Galway recovered from last weekend’s stinging defeat in the Leinster final to dramatically end Tipperary’s reign as All-Ireland champions at the Gaelic Grounds. The win sends Shane O’Neill’s side into the All-Ireland semi finals against his native county, Limerick, on Sunday next, a repeat of the 2018 All-Ireland final pairing.
Tipperary’s chances took a serious dip when Cathal Barrett was sent off in the 53rd minute, having been booked in the first half, for a high challenge on Brian Concannon. At that stage Galway were trailing by two points and the resulting free brought them to within one. But Tipperary were still in the hunt right to the final whistle with Galway screaming for the game to be over - as it went past the three added minutes announced for stoppages they held a precarious two-point lead.
A final Tipp attack ended with a heroic intervention by Daithi Burke who caught a ball and was fouled, the final whistle sounding after Eanna Murphy drove the free downfield.
Earlier Joe Canning, who finished with 0-14, levelled the teams for the first time since the first half with a 62nd minute free and with an extra man they looked set to push for home. Yet Tipp didn’t relinquish their crown easily. Sub Willie Connors nudged them back in front and Ronan Maher sent over a long-range free.
The final twist came with a remarkable goal from Aidan Harte, who drove low to the net on an overlap after a pass from Adrian Tuohey when the referee played a good advantage.
The goal finally had Galway back in front, which they hadn’t been since the opening half, a first half that produced a see-saw affair and four goals, two to each side. Harte’s goal, the fifth and last of the match, put Galway 3-19 to 2-21 to the good and then late points by Canning, Sean Loftus and Jason Flynn were enough to see them over the line.
The meeting was a first of the counties in the championship in three years, having served up classic nail-biting contests when their paths crossed in 2015, ’16 and ’17. In each of those All-Ireland semi finals, the match was decided by a point, the most recent won by a spectacular score by Canning from out on the Cusack Stand sideline.
Tipp hauled themselves off the floor after their opening defeat to Limerick and the win over Cork a week ago made them dangerous, with a reputation for recovering from set-backs and finding a winning momentum. Galway had just six days to recover from losing to Kilkenny, a loss that reopened old doubts about their nerve when the games go down to wire. While this wasn't an entirely convincing win, and helped by the Barrett dismissal, they'll take something positive for winning a tight match.
The return of David Burke to the starting team was anticipated after his impact off the bench in the second half of the Leinster final. But after playing in a deep defensive position he was taken off at half time. Harte, who was also given a start having come on against Kilkenny, had a better day and the goal proved the critical score with Galway labouring to make their numerical advantage count.
There was a surprise shortly before the throw-in with the announcement that John McGrath was dropped from the Tipp team and there was no place on the bench for John O'Dwyer, who had appeared as a sub in the defeat to Limerick.
McGrath's brother, Noel, also taken off against Cork, was in sparkling form in a free-scoring first half that ended with Tipp leading 2-13 to 2-9. Of that first half total, 4-15 came from play. McGrath started in the half forward line and drifted around the field, ending with four points and setting up another for Jason Forde with a lovely popped pass. But he faded after the interval and was taken off. Alan Flynn went to midfield at the start and scored two points. And there were goals for Seamus Callanan and Patrick 'Bonner' Maher.
Tipp had the ball in Galway’s net as early as the fourth minute. Forde played a ball across the goal and when Callanan gained possession, Daithi Burke was unlucky to lose his footing on the wet ground. Callanan glided past him and beat Murphy with a powerful shot. That gave Tipp an early advanatge but the lead kept changing hands.
In the 10th minute an impressive Cathal Mannion took a pass from Conor Cooney, moved a step to the right and rifled to the net at Brian Hogan’s near post to tie the teams at 1-3 a piece. Points from Conor Whelan and Canning left Galway leading at the first water break, 1-5 to 1-3, before a 19th minute goal from Concannon, followed by a Canning free, had Galway leading by four points with almost 22 minutes played.
Tipp responded well and dominated for the remained of the half, turning a four-point deficit into a four-point interval advantage. Their second goal came during a spell near half time when they hit 1-4 without reply, Bonner Maher finishing after an initial effort by Jake Morris was saved.
They moved six points clear four minutes after half time but Galway, with Cathal Mannion outstanding, scoring 1-3, refused to wilt. Mannion's brother Padraic also grew into the match and had a major influence after half time. By the second water break they had made ground. Two Canning frees reduced the difference to just two, 2-18 to 2-16, leaving the game there for the taking.
Galway: J Canning 0-14 (0-12 fs, 1 s/l), C Mannion 1-3, B Concannon, A Harte 1-0, J Coen, C Cooney, J Cooney, C Whelan, J Flynn, S Loftus 0-1.
Tipperary: J Forde 0-6 (0-5 fs); N McGrath 0-4; S Callanan 1-2 (0-1f), Patrick Maher 1-0, A Flynn, M Breen, D McCormack 0-2, N O’Meara, R Maher (f), B Hogan (f), B Heffernan, J Morris, W Connors 0-1.
GALWAY - E Murphy; A Harte, Daithi Burke, S Cooney; F Burke, G McInerney, J Cooney; P Mannion, J Coen; J Canning, C Mannion, David Burke; C Whelan C Cooney, B Concannon. Subs: J Flynn for David Burke & A Tuohey for Coen (ht); E Niland for C Cooney & S Loftus for F Burke (58); D Morrissey for S Cooney (71).
TIPPERARY - B Hogan; C Barrett, B Maher, R Maher; Padraic Maher, N O’Meara, B Heffernan; A Flynn, M Breen; D McCormack, N McGrath, Patrick Maher; J Forde, S Callanan, J Morris. Subs: W Connors for Patrick Maher (50); J McGrath for N McGrath (53); P Cadell for O’Meara (59); P Flynn for Forde (65); M Kehoe for McCormack (72).
REFEREE - J Murphy (Limerick).