It concluded with a bang after meandering for almost 70 minutes, however — as Galway tried to grab an equalising goal, the ball spilled across the Tipperary square, and all sub Joe Gantley had to do was nudge it over the whitewash.
Enter Tipp’s Brendan Maher, who somehow scooped it out and cleared for a match-winning save.
“A draw would probably have been a fair result,” admitted Tipp boss Liam Sheedy afterwards, “but what a flick by Brendan Maher. I thought it was gone in — it was backs to the wall stuff, but we got there.”
It was like that for Tipp from the start. They lost captain Conor O’Mahony before the throw-in with mumps, but Padraic Maher of Thurles Sarsfields proved an able deputy, forming a solid half-back line with Shane Maher and Paddy Stapleton.
The Premier County also enjoyed supremacy at midfield, and the lack of supply forced Galway’s Joe Canning out the field in search of the ball — which in turn removed Galway’s most potent threat from close to goal.
In general, the first half was a lacklustre affair, with both sides swapping frees — Galway ‘keeper Colm Callanan pointed one and put another two wide, while Seamus Callinan was unerring for Tipp from dead balls.
The game came briefly to life when Paul Curran of Tipperary floored Joe Canning by the sideline: in the ensuing row Curran went head first over the hoardings.
When referee Barry Kelly restored order, the Tipp full-back and Galway’s Eoin Lynch were yellow-carded, but other participants in the free-for-all were lucky to escape censure.
The brawl didn’t ignite proceedings, even though Lar Corbett was denied a goal deep in injury time by a fine Callanan save. Tipperary could thank Seamus Callinan’s accuracy for helping them to a two-point interval lead, but there were chinks of light for Galway: manager John McIntyre will have noted his yellow card sub Kevin Hynes’ points from long range.
The westerners rattled off three points after the break and Niall Healy also poked home a goal from a rebound. Kevin Hynes’ fourth point from play made it a five-point lead on 45 minutes for Galway, but credit Tipp for digging in.
“They got great goal chances in the second half,” said Sheedy. “Our backs and Darren (Gleeson) did really well, but today was about character — they kept battling and kept working.”
They did. Seamus Callinan kept Tipp in touch, and with 10 minutes left Damien Joyce picked the wrong place to get his pocket picked — the ball rolled loose and Lar Corbett got the vital touch for a green flag which put Tipp a point up.
Man-of-the-match Callinan kept his eye in with some late points and though Galway laid siege to the Tipp goal — blue and gold corner-back Eamonn Buckley also got a straight red with time almost up — Maher performed his miracle save and justice was done, just about.
“We conceded a goal at a bad time,” said Galway captain Ollie Canning afterwards. “ Credit to Tipp, they took their scores when they needed them.
“We made a few mistakes at the back and could have picked up a few more scores, all things to work on. But there were times we played well.”
Sheedy paid tribute to his team — he singled out Padraic Maher at centre-back but added: “Overall, in all sectors, we worked really hard.
“If we’re going to be competitive, you need more than just 15. We’ve brought on some U-21s, and they’ve added to the panel. It’s brilliant.”
Sheedy was asked if Tipp — who, like Cork, were trounced by Kilkenny — would fancy playing the Cats again so soon, possibly in a league final?
“Of course we’d love another crack at them. It’s a national title, and there’s only two of them up for grabs.”
Scorers for Galway: J. Canning 0-6 (0-5 fs); K. Hynes 0-5, N. Healy 1-1, A. Callanan, C. Callanan and A. Smith 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tipperary: S. Callinan 0-11 (0-7 fs, 0-1 65); L. Corbett 1-2; T. Scroope, N. McGrath, J. Woodlock, S. Hennessy 0-1 each.
GALWAY: C. Callanan, D. Joyce, E. McEntee, O. Canning (C), R. Murray, M. Ryan, F. More, A. Cullinane, E. Lynch, A. Smith, C. Donnellan, A. Callanan, N. Hayes, J. Canning, N. Healy.
Subs: K Hynes for Lynch, (yellow card, 25); F. Healy for N. Hayes, (60); J. Gantley for N Healy, (65).
TIPPERARY: D. Gleeson, E. Buckley, P. Curran, C. O’Brien, P. Stapleton, P. Maher, S. Maher, J. Woodlock, S. McGrath, P. Maher, S. Callanan, L. Corbett, T. Scroope, M. Webster, J. O’Brien (C).
Subs: D. Fanning for Curran, (yellow card, 25); N. McGrath for Webster, (ht); S Hennessy for Patrick Maher, (44); B. Dunne for O’Brien, (50); G Ryan for Woodlock (yellow card, 61); B. Maher for Scroope (66).
Referee: B. Kelly (Westmeath).