Joe Canning the hero as Galway beat Tipperary
Galway marched into their third All-Ireland final in six years when they avenged last year's semi-final defeat by Tipperary in a pulsating semi-final at Croke Park.
This was the third successive semi-final clash between the counties; Galway won by a point two years ago while Tipp prevailed by a single point last year.
Remarkably, this time around it was another one point game; Joe Canning scored the winning point from under the Cusack Stand in the fifth minute of injury time.
After an indifferent first half in which he was booked and missed a straight forward free, the Portumna centre forward was immense in the spell-binding second period and finished as the game's top scorer with a personal tally of 0-11 – seven of which came in the second half.
While the margin of victory was considerably less than the 16 points between the teams when they clashed in the National League final, when Galway first served notice that they would be serious contenders for All-Ireland honours this season.
But this was a far more significant win for the Tribesmen than their league win. They're on the cusp of ending their All-Ireland famine which stretches back to 1988.
But their record in finals – they have lost six since their last triumph – will leave their fans on tender hooks ahead of the September showdown against the winners of next Sunday's second semi-final between Cork and Waterford.
Tipperary's demise - while hardly a shock – their form has been erratic since losing that League final to Galway – reinforces the view that the Premier County struggle when it comes to defending All-Ireland titles. They last won back-to-back titles in 1964-65.
Ironically, this was probably their best performance of the championship but it just fell short on the day. Two missed 65's from Seamus Callanan in the second half proved costly for the Premier County.
There were no changes in personnel on either side and a minimum of positional switches, though the placing of Galway's Niall Burke at wing forward, where he was marked by Padraic Maher, was a surprise.
Galway showed understandable signs of their five week lay off in the early exchanges and Tipperary dominated racing into a 4-1 lead after eight minutes. The Premier County were won their first five puck-outs but once they started to struggle in this department Galway got back into the contest.
They hit four points in a row between the 9th and 14th minutes to level the tie, and such was the influence of Conor Whelan that Tipperary switched their corner-backs in an effort to curb his influence.
He ended the half with 0-3 while Conor Cooney scored 0-2, but ultimately, it was the Galway full back line which appeared more vulnerable as the half progressed.
But midway through the half it was Galway who were dominating and even though Joe Canning was anonymous in general play the Tribesmen led 0-8-0-6 after 23 minutes.
Then came the first decisive break in the game which ironically began with a mis-hit from Seamus Callanan, which the Galway defence looked to have control of, but corner-back Adrian Tuohy fumbled the ball under pressure from John McGrath, who held his nerve admirably to score the game's opening and what turned out to be the game's only goal.
Galway were level within a minute with a magnificent sideline cut from under the Hogan Stand by Joe Canning and it was nip and tuck from there until half time. Indeed, the sides were level on six occasions in the first half but Tipp edged it at the break (0-12; 1-10).
A feature of the first half was the performance of Canning. He scored 0-4 – but missed a routine free; gave away two frees; was booked and had limited involvement in Galway's attacking play. The other feature of the first half was the failure of Galway captain David Burke to make a significant impact with Brendan Maher shading the duel.
Galway had two goal chances in the opening five minutes of the second half but neither Conor Cooney or Joseph Cooney were able to finish the moves, though the latter's effort did ultimately yield a point from a Canning free.
There was literally never more than a puck of a ball between the sides, though Galway kept their noses ahead thanks in the main to a monster free from Joseph Cooney and Joe Canning's first point from play in the 54th minute.
But Tipp stayed in touch and Galway – who had introduced New York based Jonathan Glynn in the 52nd minute – didn't help their cause when they hit three wides on the spin between the 60th and 63rd minute. John McGrath tied up the game for the ninth time a second later before another long range point from under the Cusack Stand from the now on fire Canning edged Galway back in front.
But it was level again with four minutes of normal time remaining when John O'Dwyer hit his third point from play after Seamus Callanan had missed a 65. Canning was now the dominant figure on the field and he converted another monster free in the 67th minute to put his side one clear again.
The game was still in the melting pot as Galway corner forward Conor Whelan got in a timely tackle on Michael Cahill, who was about to shoot for the equaliser, but Brendan Maher calmly slotted the equaliser from a free at midfield to level the tie again.
But inevitably there had a dramatic conclusion; Joe Canning had a free to win win from inside the Galway 45 after full back Daithi Burke made a crucial catch.
It dropped short, and was initially swooped clear by goalkeeper Darren Gleeson, but the subsequent clearance was snapped up by Johnny Coen, who drove forward before passing to Joe Canning who was nursing the Cusack Stand sideline before curling over the winning point six seconds over the allotted four minutes of injury time. A fitting climax to a wonderful game.
Galway: C Callanan; A Tuohy, Daithi Burke, J Hanbury; P Mannion, G McInerney, A Harte; J Coen (0-2), David Burke; D Burke, J Canning (0-11, 6f, 1 65, 1 sideline), J Cooney (0-2, 1f); C Whelan (0-4), C Cooney (0-2), C Mannion (0-1) Subs: J Flynn for N Burke 44m; J Glynn for C Mannion 52m, S Moloney for Conor Cooney 69m
Tipperary: D Gleeson; D Maher, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy (0-1), R Maher, Padraic Maher (0-2); B Maher (0-3, 2f), D McCormack; M Breen, N McGrath (0-2), Patrick Maher; J O'Dwyer (0-3), S Callanan (0-5, 3f), J McGrath (1-1). Subs: J Forde (0-1) for Breen 34m, N O'Meara for Forde 61m
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westemath)