is will the Liam MacCarthy Cup end up in Leinster or Connacht next month?
GALWAY: C Callinan; J Coen, P Mannion, J Hanbury; A Harte, Daithi Burke, I Tannion; A Smith (0-1), David Burke (0-2); J Flynn (0-5, 1f), C Donnellan, J Glynn; C Whelan (0-2), J Canning (0-10, 6f, 1 65, 1 sideline), C Mannion (0-5). Subs: J Cooney for Donnellan 53m; D Collins for Smith 63m; G Lally for Harte 64m; S Moloney (0-1) for Cooney 69m; P Brehony for Hanbury 70mm
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, C O'Brien; R Maher, R Maher, K Bergin; J Woodlock, S McGrath; J Forde (0-1), B Maher (0-1), J O'Dwyer (0-2, 1f); N O'Meara, P Maher (0-1), S Callanan (3-9, 4f, 1 65, 1 pen), N O'Meara. Subs; S Bourke for Forde ht; L Corbett for McGrath 55m; N McGrath (0-1) for Bourke 61m; C O'Mahony (0-1) for Woodlock 63m; M O'Brien for R Maher 72m.
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)