Sport

Tipperary edge out Galway in thriller

Tipperary's Séamus Kennedy, left, and Ronan Maher celebrate after the final whistle
Tipperary's Séamus Kennedy, left, and Ronan Maher celebrate after the final whistle

TIPPERARY 2-19 GALWAY 2-18

THIS hurling championship is turning into a version of the old Dublin Bus story: after ages spent waiting for a classic, then three arrive in a week.

At the end of a riveting contest that will be talked about into the small hours, tossed and turned and dissected, Tipperary secured a place in next month’s All-Ireland final.

They tottered often before they found their feet - it was not an exceptional Tipp performance - but they still managed to claw their way through to another final against Kilkenny, which will be the fifth final meeting of the counties of the last eight years. 

Galway were courageous and full of fight and played some outstanding hurling.

They tied up the Tipp forwards for most of the game but in the latter stages the game turned decisively in Tipp’s favour.

For 61 minutes Colm Callanan’s goal wasn’t breached with Daithi Burke doing an excellent marking job on Seamus Callanan who scored three goals against them a year ago at this stage of the championship. 

Then the tide turned, with two goals in three minutes, at a time when if you were to pick a winner it would more likely have been Galway.

They held a 2-15 to 0-19 lead, richly merited, when John O’Dwyer wrote himself back into the hurling narrative with a beautiful goal.

John McGrath set him up but the angle looked too tight. With wonderful predatory instinct, O’Dwyer batted the ball past Callanan in the modicum of space afforded to him between the two goalposts. 

Tipp, having trailed often, were in front and they smelled blood.

Conor Cooney pointed immediately to level but a minute later the Galway net shook again, this time Bonner Maher being instrumental in carving an opening for John McGrath, who was well marked for most part by John Hanbury.

Seizing the ball, he bumped into Callanan and didn’t rush the shot. Tipp were a goal to the good but seven minutes were still to play. 

They couldn’t add to it and in the time left Galway tacked on two more points, the last from Shane Moloney who scored their winner against Tipp last year, in stoppage time.

In a jittery finale Tipp hung on to book their place in the final. It wasn’t entirely convincing but it was enough.  

Galway were very good and if there is anything to be gleaned from a defeat, a positive to take into next year, this was as good as it gets, as they showed huge levels of appetite throughout the field.

They were dealt a massive blow just before half time when Joe Canning suffered an injury which meant he had to be substituted but even the subs that came in, Andy Smith and Cyril Donnellan, made telling contributions.

Conor Cooney took over the free taking and only missed one from long range. David Burke was monumental throughout, pivotal, and didn’t deserve to be on the losing team.

But the match will bring on Tipp who looked, again, to be suffering from five weeks without a competitive outing since retaining the Munster Championship.

Noel McGrath picked off three points but faded and was taken off. Dan McCormack had a big match, winning three frees which were converted by Callanan, but their full forward who lit up last year’s semifinal with 3-9, didn’t score from play.

O’Dwyer’s entrance gave Tipp’s attack new momentum and Bonner Maher never gave up, underlining his enormous value again to the team. 

Their midfield struggled even though Michael Breen scored three points, and Brendan Maher shot one and won another converted free.

Both players coughed up possession which led to Galway goals, seven minutes into each half. The first, from Conor Cooney, who hurled exceptionally well, was a brilliant finish after Maher, under pressure, lost possession on the sideline and Galway worked the ball through to Cooney. 

The second goal was a brilliant finish from Joseph Cooney, another to impress, but it came when Breen’s handpass, in a needlessly elaborate move, was intercepted by the Galway centre forward.

But Tipp closed up shop after that and removed the goal threat and in the final quarter their half backs made a series of important interventions, with Ronan and Padraic Maher also pointing from long range. 

Tipperary struggled in a first half dominated by Galway’s slicker movement and greater aggression. While Daithi Burke picked up a yellow card for a foul on Callanan mostly Galway defended masterfully, with Tipperary offered little room. Unlike last year they didn’t leave their full back line exposed and David Burke got back to act as a supplementary defender, tidying up numerous loose ball. 

They went in at the break with a well deserved lead, 1-10 to 0-11, and Tipperary had cause to be worried.

Canning’s point from play after only 30 seconds was a signal of what was to come. Breen scored two quality points and Noel McGrath had two more, but they were shaken in the seventh minute by the first Galway goal. 

Tipperary’s response was encouraging. Brendan Maher went up the field and won a free, which Callanan pointed, and then Breen added an excellent score from play to leave them just one point down, 0-4, 1-2 with nine minutes played. 

They had a goal chance when Noel McGrath got through in a central position but his shot came back off the crossbar in the 10th minute. In the same sequence of play David Burke pointed at the other end.

Tipp looked to be settling and they hit the next five points without reply, with Brendan Maher scoring from play, and two Callanan frees putting them back into a lead they held briefly in the early minutes.

When Noel and John McGrath pointed they led 0-9 to 1-3 with 15 minutes played, yet the team then dropped a gear, as Galway raised the intensity. 

They hit six points without reply to lead by three, with Jason Flynn causing numerous problems and Conor Whelan also looking dangerous.

In that phase Tipp didn’t score for 16 minutes. But having scored the final two points of the half, Tipp restarted in the second half promisingly and drew level. Then Joe Cooney’s goal knocked them back again, Galway moving 2-12 to 0-15 in front. 

Tipp, to their credit, got back level with scores from Callanan, Noel McGrath and Ronan Maher, a great score from play, with 50 minutes played.

Galway responded with two points, Tipp clipped one off and then came O’Dwyer’s goal, after he had been introduced ten minutes into the second half, having missed the Munster final through suspension.

Cue another dramatic finale. For hurling followers, it’s been some week.  

Scorers: Tipperary - S Callanan 0-9 (0-8 fs, 0-1 65), M Breen, N McGrath 0-3, J McGrath 1-1, J O’Dwyer 1-0, B Maher, R Maher, P Maher 0-1 each. Galway - C Cooney 1-6 (0-4 fs), J Canning 0-5 (0-3 fs, 0-1 65), J Cooney 1-1, C Whelan, J Flynn 0-2, David Burke, S Moloney 0-1. 

Tipperary: D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy, R Maher, P Maher; M Breen; D McCormack, B Maher, N McGrath; J McGrath, S Callanan, N O”Meara  Subs: J O’Dwyer for O’Meara (45 mins); J Forde for N McGrath (57); S Curran for Breen (67); T Hamill for Kennedy (71). 

Galway: S Callanan; A Tuohy, D Burke, ; G McInerney, P Mannion, A Harte; D Bure, J Coen; J Canning; C Mannion, C Whelan, J Forde. 

Subs: A Smith for Tuohy (half-time); C Donnellan for Canning (inj half-time); S Moloney for Whelan & N Burke for Mannion (both 65); D Collins for Harte (68). 

Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath)