Galway’s cry for justice proved the loudest in an awe-inspiring All-Ireland semi-final that should live long in the memories of the 58,495 in attendance.
Tipperary had their own protestors but they were few and far between. In Seamus Callanan, they not only had a potential saviour, but a victim after he had been brought down and injured for a penalty by Johnny Hanbury with a tackle straight out of International Rules’ darkest days. After proving “virtually unmarkable” as Anthony Cunningham admitted, desperate measures were required.
In Noel McGrath, making his first appearance in county colours after being diagnosed with testicular cancer last April, Tipperary had another worthy candidate who appeared to serve up the poetic kind of righteousness when he put them ahead in the 70th minute.
But Galway, beaten down the straight by their neighbours in the qualifiers last year, would not be denied again. It was Jason Flynn who tied the game up a minute later and then substitute Shane Moloney sent over the winner when he found enough time and space.
Credit must go to Joe Canning for having not only the foresight to find his young Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry team-mate, but the trust too. How often in the past would Canning have taken it upon himself to let fly from midfield?
But this Galway team are no longer a sum of its parts. Canning’s shooting may have been off for the second game running - he followed his eight wides against Cork with five here - and yet he claimed 10 points and was unselfishly effective as a buffer and also as a decoy.
Once more, Flynn and Cathal Mannion weighed in with the majority of scores from play. Jonathan Glynn and Cyril Donnellan may not have found their range, but still contributed. Conor Whelan’s couple of scores repaid some more of the faith shown in him by Cunningham.
The Galway management, though, must be brought to task for not addressing the menacing figure of Callanan sooner than the 58th minute when Hanbury was eventually moved onto the Drom-Inch man after he had beaten Pádraig Mannion for a third goal five minutes earlier.
Their attempt to install a sweeper towards the end of the first half had little success. After how slow they were to address the problems their full-back line encountered in the drawn Leinster final against Dublin earlier this summer, it doesn’t bode too well as they face Kilkenny for a second time in 20 days’ time.
Mannion, so good this year before yesterday, will be held chiefly responsible for the way Callanan was able to almost single-handedly win this game for Tipperary, but the half-back line must share their part of the blame too, so irresponsible were they in allowing such space in front of them.
At the same time, the same half-back line, along with Galway’s midfield, were quite terrific in the aerial stakes. Johnny Coen and Aidan Harte too were on the top of their games in taking turns to stifle John O’Dwyer, who, coming into the game, was Tipperary’s leading candidate for Hurler of the Year.
What was most endearing about Galway was how they responded to each of Callanan’s goals. But for Darren Gleeson saving a Canning penalty in the ninth minute and then denying Cathal Mannion with his thumb seconds later, Callanan’s opener after just 38 seconds would have been cancelled out.
They had long been the more eager team before they eventually drew level in first- half injury-time. Via Whelan, they went in ahead by one point at the break, 0-13 to 1-9.
When Callanan beat Mannion and his namesake Colm again in the 40th minute after taking a Niall O’Meara pass, Galway hit back with the next two points. Even when he goaled once more in the 53rd minute the Tribesmen replied with four points on the bounce.
Yet Tipperary had other goal chances too - Patrick Maher and Shane Bourke were prevented thrice by Colm Callanan and Mannion in one attack in the 44th minute. Canning too was thwarted at the other end but then O’Dwyer too could have done better when batting a weak shot as he made a bee-line to goal.
“We had a sucker punch at the start but we hurled really well,” reviewed Cunningham. “We were winning in more positions than them after that but then we had a sucker punch again, Seamus Callanan, then a third one.
“We came back from that, there were fantastic saves on both sides . . . a penalty over the bar, a penalty on our side saved by the Tipp goalie, a super save.”
Colm Callanan was equal to his namesake’s 65th minute penalty when he touched it over the bar for a point, a score which was enough to put Tipperary ahead once more and perhaps undeservedly so given so much rested on his shoulders.
And so it proved to be too unfair and too much. Eamon O’Shea knew his team were bettered by Galway.
“Every time we scored, in fairness to Galway they went up the field and got a score. You can’t be second-guessing – they missed a penalty as well. Seamus got a knock but he was okay – the doc told me he was okay to take it and I think he hit it well, maybe it was always going over the bar.
“But the fluency of the game was not there for us and we like to be fluent. We weren’t today and that was down to the opposition as well.
“You have to be realistic. We weren’t firing on all cylinders in terms of our forwards’ performance. We tried various things – some of them worked, some of them didn’t work. But we were still in the game. We tried to win the game and it just didn’t come off.”
O’Shea, a gentleman and scholar of the game, bade adieu as manager unable to banish the curse over the Munster champions these last 10 years.
After 10 years themselves without a win over Tipperary, Galway had their own spell to lift. They were readier to shift the weight of their wait.
Scorers for Galway:
J Canning (0-10, 6 frees, 1 65, 1 sideline); C Mannion, J Flynn (1 free) (0-5 each); David Burke, J Whelan (0-2 each); A Smith, S Moloney (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tipperary:
S Callanan (3-9, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65, 0-1 pen); J O’Dwyer (0-2); J Forde, B Maher, Patrick Maher, C O’Mahony, N McGrath (0-1 each).
C Callanan; J Hanbury, P Mannion, J Coen; Daithí Burke, I Tannian, A Harte; A Smith, David Burke; J Flynn, C Donnellan, J Glynn; C Whelan, J Canning, C Mannion.
Subs for Galway:
D Collins for A Harte (blood 1-5, 32-35); J Cooney for C Donnellan (53); D Collins for A Smith (64); G Lally for A Harte (65); S Moloney for J Cooney (69); P Brehony for J Hanbury (inj 70).
D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, C O’Brien; R Maher, Pádraic Maher, K Bergin; J Woodlock, S McGrath; J Forde, B Maher, N O’Meara; J O’Dwyer, S Callanan, Patrick Maher.
Subs for Tipperary:
P Stapleton for C Barrett (blood 4-8); S Bourke for J Forde (h-t); L Corbett for S McGrath (56); N McGrath for S Bourke (62); C O’Mahony for J Woodlock (63); M Breen for R Maher (70+2).
B Kelly (Tipperary).
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