Tim Harford has a new book out, Fifty Things That Made The Modern World. Michael Moynihan applied the template to the Galway-Tipperary hurling rivalry.
Photo credit: Galway’s Shane Moloney scores the winning point in the final moments of the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final, despite Tipp’s Padraic Maher launching his hurley at him. Pic: Ray McManus
1. The Galway-Tipperary border.
Nothing creates an intense competitive rivalry like a shared boundary. The fact that Tipperary and Galway are next to each other adds an extra edge to all encounters, naturally enough, though it also facilitates an exchange of citizens, as you’ll see below.
2. The bridge in Portumna: West-east lane.
This border crossing proved hugely significant in the history of the two counties’ hurling fortunes. That’s because, in the late 1940s, a native of Mullagh cycled across said bridge and moved to Lorrha, throwing his lot in with the local club and eventually the county.
In the years that followed, Tony Reddin would emerge as the most famous hurling goalkeeper of his generation, becoming the difference between victory and defeat in some of the greatest hurling games ever played between Cork and Tipperary, though he had originally played for his native Galway.
Which begs some questions. How would Galway have done with Reddin in goal during the 1950s? If not for the ease of access to the Premier County afforded by that bridge, would Tipperary’s hurling have turned out the same?
3. The bridge in Portumna: east-west lane.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic in goalkeepers over the Shannon, though nobody can establish if there was ever a Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-type of exchange of personnel some foggy evening at the bridge.
Seamus Shinnors of Newport had done well with the Tipperary U21s of the 1960s before falling in with the Galway senior hurlers in the following decade.
Unfortunately, for Shinnors, the 1979 All-Ireland final was an unhappy experience wearing white and maroon, as Kilkenny notched up two goals to win Liam MacCarthy.
4. Cyril Farrell’s shirt.
By his own admission an ordinary club hurler, Farrell is by far the most successful manager Galway have ever had. Farrell has collected All-Ireland titles at minor, U21 and senior level, including their breakthrough win back in 1980, which ended 57 years of famine for the westerners.
That year, he wore his trademark plain white shirt with a few more buttons open than strictly necessary: Understandable, given the huge tension involved in winning a first title in over half a century. He’s easily identifiable in footage of Joe Connolly’s famous victory speech, the pale shirt obvious in the sea of maroon jersey on the steps of the Hogan Stand.
5. The GAA rule book.
Still a touchy one west of the Shannon? The suspension of Tony Keady for the All-Ireland semi-final of 1989 was a surprise at the time, in the sense that playing in America — as Keady did — was a summer pastime many prominent players indulged in without any punishment.
There was a lot of soreness in Galway that their centre-back, a key man in their game plan, was missing for what would become a sulphurous semi-final defeat at Tipperary’s hands. Rules is rules, but Galway haven’t won an All-Ireland since then.
6. Babs Keating’s v-neck.
When Babs Keating took over the Tipperary hurlers before the 1987 season, the Premier County were at a low ebb. Keating, a graduate of Tipp’s glory years of the 1960s, led them out of the wilderness with a Munster title in ’87, but he also raised standards generally for the team, from improving their self-belief down to the quality of their gear.
Galway were the team in their way when they emerged from Munster and they held Tipperary in check until 1989. That was the season Keating sported a bright green V-neck on the sideline (and, fatally for Galway, it was the year Farrell opted for a black-and-white striped shirt rather than his traditional all-white. Omens.)
7. Joe Rabbitte’s plastic box.
Rabbitte, whose size and power two decades ago anticipated Galway’s current crop of attacking giants, broke his hand a couple of times in the Tribesmen’s long championship summer of 1993. Though he customarily wore a protective glove, Galway management cut up a plastic lunch box and added that to the back of the glove, doubling down on the protection. It worked, too, with Galway edging out Tipp by two points in the All-Ireland semi-final and Rabbitte playing a full part in the victory.
8. Mark O’Leary’s face guard bars.
O’Leary was the man whose two goals provided the edge in Tipperary’s 2001 All-Ireland victory over Galway, one a cracking finish on the run into the Canal End, the other a hustled flick from the ground in front of Hill 16.
The Tipp forward was missing two parallel bars from the face guard of his helmet; did those vacant slots give him that tiny extra sliver of peripheral vision to enable him to hit two All-Ireland final goals?
9. The west wind.
You may have forgotten the qualifier clash between these two sides that took place in Salthill back in 2003, a decaffeinated affair which ended with Tipp on 1-18 and Galway on 1-17.
It’s hardly a shock to say it was a windy day in Salthill — when is it not? you say — but this was a breeze stiff enough to help Ollie Canning hit a point while lining out at corner-back. Still, it didn’t get the home team over the line.
10. Padraic Maher’s hurley.
Galway and Tipperary fought out another dramatic All-Ireland semi-final just two years ago, with the momentum see-sawing between the two over the 70 minutes.
In the closing stages, however, Joe Canning picked out substitute Shane Moloney with a superb ball near the Tipp goal. In oceans of space, Moloney turned to hit the winner, with Tipp’s Padraic Maher launching his hurley toward the Galway man in a last desperate attempt to hook him.
No dice: Moloney took the chance and landed Galway an All-Ireland final berth.
11. Joe Canning’s hamstring.
Last year’s All-Ireland semi-final was delicately balanced all through, with Tipperary showing all their experience to find a way past Galway late on.
For Galway, the might-have-beens included talisman Joe Canning’s leg. Just before half-time, the Portumna clubman was met with a crushing shoulder by Tipp’s Padraic Maher; Canning was unable to resume his place after the break, and Galway were left to rue his absence in the final minutes, as they lost by the bare minimum. Surely Canning would have been worth a point or two? Later, Canning would reveal that his hamstring tear came within a centimetre or two of ending his career. A close thing.
It usually is when these teams meet.
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