A new chapter in Tipperary’s fairytale season

Tipperary 3-13 Galway 1-10: Tipperary. In an All-Ireland football semi-final.
A new chapter in Tipperary’s fairytale season

It has such a wondrous, sepia-tinted feel to it. Eighty-one years have slipped by since that has happened and Ireland was still engulfed in the trauma of its revolutionary period when the county actually last won a game of championship football at HQ.

Only 29,251 paying punters clicked through turnstiles that bear little resemblance to those used by their predecessors all those generations ago, but this will be a day that will be treasured for decades to come by those who celebrated with abandon at the final whistle.

And who outside of Galway could complain?

Heady times so and yet this wasn’t so much the result of revolution as evolution.

Successes at minor and U21 level had signposted a day like this, but the loss of players to injury, hurling and foreign shores had suggested that the prospect of the county bridging the chasm between underage promise and senior progress would come further down the line.

If at all.

Fermanagh, in 2004, and Wexford four years later had already proven that counties without any modern footballing tradition could break the glass ceiling and earn a place in the last four but neither of them managed it with the élan displayed by Tipp yesterday.

A nine-point win didn’t flatter them. Not on a day when they engineered 42 attempts on Galway’s posts and that despite going through the last 20 minutes without registering a flag of either colour. It was extraordinary stuff. GUBU stuff.

That captain and midfielder Peter Acheson claimed their last score after 56 of the 78 minutes played on the day was fitting for such a servant and a man who played a key role on the day, but then that could have been said for so many others.

Michael Quinlivan delivered most of the best lines. Declan Kyne and David Wynne took turns marking the Clonmel man but neither found a means of reducing him to a bit-part role. To be fair, few defenders would have come close on this form.

It was Quinlivan’s goal 17 minutes in, when he palmed a rebound from George Hannigan’s saved shot to the net, that kickstarted Tipp’s day and another six points followed in its wake before Galway got to pause for breath.

Quinlivan was central to most of it, providing an outlet at full-forward via the aerial route and closer to ground zero, though he had an abundance of assistance from Conor Sweeney, who grabbed two second-half goals, as well as Philip Austin.

And that was just the full-forward line.

The likes of Josh Keane and Brian Fox probably won’t feature in too many highlight reels when this one is spliced and diced but they knitted their own stitches into the fabric of the afternoon. So too, well … how long have we got here?

Tipp’s defence hadn’t exactly been stingy up to this but they were exceptional here with Fox playing sweeper and it was all built on an aggression that saw them dominate contests for possession, particularly from kickouts, throughout the field.

Acheson and Hannigan were imperious in the centre and the forward line tormented Galway every which way but loose. Penetrating runs, high balls, weaving interplay: you name it, Tipperary used it to unlock the Galway rearguard.

The Connacht champions didn’t help themselves.

That context is critical ahead of Tipperary’s All-Ireland semi-final meeting with the winners of Tyrone and Mayo in three weeks’ time. A callow but improving side, Galway never looked like ending a Croke Park losing streak that stretches back to 2001.

And it isn’t as if opportunity didn’t knock.

Galway led by four points to one after 15 minutes and bought themselves a ticket back into the ball game after Tipp’s 1-6 run when Damien Comer barrelled through the middle to fire high into the Tipperary net on the stroke of half-time.

A deficit that stood at six points was instantly halved, and eroded further with a Shane Walsh free on the restart, but a game that would throw up at least a dozen decent goal chances was settled within 10 more minutes after Sweeney made the most of two of them.

Tipp will look back on this day with unfiltered joy in the years to come but they will know that lessons need to be siphoned from it over the near three weeks given Mayo or Tyrone will hardly be so accommodating.

Their 19 wayward attempts on goal won’t make for pretty viewing when the video analysis sessions kick in and the ability of Galway to worm their way into a handful of goalscoring situations won’t sit well either.

None of that mattered yesterday evening as Liam Kearns and his men lingered long afterwards on the Croke Park turf to share the moment with the small core of supporters who have followed their journey through assignments far less salubrious and successful than this.

This was one to savour.

Check out the latest Irish Examiner GAA podcast:

Scorers for Galway:

S Walsh (0-4 frees); D Cummins (0-3); D Comer (1-0); P Varley, P Conroy and E Brannigan (all 0-1)

Scorers for Tipperary:

C Sweeney (2-2); M Quinlivan (1-4, 0-1 free); K O’Halloran (0-4, 0-1 free, 1 ‘45’); R Kiely, P Acheson, B Fox (all 0-1).


B Power; E Kerin, D Kyne, G Bradshaw; D Wynne, G O’Donnell, L Silke; T Flynn, P Conroy; J Heaney, E Brannigan, G Sice; D Comer, S Walsh, D Cummins


A Varley for Sice (48); P Varley for Heaney (50); E Tierney for Brannigan (53); P Sweeney for A Varley (61); P Cooke for Walsh (63); E Hoare for Conroy (69)


E Comerford; C McDonald, A Campbell, C O’Shaughnessy; R Kiely, J Feehan, B Maher; P Acheson, G Hannigan; J Keane, K O’Halloran, B Fox; P Austin, M Quinlivan, C Sweeney


A Moloney for Keane (65); S Leahy for Maher (69); M Dunne for Hannigan (73); M Hanley for Quinlivan (75)


C Lane (Cork).

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