Tipp tops as Galway rue poor finishing

THIS was principally about Tipperary surviving to win their 25th All-Ireland hurling title in yesterday's stimulating Guinness championship final in Croke Park.

Not unexpectedly, after their powerful display in the semi-final, Galway proved that they had the credentials to be champions, but paid a costly price for poor finishing.

Additionally, Noel Lane's brave team had the misfortune to see star performer Kevin Broderick denied a certain goal by Brendan Cummins near the end - before a controversial refereeing decision saw Tipp awarded a free out as Broderick raced away to put the ball in the net.

These considerations aside, Tipperary were worthy winners if only because of the character they showed throughout, specifically in the third quarter after looking quite vulnerable at half-time.

Even with unexpected difficulties at half-back, the defence overall played major part. But, nothing was as important as team captain Thomas Dunne's inspirational leadership and the opportunism of Mark O'Leary which yielded goals in each half.

Dunne, in the 3rd minute, gave Tipperary a lead they were never to surrender, hitting over a great score on the run from the left wing. Another quick score from Eoin Kelly helped to settle them and, but for the tenacity of the Galway backs, they would added on a few more scores. The third of three pointed frees from Kelly in the 15th minute coincided with Galway hitting four wides and being limited to a single point from Joe Rabbitte.

Centre-back Liam Hodgins was dominant in what was proving to be the best line in the team and it was noteworthy that David Tierney (Dunne's direct opponent) often dropped back to give strong support. In general play, however, the Tipperary captain was to contribute on a regular basis and finish with an impressive five points. His partner, Eddie Enright, was achieving more than ex-minor Richie Murray, except that he was to lose his grip in the ten minutes before the break.

Galway's three inside backs, Ollie Canning particularly, were more than holding their own, but Mark O'Leary was able to get through for a vital goal in the 21st minute, which was 'made' by Declan Ryan. It put Tipperary six points clear.

Eugene Cloonan wasn't making headway against Philip Maher and while Joe Rabbitte was to win a lot of ball in the air, the support play of the Tipp backs severely curtailed him. Gradually, however, Kevin Broderick, started to penetrate and, once he found his form, was to spearhead the attack in style.

Ten minutes before the interval came the Galway goal they badly needed, with Cloonan ideally placed to finish to the net after Cummins saved a point-blank shot from Alan Kerins. Tipperary hit back with three quick scores to restore their six-point advantage, but they lapsed at a time when Galway managed a much better return from their scoring efforts.

It began with a Broderick point - important, in that it followed the seventh of nine wides - and the next from Fergal Healy when he doubled on a long free from Cathal Moore - which could very well have ended up in the net. At the break, it was 1-9 to 1-7, with Galway turning over with the wind behind them.

However, real problems in scoring were to persist and, because of the facility of Nicholas English's team to produce scores when they were required, they enjoyed a psychological advantage. And, in the final analysis this was to be crucial.

They got a huge boost from Mark O'Leary's second goal, less than three minutes into the second half and over the next ten minutes matched Galway's scoring rate. Significantly, Declan Ryan started to contribute, as did Lar Corbett who was to hit over two points. John Carroll again threatened and Eoin Kelly, too, was more involved. Eugene O'Neill never settled against Gregory Kennedy and was taken off.

Ryan missed a great chance of a goal in the 49th minute (when five points separated the sides) and Galway 'keeper Michael Crimmins made a vital interception when Ryan crossed from the right corner. However, as the game moved to its most competitive phase the durability of the Tipp full-back line withstood mounting pressure, with Philip Maher a colossus and Paul Ormond consistent. Outside, David Kennedy often struggled against a much improved Mark Kerins, and, of course, Broderick was a constant threat.

The pressure paid off when a great goal from Fergal Healy in the 60th minute narrowed the margin to a point, but again Tipperary hit back - with a Kelly free and one from play by O'Leary. Before Broderick was defied by Cummins a short time later, he twice hit the post and each time the ball fell to a Tipp defender.

Three minutes from the end of normal time came the biggest blow to Galway. It happened when David Kennedy was adjudged to have been tackled off the ball and the whistle sounded for a foul before Broderick 'goaled.' With four minutes of injury time added on, anything could have happened, but Tipp stood firm.